Congratulations To Members Stacey and Jim Gavin
This article appeared in the MetroWest
“We had a ball,” said Stacey Gavin, a bullmastiff enthusiast who owns four of the gentle giants with her husband, Jim. “I was very pleased with Mitzi.”
Gavin routinely names her dogs after famous actresses, and started bringing Ms. Gaynor to shows when she was just a pup.
“I wanted to get her acclimated to the arenas and the noise,” she said. “It’s scary at first.”
Still a younghearted, playful dog, Mitzi has been trained once a week since she was 3 months old. In addition to learning how to stand, stay and heel, Gavin said show dogs need to learn to be comfortable with a weird human’s hands in their mouths.
“That’s probably the hardest thing,” Gavin said of the teeth examination. “It’s really difficult to have a strange man coming toward you.”
Gavin said it took hard work and a little luck to get into the competition. In order to qualify, Mitzi had to win an American Kennel Club Championship — no small task.
As she’s done with many of her other dogs, Gavin took Mitzi to competitions throughout New England. Wins in different categories pile up points, and a dog needs 15 points as well as two “majors” — three points or more at one show — in order to become a champion.
Mitzi was able to become a champion in two months, Gavin said, largely by winning on four out of five days in a competition last July in West Springfield.
Next, Mitzi needed some luck. Champions throughout the country apply for the Westminster show and are chosen in lottery fashion.
This year, Gavin was one of just 20 bullmastiff owners to get the call.
“I was beside myself,” she said. “It’s an extreme honor.”
After some final training, Gavin took Mitzi to New York in the RV she uses to squire her dogs to competitions as far as Texas and Wisconsin.
“She didn’t make the cut,” Gavin said. “I could tell just by the way the judge was looking that brindles were not his cup of tea.”
Still, Gavin said she agreed with the judge’s ultimate decision.
“He did pick a very nice bitch,” she said. “I have no complaints.”
Gavin said Mitzi is already halfway toward becoming a grand champion — which requires many more wins — and hopefully is a little more accustomed to the bright lights and tight spaces of big competitions.
“She’s not used to being in a crate surrounded by other dogs,” she said. “She travels in a motor home, so she’s pretty much a diva.”
While the girls were in New York, Jim Gavin stayed home to look after the other bullmastiffs — including Sugar, a 9-year-old that Gavin showed at Westminster a few years ago.
The couple admits its home has gone to the dogs in the past decade.
“I live in a gated community,” Stacey Gavin joked as she moved aside doggie gates surrounding her parlor. “This is my (one) good room.”
The Gavins showed boxers years ago when their kids were little, but stopped owning dogs during the teen years because things were too busy.
“When the kids left, we started replacing them with dogs,” said a grinning Jim Gavin. “They’re a lot easier.”
(Brad Petrishen can be reached at 508-490-7463 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Brad_Petrishen.)