Walker County resident Christina Miller took three dogs to a prestigious national competition in Florida over the weekend and returned home with honors in three events.
This year marked the 19th time Miller and her dogs have competed in the American Kennel Club National Championship, which she said is "like our Super Bowl and Stanley Cup combined into one."
Her three dogs are Canaans, a breed of pariah dog first used for guarding and tending cattle and sheep.
The dogs she took to this year's show in Orlando — named Cayman and Datak — performed well — and another, Gamora, was invited to compete in a separate competition.
Cayman, who Miller refers to as an "old man" because he is 11-years-old and competes as a veteran, was awarded Canaan Dog Best Bred by Exhibitor in breed and won Select Male at the national championship.
To be eligible for the Best Bred by Exhibitor competition, Miller said whoever is showing the dog must have also been its breeder, meaning that they must also have owned the dog's mother. After eligibility is determined, the dogs are judged against what is standard for their breed. All eligible dogs compete against each other for points, and the dog with the most points is awarded the title.
Datak did not place at the owner-handler series finals. He did, however, win select dog in a specialty show that day, Miller said.
"Winning select dog is basically like being awarded the runner-up of all the boy dogs," she said. "It's the first runner-up."
While Gamora did not take home any first-place awards this year, she was invited to compete in another AKC competition called Fastest Dogs USA that will air on ESPN2 on Christmas Day at noon. It will be a two-hour broadcast. That event was over last weekend in Orlando.
Gamora also took home second place for all Canaan breed dogs at the Fast CAT (Coursing Ability Test) Invitational, also held Dec. 17-19 in Orlando, a 100-yard straight race that she won first place in last year.
Miller said it was "very exciting" to be asked to participate in the Fastest Dogs USA competition but could not share any information about how Gamora performed because she is contractually obligated to keep it a secret until after the broadcast airs.
Looking to the future, Miller said she intends to continue taking dogs to compete in shows. It is a lifelong passion of hers that was cultivated at a young age by her parents, who bred, raised and trained Great Danes. She competed in her first shows when she was only 7.
"We are actually getting a FastCAT track installed here," she said, referencing her farm, Canaan Dogs of River Rock, which operates out of Walker County. "That will allow us to host FastCAT events ourselves. I don't know yet when that will be possible but it is something that we are working to get on the schedule, possibly for next year."
Contact Kelcey Caulder at kcaulder@timesfree press.com or 423-757-6327. Follow her on Twitter @kelceycaulder.