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Tucker hits the Big Time

Laurie Thompson at home with Tucker in Clinton. “He’s just another member of the family.” - Roy Jacobson / The Reco
Laurie Thompson at home with Tucker in Clinton. “He’s just another member of the family.”
— image credit: Roy Jacobson / The Reco

Good ol’ Tucker, he’s just a regular dog.

“He sleeps, he eats, he plays, he barks, he runs around,” said his owner, Laurie Thompson of Clinton.

“He’s just another member of the family,” she said. “He sleeps on the bed. He’s really just a pet. Tucker is just Tucker.”

Then comes the weekend. Tucker lifts his chin, strikes a regal pose, sticks out his chest, stands still as a statue. He assumes an expression of elegant disregard.

“We call him our little Marine,” Thompson said.

Tucker the regular dog morphs into CH. (champion) Whidbeys Moonlight Frost RN, offspring of Ch. Kaitan’s Without Remorse by Creekwood All That Jazz.

Statistics: 4 years old, 21½ inches, 52 pounds, hips good, elbows normal, eyes cleared yearly, scissors bite and full dentition, hereditary cataract gene test clear.

Many-times champion of his breed, and ninth-ranked Australian shepherd in the United States.

It’s show time.

“He loves showing,” Thompson said. “He really changes in the ring. He’s like a thoroughbred at the gate, waiting for the starting bell.

“He really plays to the crowd,” she added. “Some dogs shy from it, others totally come alive.”

Tucker has hit the Big Time: an invitation to the prestigious American Kennel Club/Eukanuba National Championship, the largest-prize-money dog show in the world, Dec. 13 to 14 at Long Beach, Calif.

Show dogs from throughout the world will compete in seven categories for $225,000 in prize money, $50,000 to the ultimate winner, the “Best in Show.”

Tucker will go against the other 24 top Australian shepherds. If he wins, he will move on to the the main show in herding, one of seven categories. The winners of each category compete for the top prize.

The show will be aired on the Discovery Channel on Jan. 31.

“I’ve watched the Eukanuba since I was five or six,” Thompson said. “To be going is really exciting. We all want to win.”

Thompson, 41, grew up showing and raising Great Pyrenees dogs.

“I guess you can say I was born into it,” she said. “As a kid, it was almost intoxicating.”

Later, she couldn’t get into showing and breeding, because her husband, John, was in the Navy and they moved around a lot. They ended up in Washington state, where John retired from the Navy and they moved to Whidbey Island in 1997.

Both now work as civilians at Naval Station Everett. Their teenage son, John, is a sophomore at South Whidbey High School and a local guitar player of some renown.

John the younger travels to regional dog shows with Thompson.

“He roadies for me when I’m giggin’, I roadie for him when he’s giggin’,” she said. “It’s the battle of the champions.”

Once settled on the island, Thompson started a small breeding operation. Aching to compete at a higher level, she spent about two years searching for that “special” dog.

She brought Tucker home when he was eight weeks old. He has been competing in regional dog shows for more than two years, winning most of them.

Each victory was worth points toward his national ranking.

Tucker eats a special mix of baked food, nothing processed, Thompson said. He trots behind a bicycle for five miles.

He has trained with actual sheep to hone his herding

techniques.

“He was a little too exuberant,” Thompson said of Tucker’s last outing in the sheep pasture.

Tucker’s behavior in the show ring is impeccable, Thompson said. Well, there was the time another competitor was in heat.

“I thought that wouldn’t bother him,” she said. “But he didn’t listen to a word I said. He jumped over the fence and ran out of the ring looking for her.”

Tucker wasn’t always frustrated. He was bred once, and one of his daughters recently competed in a show in Las Vegas as a 5-month-old, Thompson said.

She said most top dogs are shown by professional handlers, which makes Tucker’s success all the more remarkable, since he acquired his high ranking in regional shows in record time with her at the other end of the leash.

She said handlers have approached her, promising to make Tucker number one.

“But I don’t want to give him to anyone else,” she said. “I’m not letting him out of my sight.”

Thompson said she’ll probably show Tucker for one more year, then let him retire gracefully to the couch, where he’ll join two other retired shepherds and the family’s Australian cattle dog.

“They’re not really allowed on the couch,” Thompson said with a smile.

That will leave Breeze, a young Australian shepherd, to carry on in the ring, Thompson said.

She said Tucker will take a break after Eukanuba, then travel to the famous Westminster Kennel Club dog show in New York in February.

“There’s glitz and glamor and adrenaline rushes and disappointment,” Thompson said of the world of dog-show competition. “I wouldn’t trade it for any other hobby.”

Tucker, being Tucker, sits and puts out a paw to shake.

For information about Thompson’s breeder business, visit

www.northwindaussies.com.

For information about the national dog show, visit www.akc.org.

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