Best in show

Washougal girl and her dog take top honors at Washington State Fair

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Like most kids, Taylor Rhodig always wanted a dog.

“I really wanted a companion and I really like dogs,” she said. “I would see them at the park and they were always

really nice. I thought it would be cool.”

However, the Canyon Creek Middle School sixth-grader never thought it would lead to a state championship in junior showmanship.

But on Sunday, Sept. 27, Taylor and her miniature Australian cattle dog, Colby, competed against the best in the state and earned a perfect score in the showmanship category.

The road to becoming a champion began after the family took puppy obedience classes together. Colby was a quick learner.

“When he was five months old, my dad suggested that it might be good for me to join a 4-H Club and show him,” Taylor said.

Tony showed cattle through 4-H as a child, and remembers the experience fondly.

“The fondest memory I have of 4H was training my steers,” he said. “I spent many hours with them and would lead them around to visit neighbors’ homes so the kids would come outside to pet them.”

He continued, “I wanted Taylor to bond with her dog and spending the time training would do just that.

“The entire experience of going to fair, being in front of the crowds showing, Herdsmanship (talking to people at fair about your animal) creating new friends, was a great experience for me and I knew it would be good for Taylor.”

After some research, Lori discovered the Mutts and Masters club, group, comprised of East Clark County residents.

Participants meet once a week and learn about dog care, health and breeding. They also do practice shows, with mentors acting as judges.

“It helps us get better at what we are going to have to do in a show,” Taylor said. “When we are at the meetings, we get critiqued and they help us learn about things.”

One of her mentors was Nicki Short, a Camas High School student, who is currently ranked in the top contenders in her class at the American Kennel Club Association.

“It was really helpful,” Taylor said. “She knew a lot about the judges and what they liked.”

In August, Taylor and Colby competed at the Clark County Fair and won in junior showmanship. This qualified her for the Washington State Fair in Puyallup.

After acing the semifinal competition against other county winners, Taylor and Colby were headed for the finals with 11 other handlers and their dogs.

“My heart was pounding so fast,” Taylor said. “When I heard my number announced, I couldn’t believe that I had won. It didn’t seem real.”

Tony and Lori were in the audience, waiting with anticipation.

“When we heard she won, we were ecstatic,” she said. “I was so excited, I was trying to take video and my hand was shaking. It was so great to see this. Taylor has come a long way in a short period of time.”

This season, Taylor will move from the beginning to intermediate division of 4-H. She is also considering participating in American Kennel Club competition.