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Brooke Lamb brings Kelly out of retirement for fun at her last fair dog show

Published 9:09pm Monday, August 2, 2010

Brooke Lamb, 20, of Dowagiac, ended 16 years of showing dogs at the Cass County Fair in a big way — big, as in being the first winner of an enormous traveling trophy sponsored by East Shore Animal Hospital in Edwardsburg, where 15-year dog superintendent Carrie Wagley works. (The Daily News/John Eby)
Brooke Lamb, 20, of Dowagiac, ended 16 years of showing dogs at the Cass County Fair in a big way — big, as in being the first winner of an enormous traveling trophy sponsored by East Shore Animal Hospital in Edwardsburg, where 15-year dog superintendent Carrie Wagley works. (The Daily News/John Eby)

By JOHN EBY

Dowagiac Daily News

CASSOPOLIS — After 16 years, Brooke Lamb bow(wowed)ed out of showing dogs at the Cass County Fair in a big way.

Big as in being the first recipient of a towering travel trophy sponsored by East Shore Animal Hospital, where 15-year dog superintendent Carrie Wagley works.

It’s fitting because Brooke, a 2008 Union High School graduate who judges at the Berrien County Youth Fair in Berrien Springs, considers Carrie a mentor and wants to follow in her footsteps.

Brooke, who lugged the big award back to the fairground Monday for photos, brought her Sheltie, Kelly, 11, out of a two-year retirement to share her last hurrah and offered to train an English shepherd belonging to Dan and Bonnie Weaver in exchange for showing year-old Keelan, too.

Keelan won first place in beginner intermediate agility and grand champion overall.

“I showed Keelan in obedience for the experience, but she didn’t do very well,” Brooke said. “When I walked out, the judge said I should show her in agility because of her natural ability.”

She has showed Weaver’s horse and they host workouts.

Lamb, whose two best of show still exhibits were for gift wrapping and artificial flower arranging, also took first place in costume with two Shelties in an Advantix commercial, “There Ain’t No Bugs on Me,” with rubber fleas and Brooke portraying a veterinarian.

Wagley “was my leader when I began,” said Brooke, who is studying at Brown Mackie College in South Bend, Ind., to become a veterinary technician.

“She began county workouts, got agility in the county and left a very big standard to live up to.”

Brooke’s high point versatility traveling trophy meant selecting two of the three events before the show in which to be judged.

Top placers further were tested “on things like our dog’s health, body parts, things we should know to be dog owners,” she explained.

“The reason I have it is I won first place in advanced agility, grand champion advanced agility, first place in senior showmanship and overall grand champion showman. We had 14 people take the test, which was a tiebreaker for, I think, three of us.”

“It’s an honor to have it — especially because of Carrie because she’s a part of how I grew up. My whole philosophy on dog showing came from her: It’s fun, it’s not a competition. It’s not how well our dogs do on fair day, but the bonding before. When I started, I had a dog bigger than I was,” Brooke said. “Before she got in it, we had showmanship and obedience and one trophy. We didn’t get judged like we do now, with agility. Instead of one picture in the paper, kids want to come back because they have a chance.

“What I want to pass on to the next generation,” Brook continued, “is that dog showing is fun. It’s about bonding with your dog and loving them for what they can do — not what they win.

“Her speech brought up a lot of memories. There was a group of girls when I was these girls’ age who were my role models. I wanted to be just like them. I hope I can do that for the next generation” working with current superintendent Kellie Montgomery.

“We’re trying to build it back up,” Brooke said, “because the number of kids is declining. Next year we hope to do versatility, like horses do. We want to get more kids in showmanship. Everyone thinks it’s boring, but it’s not, it’s about learning about your dog. The whole point of that class is to show your dog off.”

Lamb has been so busy working with 50 kids countywide, “I didn’t go to practice to practice. My dogs went to socialize. If kids had trouble with their dog, I’d let them work with my dog so they could learn off a dog that already knows what it’s doing. It’s really hard to teach a new dog and a new person.

“Old dogs can teach the kids so they can feel accomplished with their own dogs. Kelly, my Sheltie, hasn’t run seven years in agility, she’s walked it. I don’t know what came over her, but she flew past me because she was having fun. And fun is what it’s about. Dogs having fun. She hates showmanship, but she worked with me and won the trophy. It’s four times the size of her, but it’s the dog’s trophy.”

Lamb said the past couple of years, the leader population dwindled. “I stepped up,” she said. “I may not be a professional, but I’d shown for 15 years, 16 now, and I could help these kids. I’ve been working with them for two years now. On show day, I was prouder of their accomplishments than mine. Jason (Morgan) that (Weimaraner, Dylan) overpowered him so much in the beginning” until they bonded. “He is one of my best students.”

Brooke completed her first year of college at Michigan State University.

She transferred to Indiana University South Bend while her mother was sick. The former Cathy Fritz, a 1982 DUHS graduate and Cats Day Care operator, was 45 when she passed away Oct. 7, 2009.

“I changed my career path” to have a job in case she decides to continue her education.

“It’s been a tough year,” Brooke said.

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