The 20 German shepherds lined up together after strutting their stuff before the judge at Monday’s Westminster dog show. In the stands, surrounded by friends, Sue Condreras of Northville looked on with the nervous anxiety of a mother watching her child.
The judge began to call on dogs one by one that were being considered for an award.
“That’s when your stomach starts to turn,” Ms. Condreras recalled.
Rocket, a 4 1/2-year-old German shepherd that has earned the Grand Champion honor as a show dog, received the prestigious award of merit, the culmination of months of training and preparation for the Riverhead dog.
“To see Rocket get pulled out for that final cut, I can’t even explain how that felt,” said Ms. Condreras, who owns the dog with her partner Pat Sondgeroth. “We were up on cloud nine.”
Rocket’s selection at the 139th annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show at Pier 92/94 in New York City amounted to a runner-up award. Six German shepherds in total received an award and the female that earned Best in Breed, Rumor Has It V Kenlyn, advanced to Tuesday night’s final competition at Madison Square Garden.
It was a busy weekend for Rocket, filled with public appearances, multiple groomings and exercise.
“Rocket was actually a pretty big hit in terms of gathering attention to himself,” Ms. Condreras said. “There were quite a few people coming to take pictures with him. It was a little bit chaotic, a little bit hectic.”
See the video below (Rocket is armband No. 16):
Rocket performed in the show under the guidance of handler Leslie Dancosse, a professional who has worked extensively with Rocket leading up to Westminster.
“He and our handler really worked their tails off in the ring and fortunately were rewarded for their efforts,” Ms. Condreras said. “There wasn’t a minute that they were out there where either one of them let their guard down. They were both on their game.”
After performing, Rocket gulped some water, walked back toward his crate and crashed for a nap.
Looking ahead, Ms. Condreras said Rocket will enter a “semi-retired” phase. Competing is what he loves to do, she said. He will also do some breeding soon.
Rocket returned home Monday night with his new award, but there wasn’t much celebrating.
“He pretty much slept the rest of the night,” Ms. Condreras said.
It was a well deserved break.
“He did Riverhead proud,” she said.