ALTON — Pure joy is what you see when you watch Alton native and retired social worker Pam Meyer train and play with her 8-year-old golden retriever, Chase.
With a wag of the tail, anyone could see Chase was thrilled taking 12th place in the nation March 14-15 at the 21st annual American Kennel Club National Obedience Championship at the Purina Event Center in Gray Summit, Mo.
“I’ve shown Chase since he was 2 years old and we’ve traveled to eight states,” Meyer said. “We’ve gone as far as Des Moines, Iowa, which was once known as the largest dog show in the United States. He really does seem to love it. The best compliment we can ever get is not ribbons, trophies, scores or titles — it’s when people tell me ‘your dog looks so happy in the ring’ ... that’s what I really want at these competitions.”
To compete in the championship, dogs and their trainers must compete in a regional competition, place fourth or better and receive an invitation. After 35 years of amateur dog training, Meyer and Chase earned the bid to nationals after placing fourth during a regional competition.
“I found out that the 2015 nationals were going to be held at Purina in Gray Summit, so I really hoped we’d earn the right to be invited,” Meyer said. “A regional is a three-day competition that runs on a Friday, Saturday and Sunday. I know it sounds cliché, but I was just happy we got to go. Just being there to compete was a honor in itself.”
Meyer attributes their success to Chase and his abilities.
“We went into this competition with the attitude of we were just going to enjoy this moment,” Meyer said. “I think that kind of relaxed me. When you’re tense, nervous and upset ... the dog senses that, too. I know there is a saying — ‘stress goes right down the leash’ — they feel it. I think our attitude of having fun and seeing that experience as an honor really helped us both.”
After a full day of competition on March 14, Chase scored in the top 50 in the country, achieving an early goal set by Meyer. The top 50 dogs and trainers were allowed to come back for further competition on March 15, where Chase surprised his owner again by placing in the top 20 and advancing to the finals. After continuous competition for almost two days, Chase settled in to claim the 12th spot in the nation for obedience.
“Sunday morning I saw Chase at his best,” Meyer said. “Before making it to the top 20 on Sunday, Chase was on and performed beautifully. I know we were all getting tired by the awards ceremony and as the top 20 began to compete. We had to do 48 exercises throughout the competition, so by the afternoon we were just drained. We made a couple of mistakes Sunday afternoon and we ended up earning 12th place. That’s 12th place in the United States and Canada ... we’ll take it.”
Chase had earned the title of OTCH, which stands for Obedience Trial Champion, one of the highest obedience awards that can be earned by a dog in competition.
Meyer says her husband Paul’s assistance is the example of support as he encourages, photographs and takes the role of judge during the long hours of training in the Meyers’ back yard.
“I tell people if you love dogs, this is the best hobby in the world,” Meyer said. “Paul saying he’s supportive of me is an understatement. He’s been amazing and helps me with every aspect of training and competition. A person cannot get this far in this sport without a supportive spouse. Training your dog allows you to spend so much time together and it builds such a connection and the bond that forms is amazing. It’s a great sport.”