Top dog: Falmouth retriever goes for the gold

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FALMOUTH — Some people are just dog people. Laura Jill Simmons, without doubt, is one of those people.

Simmons, who owns the dog training facility PoeticGold Farm at 7 Trillium Lane, said she has been working with dogs her whole life. She even said her first word was “dog.”

Originally, training and showing golden retrievers was just a hobby; she was an AP English teacher in Connecticut. But as more and more people heard about her dogs winning shows, they asked if she would train theirs.

“I didn’t mean to change careers, but the goldens just excelled so much I just spent more and more time on my hobby, and it just was kind of a natural scene change,” Simmons said.

Now, Simmons’ golden retriever Mystic, a grand champion, will be competing at the Westminster Kennel Club dog show in the Best of the Breed section on Feb. 16-17. What’s even more remarkable is Mystic’s age: he’s not even 2 years old.

“It’s like being 17 competing against 30-year-olds,” Simmons said.

In order to compete at Westminster, a dog must have already earned an American Champion title, which Simmons said is difficult to do in a breed like golden retrievers, where there is heavy competition. Mystic did it when he was 1, which Simmons said is “almost unheard of” for the breed.

Simmons added there is a point system for each show, based on the dog’s past competition. To qualify for Westminster, a dog has to win 15 points overall, with two wins classified as “major wins,” worth three points each. It requires going to a lot of shows with a lot of competition.

“You can’t just go to small shows and get your champion title,” she said.

Most puppies won’t prevail over other serious entries, Simmons said, but Mystic won accolades at a very young age, including defeating the golden retriever ranked fifth in the nation when he was 9 months old.

“He’s like that kid basically playing college football as a high school freshman,” she said.

Mystic is now in New York with his handlers, where Simmons said she will join him as a spectator. When he competes, she said, the judges will be looking at three things: breed type, athletic ability, and structure

“The purpose of a dog show is to evaluate breeding stock; which dog is best to be bred and reproduce,” Simmons said.

She added the judges are not comparing all the dogs against each other, but rather against a blueprint of what’s called the breed standard, which measures that dog against what the perfect form of that breed. Each dog has a specific purpose, Simmons said, and the details of the breed standard are designed to help the dog meet its purpose.

The breed standard for a golden retriever, bred for duck hunting, would be very different, she explained, from a border collie, which is bred for herding.

But Simmons said she also wants her dogs to have fun, because their lives are so short. So Mystic, when not competing in shows, helps Simmons at PoeticGold as a teaching dog. She said they hike five miles everyday, so the dog can stay in top physical condition, and only within the past few weeks have they been preparing for Westminster. 

“He did a hat trick in Novi, Michigan, last week,” Simmons said. “He won best of breed three days in a row, so he kind of announced his return to the showing in good fashion. I was excited. It’s nice to see, it’s hard to win and he just makes it look so easy.”

Colin Ellis can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @colinoellis.

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Mystic, a golden retriever from Falmouth, recently won Best of Breed awards at dog shows in Novi, Michigan. He will be competing in the Best of Breed competition at this year’s Westminster Kennel Club dog show in New York City.

Mystic’s owner, Laura Jill Simmons, owns the dog training facility PoeticGold Farms in Falmouth. 

Mystic, at 21 months old, has already won several awards and competitions.

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Reporter covering the Portland Public School District as well as the town of Falmouth for The Forecaster. Can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net.