Longboat Key has ties to a top-of-his-class boxer. He’s a great athlete, works well on a schedule, is good with the other kids in his training facility and loves to jump.
And actually, he’s a working dog named Maximus Command in Chief (“Chief” for short) who just won his breed category at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show on June 13. Longboat Key residents Ann and Steve Anderson are his owners, a couple who have long been in the business of dog shows. Chief is the latest in a line of seven generations of Rummer Run Boxers they’ve bred since the 1970s.
“Steve and I were married in Minneapolis and both working, and a dog show came to town,” Ann said. “Neither of us had ever been to a dog show. But Steve took one look in the boxer ring, and he said, ‘Oh, that’s the breed I like.’ There are a lot of men who really like boxers. We got our first one before we had children. And the first were just as pets.”
The Andersons soon found themselves in the dizzying world of dog shows, a competitive and political arena with gossip and enemies. Finding a female to start their breeding was difficult, because no one wanted to sell a good female. That’s how you a strong bloodline is built, Ann said, by having a strong female. They started showing dogs seriously in Texas, where Chief’s bloodline began.
“The thing about a pedigree is that it’s not for snob appearances, it’s for predictability,” Ann said. “A lot of purebred dogs have health issues, because they have been bred close together. You didn’t mean to, but you lock in some health issues, right? So one of the things that started out was our dogs would die young and have cardiac problems, so once we realized that we wouldn’t breed anybody that we knew had it to try to get rid of that, which we really have pretty successfully.”
The Andersons have had dozens of dogs throughout the years, with all the heartbreak and joy that comes with it. The better way to quantify how many dogs they’ve had, Ann said, is to say that they’ve had 80 champions. To become a champion, a dog must win a certain number of points, including two major wins from two different judges. They’re working on making Chief a champion, and his breed win at Westminster helps.
“Each year, a new year starts as far as computing points,” Ann said. “However many dogs you defeat at each dog show, that goes into the score. You start them as a puppy, and then they’re in open class, they work their way up to class … So that’s what we’re doing with this dog. He’s being campaigned. That’s why he goes to so many shows, because we want him to get as many points as possible.”
Chief is actually the first dog the Andersons have had who doesn’t live with them. He lives in Alabama with the Andersons’ trainer and handler Rick Justice, who takes care of all the dogs and puppies along with his wife, Mandy. They travel with the dogs to dozens of shows — Steve estimates their dogs go to 75-100 shows every year.
“In Florida, it’s centered around Brooksville (where the Florida Gulf Coast Cluster Dog Show is) in January,” Ann said. “There are shows all over the country that weekend, but of course, it’s much handier to stay closer to home.”
Because the dogs travel so much, they have to go through a lot of training, including crate training, before they hit the road.
“They have to be trained to stand still for long periods of time,” Steve said. “They have to work on a lead and they have to be used to being handled by everybody.”
Steve handled them before Justice came into the picture, but the amount of training was hard to keep up with while raising kids and having a career.
“I was at a big disadvantage because all the professional handlers beat me up all the time,” Steve said. “That’s really hard. They make it look easy, but it’s a lot harder than it looks.”
With all the ups and downs, the Andersons have loved their experiences in the dog show world. Though they no longer have dogs around, the animals have always been like family members.
“The great thing about dog shows is, even if you lose, you still get to take your dog home,” Anderson said.”Most people think their dog is the best, the nicest and sweetest. It’s just such a rewarding hobby. Steve always traveled a lot, and I was always so happy to have my dogs keep me company and keep me safe.”
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