Local dog headed to big show in NYC

Lifestyles: Caymus, a Rhodesian Ridgeback, to compete in Westminster event next month

of the GatewayJanuary 29, 2014 

Nicole Ballantyne, left, will take Caymus to New York next month to compete in the Westminster Dog Show.

LEE GILES III/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

When Gordon and Nicole Ballantyne brought Caymus home to Gig Harbor, they weren’t expecting to have a show dog. All Nicole wanted was a healthy dog with good genes. At the urging of their breeder, the Ballantynes took Caymus to shows.

He’s a natural.

Ranked sixth in the country for his breed for 2013, Caymus, a Rhodesian Ridgeback, has a ticket to the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York on Feb. 10. It’s a big stage for a dog that loves to compete.

“He’s a total showboy,” Nicole said. “He loves it. He’s always got his tail going in the ring, and he loves people.”

Nicole never thought she’d be a dog-show person. She’s excited for the energy and bombast of Westminster.

Caymus is handled by Andy Linton, based in Vancouver, Wash. He will wear armband No. 46 during the show. A dog handled by Linton — Indy the Doberman Pinscher — won at Westminster in 1988. Indy was the first of her breed to win since 1953.

Nicole handled Caymus in the early days, but now Linton handles the shows.

At home, Caymus is a pretty relaxed guy. He likes to curl up by the fire, sleep in a bed and he especially loves to eat. “Dinner” is his favorite word.

“He will do anything for food,” Nicole said.

Caymus walks, runs and plays at Sehmel Homestead Park. His least favorite activity is bath time. Caymus hates to get wet.

Rhodesian Ridgebacks, notable for a strip of hair on their back that sticks up, originated in South Africa. The dogs were bred to help Boer farmers hunt lions.

Caymus likes to chase bunnies, but he doesn’t like the coyotes that roam near the Ballantynes’ property.

He’s a pretty mellow dog, Nicole said. He’s named after the Ballantynes’ favorite winery in Napa Valley. On a trip there, Caymus got to tag along to his namesake. The wine tasters became big fans.

Caymus, with his big almond eyes, likes to cozy up next to people and run between their legs. It’s a game he learned from his breeder as a puppy, Nicole said.

He’s bigger now, so for those who are shorter in stature, it can be a bit of a problem.

Nicole said it doesn’t really matter if Caymus wins Best of Show, but it would be a major career victory. It also would mean a lot of applause, something Caymus loves.

At the end of the day, Nicole said getting to go is exciting by itself.

“We’re just going to go have fun,” she said.

If Caymus wins his breed group, he’ll move on to the Hound group. Then, he’ll be on TV. If he moves on from there, he’ll go to the Best in Show category.

Nicole said Caymus will be done with shows when he no longer has fun. After all, she never set out to raise a show dog, she just got a natural.

Caymus has success because he has fun, and that’s the key, Nicole said.

“You can have the most beautiful dog in the world, but if it hates to show, it doesn’t work,” she said.

Caymus will be in a show in Arizona next week, and from there, he’ll head to Westminster. After all the craziness is over, he’ll be back in Gig Harbor, curled up by the fire and avoiding bath time.

How to watch

 • Rhodesian Ridgeback group, 9:15 a.m. Feb. 10, www.westminsterkennelclub.org.

If Caymus progresses:

 • Hound group, 5 p.m. Feb. 10, CNBC Network.

 • Best in Show, 5 p.m. Feb. 11, USA Network.

Reporter Karen Miller can be reached at 253-358-4155 or by email at karen.miller@gateline.com. Follow her on Twitter, @gateway_karen.

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