Published 12:00 am Monday, February 1, 2016

Winter Classic top dogs both named ‘Dolly’

I missed the bench shows.
All year long I look forward to watching the dogs and handlers in the show ring at the UKC Winter Classic, and this year I missed them.
The Mississippi Press Association held its Mid-Winter Conference in Jackson over the weekend, but Rupert and I skipped out early Saturday so I could get back to see the coonhounds.
By the time I got to the Civic Center the “beauty pageant” part of the event was over, the contestants long gone, and the participants in the treeing competition were gathering to receive their cast assignments and scatter out all over North Mississippi in search of coons.
But over next to the arena wall I saw a young girl, a dog, and a really big trophy.
Amelia Wooten, 11, of Brighton, Tenn., and Dolly, a nine-year-old Treeing Walker, had won the Winter Classic Bench Show Championship.
Amelia was there with her grandmother, Sabrina Smith, and her little brother, Shooter. (Really, that’s his name.)
“Amelia showed for the very first time when she was three-and-a-half, during the kids show at the Winter Classic when it was held in Albany, Ga.,” the grandmother explained. “She said that day she wanted to show dogs. She took to it naturally. It’s her passion.”
Smith, who breeds and shows Redbones, declares that she’s just the “bus driver and poop-scooper” for Amelia and Dolly.
To put this in perspective, I’ve been covering the Winter Classic for the four years it’s been in Batesville, and I’ve never seen a child win such a prestigious prize. The Winter Classic Bench Show is like the Miss Universe pageant in the coondog world. Dogs from all over the country were here. I’m sure the judge didn’t cut Amelia any slack just because she’s young and cute.
Amelia explained to me that the judge looks at the dog’s gating, muscle tone, and “how pretty they are.”
So Amelia and Dolly went home with the big trophy.
And, in what seemed to me an amazing coincidence, the winner of the Winter Classic Hunt Championship was also a Treeing Walker named Dolly. This Dolly is owned by Martin Spears of Philadelphia, Miss. He specified “Mississippi” when I talked to him during the trophy presentation Sunday morning, because there are dogs here from Pennsylvania, too.
Spears is the first Mississippian to win a top Winter Classic prize since it’s been headquartered in Batesville.
Spears and his Dolly accumulated 1,225 points to claim the top prize. The points are awarded for trailing and treeing a coon during the timed nighttime hunt.
Jamie Snider of Batesville had a good night in the woods at Shuford Saturday with his English coonhound Diesel, who came in tenth among registered dogs in the hunt and received a trophy. Keep in mind that there were 373 dogs competing that night.
From our back porch at Eureka, I could hear the barking dogs in the cast being guided by Brian Seay in our neighborhood Saturday night. I could tell they were having success.
It makes me a little sad that all the coonhound commotion is over now, but I won’t have to wait a whole year for them to return. The Bluetick Breeders Association will bring Bluetick Days, a national event, to Batesville May 19, 20, 21.
I think you can call us the Coonhound Town.

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