Top dog: Couple own nation’s No. 1-ranked mastiff puppy
Their 2-1/2-year-old mastiff, Tank, is the nation’s No. 1-ranked mastiff puppy.
He was the Grand Sweepstakes winner of the 2007 Mastiff Club of America National Specialty Show. But he only keeps that title until the next Grand Sweepstakes winner is named at this year’s show, which concludes today.
Tank hasn’t let his success go to his head.
“He’s very mellow, very laid back,” said Heather, a tuckered-out Tank resting near her feet. “He has to lay by someone. If you sit on the floor, he’ll come over and put his head on you.”
Tank, an American Kennel Club champion, is one of three mastiffs in the house. Tug, also an AKC champion, and Gretchen lumber through the house, too.
“Our dogs are treated like our children,” Heather said. “I have five kids, not two.”
Terry always wanted a big dog, and when he first saw a mastiff a few years ago, he fell in love. And so did Heather. But neither of them knew what they were getting into.
“I thought were going to get a dog,” Heather said. “I didn’t know we were going to get into showing and breeding.”
The couple got Tug in February 2004 from a reputable breeder in Georgia. Tug comes from a champion bloodline, and in order to maintain the success, Terry and Heather decided to show him and found a handler in Illinois.
Tug became an AKC champion in six shows. To become a champion, a dog must acquire 15 points, including two major wins (a major win is worth three points or more). Points are awarded based on the number of dogs competing.
The couple planned to get a second mastiff from Tug’s handler, who was breeding his first litter. They wanted a female so they could breed her with Tug.
Heather traveled to Illinois in to watch the birth of the puppies. She spent six weekends with the puppies, poised to bring home the next addition to her family.
“And I just fell in love with Tank,” she said.
The couple began working with Tank in February 2006, teaching him first to stand properly for judging. When he was 5 1/2 months old, they sent him back to the handler in Illinois for more formal dog show training, and at 6 months, he was ready to enter the ring.
Tank became an AKC champion in seven shows.
Despite their crowning achievements, the mastiffs are just normal dogs, Heather said, although passersby would disagree. When Terry and Heather take their three mastiffs for what is supposed to be a leisurely walk downtown, the two-mile jaunt takes nearly two hours because people constantly stop them to ask how tall the dogs are, how much they weigh and how much they eat.
No. 1 mastiff puppy
AKC name: Fireside’s Monster of the Midway
Goes by: Tank
Height: 31 inches at the shoulder
Weight: 215 pounds
Diet: 8 cups of Science Diet dry dog food
Favorite treat: Vanilla soft serve from Dairy Queen