Making his ‘point’

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 11, 2007

SEABOARD – In 2002 Verlene Stephenson had never heard of bird dog trials or the U.S. Complete Shooting Association.

Now five years later, she’s the proud owner of Verlene’s Ringo Star, the newest U.S. Complete Shooting Dog Association National Champion.

Verlene’s Ringo Star, or “Ringo” as Stephenson calls him, was crowned the National Champion on March 23 after a five day event held at E.R. Evan’s Tall Cotton Shooting Preserve near Murfreesboro.

“It was wonderful,” said Stephenson about Ringo’s win. “It was a dream come true. I knew he had the potential.”

The nearly five year old white and liver (brown) English Pointer, coming off his runner up placement in a U.S. Complete Regional Championship, edged out 66 dogs from all over, from Ontario, Canada to Alabama, for top honors.

Ringo received a little help from his handler, Tony Bingham of Shelby, who also handled the event’s runner up, Touchstone’s Little Bet.

In recognition of his win, Ringo and Stephenson received a crystal trophy and a marble award with a country-like scene featuring a bird dog etched into it.

Ringo will also be spotlighted in American Field Nation Magazine, which publishes all of the dog trial results.

In order to compete, Ringo had to place in the top three spots in an open placement, which allows professionals and amateur handlers to vie.

The competitors were judged on their ability to find and point birds until the handler flushes the bird and fires a shot.

The bird dogs were also judged on how they hold a point without moving, style, stamina and their ability to obey their handler.

Stephenson was first introduced to the dog trials by her friend, J.R. Hasty, who raised Ringo’s mother, Sue, and has been involved in dog trials “for 25 to 30 years.”

Hasty said Ringo’s champion bloodline can be traced back to his grandfather, great grandfather and great-great grandfather, who were all national champions as well.

According to Stephenson, Ringo’s littermate, Sue’s Annie Oakley, competed in U.S. Complete Amateur Invitational in which the dog must earn enough points from the previous season to be invited.

Ringo’s daughter, Crowd Pleaser Ricky B, has also shown promise as she was the top puppy in Virginia and placed in each trial she was entered.

In his early career, Ringo had success as a puppy with Stephenson as his handler, including claiming North Carolina and Virginia Amateur Puppy of the Year.

In the 2004-2005 season, Ringo was North Carolina Amateur Shooting Dog of the Year runner up.

After Ringo’s career began to take shape, Stephenson brought in Bingham to take the leash.

Ringo stays in Shelby with Bingham during the sport’s season, which runs from October until April.

In the off season he returns to Seaboard and lives a dog’s life where he plays with Stephenson’s other three dogs and, not unusually, takes in a few basketball games on the television.

“He’s a people dog,” Stephenson said about Ringo’s character.

But it’s not all play and no work.

Stephenson keeps Ringo fit for competition through exercise and training.

“Dogs are athletes just like people,” she said referring to the conditioning bird dogs need to go through in order to compete.

Ringo still has two more regional competitions coming up, but as for next season Stephenson and Ringo will be geared up for it.

“We’ll be getting ready for next year over the summer,” she said. “We’ll see what happens.”