You get all kinds of attention, walking the queen of all champion dogs.
Jack Sharkey, owner of Legacy's DeChartay, had just completed a field
trial and needed to return the horse he had borrowed when he put his dog
through her paces.
``Hold her for a minute?'' he asks, passing over the dog's dirty rope
Hold her for a minute? On what, a velvet pillow?
``Look,'' Sharkey said, ``she's just a dog.''
Ah, like Michael Jordan was just a basketball player, like Secretariat
was just a horse, that kind of just-a-dog.
This just-a-dog, after several years of lackluster performance in
regional competitions in and near her native Virginia, burst around a
competitive corner with an intensity that still makes Sharkey and
competitive dog-owners smile.
In fairly short order -- and just as Sharkey had decided to retire her
from competition -- Chartay (as she's known) earned national championships
in conformation, obedience, field, amateur field and master agility, along
with 76 American Kennel Club blue ribbons.
Chartay has become the only five-time champion in the history of the AKC.
``All I wanted was a wash-and-wear dog,'' Sharkey said. ``You know what
you do for these dogs? You open the shower door and pour on the lemon Joy.
And you clip their toenails. That's it.''
Chartay, now 9 years old, is a vizsla, a breed of hunting dog,
and one of two that Sharkey owns. The other, Hodag's Hunter, is no slouch
himself in the ribbon department.
If Sharkey is suitably nonchalant about his champion dogs, the crowd
gathered at the John E. Flaherty Field Trial Area in East Windsor for the
national field trials Monday was appropriately moved.
``Is this Chartay?'' asked one man who'd come all the way from Maine with
his wife. ``I have wanted to meet her. We have Chartay's sister's pup, her
niece. Simply Irresistible is her sister.''
While Sharkey shook hands and smiled, the couple stood in the blustery
wind, not quite bringing themselves to reach down and pet the happily
barking vizsla, which looks like a smaller, buttery-colored Weimeraner.
Many people don't approach, but they watch from afar. This, then, is the
dog to beat. This, then, is the competition, a 30-something-pound dog with
the strength of a dog many times larger as she pulls on the leash to greet
Sharkey, just back from returning the horse.
A former pilot and computer consultant, Sharkey, now 68, had intended to
retire and work on his golf game. His wife, Bette, had poodles, and they
batted about the idea of perhaps showing them in their spare time.
But Sharkey remembered a friend with vizslas, with whom he would
dove-hunt. The Hungarian breed originated among the aristocracy as hunting
and house dogs. In fact, before World War II, the breed was hardly known
outside of Europe. In 1990, Sharkey bought Hunter and added Chartay later as
a buddy for Hunter.
Now, he hands out business cards for Rapidan Vizslas with the
modest inscription, ``Home of a couple good vizslas.'' Now, the vizslas
sleep in bed with the Sharkeys -- Hunter, who is semi-retired, at the foot,
and Chartay with her head on the pillow. Chartay has been spayed because
when his wife abandoned her push for a poodle, she embraced vizslas
``My wife would never let a puppy leave the house,'' Sharkey said. ``I
have people sending me $1,000 checks, and I send them back.''
``To have a dog like Chartay is a big deal, a very big deal,'' said Rich
Loomis, a structural engineer from Enfield. He is also a vizsla
owner who helped run this week's trials with 125 dogs from around the
``I'm taking my vacation to do this,'' he said. His dogs were not
``The most charitable way I can put it is that my dogs are not ready for
this level of competition, and they may never be ready,'' he said.
Field trials is a kind of coming-home for Chartay, Sharkey said.
``She does love the field,'' he said. ``I learned a lot with this dog.
You can't force them into doing things they don't enjoy. All dogs are
champions if you give them the chance.''
The license plate on his van -- what he calls the Jack Motel -- says
QUINT CH, for quintuple champion. A friend suggested he get Chartay into
another competition, let her win, and then he can change the plate to SEX
``We were looking for incentive to do tracking,'' Sharkey said. ``That
may be my incentive.'' Until then, the golf game can wait.
Today, Sharkey and Chartay will participate in an AKC agility trial at