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Top dog was an underdog
Local woman trains champion French Bulldog
WEB Show dog 1 posed
Gail Christensen holds Boomer, her French Bulldog, as she poses with the ribbons they recently won at the French Bulldog Club of America National Specialty in Lawrence, Kan. - photo by Jim Dean

Here's the tale of a local underdog.

His name is Boomer. He's a French Bulldog puppy who swept national competitions last week with more dog show honors than his owner could carry home, really.

When Forsyth County resident Gail Christensen flew back from the French Bulldog Club of America National Specialty in Lawrence, Kan., she was toting quite a few trophies, so many her suitcase exceeded the 50-pound limit for airport luggage.

"There were other things they gave us," Christensen said, pointing out ribbons and medallions Tuesday at her Forsyth County home. "I brought all I could."

The competition, which featured more than 300 French Bulldogs, was held Oct. 16-17.

Christensen said some Georgian friends who drove to the Kansas show will meet her at a dog show in Marietta this weekend to pass along the trophies.

Boomer's already top dog as far as judges last week were concerned. The 7-month-old canine took home first place in his age group, as well as besting other "Frenchies" for Winner's Dog, the highest achievement for class dogs.

Best in Specialty Show is given to champion dogs. This year the dog who won this award happened to be Boomer's half brother, Joey, who is also from Georgia.

"They have the same father," Christensen said. "The only difference in Boomer and Joey is that Joey's older. We're hoping to do great things with Boomer. He's shown huge promise."

Christensen said the she was "overwhelmed" by the victory.

"I could have flown home all by myself. I didn't need the plane."

What surprised her were the odds.

"Boomer's a baby," she said. "It's usually the adult dogs that win this. He was absolutely the underdog and he was absolutely the audience choice from day one."

She said when she walked Boomer into the ring, he was a little overwhelmed by "all the applause and support from the audience."

Many competitors pay professional dog handlers $1,000 per show to go into the ring and display the animal.

"I was one of few owner/handlers at the show, meaning I own him and handle him myself," she said.

Of course, Christensen is no stranger to the business of dog handling. She's been doing it for 40 years. Her parents used to own Alaskan Malamutes, which Christensen handled during dog shows at age 9.

Christensen's mother, Helen Chmielewski, who also lives in Forsyth County, said she "couldn't be more proud" of her daughter.

"This is a girl who gets a dog and really, really works with it. She always makes champions out of her dogs." Chmielewski said.

In addition to Boomer, Christensen owns another French Bulldog, an Australian Shepherd and two Clumber Spaniels.

"We only keep as many dogs as we can fit in our beds," Christensen said. "A lot of big-time breeders, if their dog doesn't pan out, they just get rid of it. Our dogs are family members first. They're not disposable."

Christensen continues to beam over Boomer.

"It's real unusual for a dog this young to be picked out for top honors," she said, adding that French Bulldogs often are chosen for their trademark "bat ears," flat face, gait and overall body structure.

"In this breed, this kind of award is as big as it comes," she said. "This is the big deal for French Bulldogs and Boomer surprised everybody at the show."