Rebel spends a lot of time playing and napping on the sofa between time spent on the road appearing in dog shows.
This weekend, the 6-year-old black and tan coon hound from Columbia County will be strutting his stuff on national television as he competes in the American Kennel Club's Eukanuba National Championship.
"He shows very well," said Gina Sutton, who owns Rebel with her husband, John. "He's one of these dogs that you open the door to the RV and he goes into show mode. He knows he's going to a dog show. He's a very showy dog and he knows it. He's a beautiful dog. When people clap for him, it just excites him even more."
Rebel, whose formal name is CH. Southchase Georgia Rebellion, will be one of 2,648 dogs contending for the national championship at the show to be held in Tampa, Fla., on Saturday and Sunday. It will be broadcast live on Animal Planet and the Discovery Channel starting at 8 both nights.
The show offers $225,000 in cash prizes, with the Best in Show winner taking $50,000, and is the pinnacle of canine achievement.
Dogs qualify to compete in the show by earning points in regional dog shows. The top 25 dogs of each breed are invited to compete in the national competition.
Rebel will be shown by Mr. Sutton in their second visit to the prestigious show. Last year, while ranked the eighth black-and-tan coon hound in the country, Rebel took the Best of Breed award and went on to compete in the Hound Group.
"We're hoping to win the Best of Breed again," Mr. Sutton said. Wins in the Group Show or Best in Show competitions would be icing on the cake, he said. "This will probably be his last show."
Mr. Sutton has been showing dogs since 1994 and has handled Rebel in shows since the dog was 6 months old. Rebel earned enough points for his Champion title only three months later, Mr. Sutton said.
"The first time we laid eyes on him, when he was just a 3- or 4-week-old puppy, I mean he stood out of that litter," Mr. Sutton said. "Having another dog was the furthest thing from my mind. But when we saw him, we were like, 'Oh my God, is he ever a beautiful pup.'"
Rebel, when not showing, plays with the Sutton's two other coon hounds, poodle and cat. He spends his fair share of time lounging on the sofa, too, Mrs. Sutton said.
"He's an overgrown lap dog, is all he is," Mrs. Sutton said. Rebel is very protective of the family's home off Old Belair Road.
Rebel has done well in a few Regional Speciality coon hound shows and will chase anything, Mrs. Sutton said, including squirrels, raccoons and cats.
"I've never hunted him," Mr. Sutton said. "But he could hunt, there's no doubt."
The Suttons said Rebel is a seasoned show dog, attending at least two shows a month throughout the Southeast.
"The wonderful thing about this dog is he is such a ham," Mr. Sutton said. "A big show like this is very stressful on a dog ... From experience you know when you've got a good dog that has the right temperament that can withstand the stress of a show like that."
Though experienced, the national shows can be stressful for handlers, too, Mr. Sutton said after participating in last year's national show.
"I remember looking up and seeing the banner saying Eukanuba National Championship and of course, I could have sat there and starting spazzing. But I thought about it for half a second and said you know, this is just another dog show on the Florida circuit. I am not going to get wrapped up around this thing.''
Mr. Sutton said he'll try the same strategy this weekend to help keep himself and Rebel calm.
"If I can go in there relaxed and everything, it goes right down the lead as they say," Mr. Sutton said.
Mr. Sutton and Rebel will take the ring Saturday for the Best of Breed competition. If he wins, Rebel will move up to the Hound Group competition. Group winners represent their groups in the Best of Show competition slated for Sunday.
The Suttons said after show retirement, they plan to breed Rebel in hopes of more show champion puppies. Pups from one litter he sired in California are already beginning to win shows themselves, Mr. Sutton said.
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