Sherman, a 3-year-old Nova Scotia duck tolling retriever, was to compete at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York on Tuesday. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Sherman, a 3-year-old Nova Scotia duck tolling retriever, was to compete at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York on Tuesday. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Hot dog! Sherman tries to make it big at Westminster show

Look for Marysville native Danielle Winship, 28, and her red-furred retriever at the New York event.

CAMANO ISLAND — When Sherman is on stage, he’s a total pro. Off stage, he’s just a dog.

What’s up with that?

The Nova Scotia duck tolling retriever will strut his stuff at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York City.

On a recent visit to The Daily Herald newsroom, Sherman couldn’t contain his excitement. The desks were an agility course and the employees were playmates.

Danielle Winship tried to rein in her rowdy red-haired 3-year old.

No deal. Sherman was having too much fun.

“I promise he’s an obedient dog, just not right now,” Winship said.

Not until she pulled out the treats. Sherman will do about anything for a bite of a mozzarella string cheese, the same kind that parents bribe kids with.

Those watching Tuesday’s Westminster show will see the work side of Sherman the party dog.

He knows how to mind his manners and impress judges. To make it this far, he had to qualify at other shows nationwide in his group of small retrievers, called tollers for short.

He was bred to impress duck hunters, not show judges. The breed is wired to lure ducks into shooting range by romping near the shore. After the duck is shot, the dog brings it to the hunter.

Winship hopes Sherman will bring home the trophy.

Sherman will compete against about 15 other tollers in the morning. If he wins, he’ll advance to the sporting group and contend for Best in Show at Madison Square Garden.

Westminster is big stuff for the 45-pound pooch, and for Winship.

“I wanted to go since I was a kid,” said Winship, 28.

The 2010 Marysville Pilchuck graduate started working with dogs in 4-H, showing her Saint Bernard.

“I’ve downsized,” Winship said.

She is Sherman’s trainer, handler and groomer. She does it all. His hair, teeth and nails. And she has to look good, too.

Judges will be checking her out as well.

“You want to be a nice backdrop to your dog,” she said. “You have to dress kind of nice. It’s an old-school sport in that sense, presenting respectfully. You think of useful things, like I have to run in these shoes and when I bend over I don’t want to be exposing myself. Practical yet stylish.”

Winship focused on nursing as a student at Seattle University.

“Sherman was my graduation gift to myself,” said Winship, a Providence Regional Medical Center Everett emergency room nurse.

Sherman was the whole deal.

“I wanted a dog who could do it all, not just be a show dog. Do obedience and agility and be a good hiking companion,” she said.

“I found this breed and knew I wanted one.”

Actually, she has two.

She and her husband, David, also have a toller named Tank.

Sherman came first. The dogs, who aren’t brothers, came from a breeder in Sequim.

David, a Camano Island firefighter, is the handler for Tank, who turns 2 this year.

At home, Sherman acts like a dog. He digs holes, chases squirrels, rolls in mud.

“He loves people, but it’s more about who’s going to play with me, entertain me versus being petted and loved on,” she said.

The dogs share a king-sized bed with the couple. Someday, the two tollers could end up in the same ring.

“She does all the grooming for Tank but the moment Tank beats Sherman it’s all over,” David said.

Andrea Brown: abrown@heraldnet.com; 425-339-3443. Twitter: @reporterbrown.

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