BLOOMINGTON, Minn. -- Sergeant David Verdoorn's three-year-old Cannon blasted judges out of their seats at the American Belgian Malinois Club Dog Show in Randolph, Minn., this weekend.
The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever panted his way to first place in the Preferred Category, prancing one paw closer toward a Jumpers and Weavers title.
"He did well the second day, but I didn't think he would place," said Verdoorn, a 28-year-old Fargo, N.D., native. "Seeing all of our hard work pay off is a great feeling."
Verdoorn, a recruiter out of the Buffalo, Minn., office, became a competitive canine handler in 2011 after participating in a pet obedience and behavior class.
"I have no idea what to say about his passion for showing dogs," laughed Staff Sgt. Steve McColl, Recruiting Substation Buffalo staff non-commissioned officer-in-charge. "I'm not saying that we make fun of him every day, but it's definitely tough to grasp."
Despite the amount of time required to prep his two four-legged friends, McColl stated Verdoorn is one of his "best recruiters."
"He hits all of his objectives naturally," said McColl, a 29-year-old Savage, Minn., native. "If the office is ever in a bind he's the first person to volunteer and help out. Dogs might be his world, but it never interferes with making mission."
Verdoorn's wife, Amanda, adopted Cannon as a rescue in 2010 when the 2003 West Fargo High School graduate deployed to Afghanistan.
"Our ultimate goal is to make him see that not everyone is a bad person," said Verdoorn, affectionately known as "Westminster" throughout the Recruiting Station Twin Cities command. "Before we started taking him to shows, I couldn't even approach without him peeing on himself and hiding."
Verdoorn also explained that Cannon received Tracking and Rally titles earlier this year while participating in additional American Kennel Club events. Gunner, his other award-winning pooch, also competes at canine exhibitions and is only eight points away from receiving his champion show dog title.
"Everyone has their hobbies," said Verdoorn. "It might surprise some people out there, but even us big bad Marines have a soft side."