- Associated Press - Monday, January 16, 2017

DUNCANVILLE, Ala. (AP) - As Joe Boteler looks at Buck, his 10-year-old German shorthaired pointer, he sees more than just a dog.

“I’m an engineer, so I look at him like an engineer,” said Boteler, a former member of the Tuscaloosa County Board of Education who is also a retired engineer.

Checking the dog’s teeth and ears, Boteler notes every inch of the dog, from the length of his torso to how low his ears hang.

To Boteler, every aspect of a dog determines its ability to become a high-quality show dog.

“It’s all about the quality of the breed,” he said.

Since 1973, Boteler and his wife, Martha, have trained their own show dogs, traveling all over the country competing in various contests as well as using dogs as therapy dogs at schools and hospitals.

However, when Boteler was elected to the District 6 seat on the Tuscaloosa County Board of Education in 2010, there was little time to compete. Last March, he lost his re-election bid against Randy Smalley.

“Working on the board takes up a lot of time, so it was hard to go out and do these competitions,” Boteler said. “Now, I have a little time.”

For Boteler, getting to work with dogs is something he has always enjoyed.

“It’s amazing to have that kind of connection to a dog,” Boteler said.

The Botelers first became interested in show dogs while Boteler was stationed 100 miles outside Raleigh, North Carolina, during his time in the Marine Corps in 1973. At the time, he and Martha had just enrolled their Irish setter, Annie, in obedience school.

“We just started out with an obedience class because we wanted our dog to be better partner,” he said. “It just so happened that she was really good and we started going to some of the dog shows.”

The Botelers would spend the following years traveling to various competitions on weekends and holidays. During each American Kennel Club competition, each dog must perform a set of tasks, such as recalling commands, responding to a call from the other end of the stage and how they sit.

“Everything is about precision,” he said.

The Botelers have five dogs: three German Shorthaired Pointers, a Labrador Retriever and a mutt Terrier. Two of the Botelers’ German shorthaired pointers are the offspring of Gunner, one of their earlier pointers who died in 1992 and whose lineage they wanted to continue because of the quality of his breed.

Over the years, the couple has owned more than 25 dogs that have competed in dog shows.

“We didn’t have any kids, so they just became our kids over the years,” he said.

During the last couple of years, Martha Boteler has put her dogs to other uses in the community as therapy dogs. After attending a seminar on the benefits of therapy dogs, she worked to get Buck certified and will get Chip, a Labrador retriever, certified as well.

“It’s been a lot of fun,” Martha said. “It’s like magic how kids respond to these dogs.”

Boteler said that over the years, he has developed long-lasting friendships, but that he cherishes the connection with his dogs the most.

“They all have their own personalities,” Boteler said. “You just get to where you really love and appreciate them for who they are.”

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Information from: The Tuscaloosa News, http://www.tuscaloosanews.com

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