Image: Daniel Kramer

It had been months of work, but in March 2020 Dawson Sherrouse, a Kingwood-area kid preparing for his Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo debut, knew he was ready.

He’d spent months working with Finn, a pig who was shy at first—and maybe a bit ornery, too. Dawson walked Finn, readied him for the ring, and gently corrected the ill-timed barrel rolls performed at progress shows. With time, patience, and a whole lot of training, the two were prepared to compete.

Then came a surge of Covid-19 cases across Houston, and with it the show’s cancellation. “It broke my heart when the show stopped,” says Dawson, now a sixth grader at Humble ISD’s Riverwood Middle School. “It was the best experience. I’d never had a pig like that before.”

Saddened but not ready to throw in the towel, Dawson set his eyes on the future. His family purchased new pigs—his chosen animal, because of his dad’s history raising them—and started the process anew.

His father, Cody Sherrouse, club manager with Humble 4-H, helps feed the animals before the day gets going. Then, after school, it’s straight to the barn, where the competitor himself can get to work. Dawson feeds and walks Gus, the Chester White pig headed for Houston this spring, and braces for a challenge when the animal’s feeling feisty. Unlike obedient Titus, the “magic” pig bound for Austin’s stock show, Gus displays his own sort of etiquette, bouncing his head and requiring correcting.

Image: Daniel Kramer

Regardless, he said they’ve made real progress. And he’s ready to finally give things a go. “I’ve been to the Houston show a lot, and it’s really fun,” the 12-year-old said. “I want to see how it is showing an animal there.”

Excitement might be building, but Dawson admitted that emotions get complicated, too. After all, he knows that once all’s said and done, he’ll have to bid Gus farewell. “It’s very hard,” he said. “I just keep it in my head, ‘Don’t get too attached.’ But it always happens. It never gets easier.”

That pending parting might be difficult, but Dawson keeps busy outside of show season, too. He enjoys staying active with soccer and swimming. Meanwhile, there’s a chance the family pet can also help fill the pig-shaped void left in Gus’s wake.

The Sherrouses share their home with Bo, a mini pig who enjoys cuddling on the couch. Dawson had a simple explanation.

“I’m obsessed with pigs,” he says, laughing.

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