Best in Show

Among the barks and fur at the Kenai Kennel Club dog show this weekend were a wide selection of champions.


The fields behind Skyview Middle School in Soldotna were filled with more than 600 dogs over the weekend, joined by about 250 people, to participate in the annual dog show.

“It’s open to anybody that has an American Kennel Club registered dog,” said Paula Lovett, the show’s chair.

Throughout the grounds, different rings were home to different competitions and breeds. Even the parking lot went to the hounds.

While grooming her Siberian husky, Homey, in the parking lot, Erin Criqui of Topeka, Kansas said that the Kenai Kennel Club was the perfect opportunity to mix her hobby and a vacation.

“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do,” Criqui said. “This was his second time flying and he handled it a lot better than the first time. He’s a pretty mellow guy … and you know, we made a vacation out of it.”

Homey spent the weekend competing in conformation, where the dog is judged for how well it conforms to the breed’s individual breed standard.

“They compare him to what they interpret as what would be the most correct Siberian husky,” Criqui said. “And he was the best of breed Siberian husky yesterday.”

Each day at the dog show starts a new competition, with awards being given throughout the day and culminating with a best in show at the end of each competition day.

“Every day there is a best in show, every day is a different show,” Lovett said. “And winners get a ribbon, we give a ribbon. (Dog owners) spend a lot of money for a ribbon.”

And the dog owners or handlers put in a lot of time as well.

Along the conformation rings, dogs are groomed in preparation for their show each day.

“We put about four to six hours into them,” Melissa Laggis said of her two poodles, Bryce and NaPali.

“This is the continental cut,” Laggis said. “We do the cut like this because it pays homage to their hunting ancestors. This jacket is water resistant and buoyant so it helps them to keep their head up above the water while they are retrieving water fowl.”

But the work isn’t done once the day’s competition is over.

“We also have to bath them after each day … This cut is a fancied up version of the traditional hunter’s cut. We just try to show the regalness of the poodle,” Laggis said.

Laggis, her husband Michael and their poodles travelled from Palmer for the dog show and often spend time hiking mountains when not showing.

“We go hiking every weekend,” Michael said. “They’re dogs first to us and show dogs second.”

The pair started showing their poodles in 2015.

“We just started and we jumped right in with the standard poodle, which is considered one of the hardest breeds,” Melissa Laggis said. “But we have a lot of great mentors.”

Bryce, the male poodle, had won best in breed on Friday and NaPali, a female, won best of opposite.

“It’s kind of like second place,” Melissa Laggis said. “So you have your winner, which is the best of the variety of dog, and the best of the opposite sex.”

Outside of the conformation ring, the Kenai Kennel Club dog show also offered obedience and agility competitions.

“We’re the only venue in the state that actually does all three events,” Lovett said. “And we have a juniors division, for kids, and a peewee event, which is an introduction to showing.”

The agility course tested the dogs’ ability to listen and maneuver through a course of jumps, weaves and see-saws.

The obedience course tested their ability to listen, or how often they earn the praise ‘who’s a good dog?’

“She was a champion of conformation shows in her day,” Rebecca Gatterdam of Fairbanks said of Eve the golden retriever. “This we do for fun. This is her first obedience and rally. She passed, but it’s just for fun. The judge said ‘you just made it,’ so I’m not expecting to place but it’s fun.”

The dog show continues Sunday and is open to the public. Competition starts at 9 a.m. and offers the chance to see a wide variety of dog breeds from Afghan hounds to Xoloitzcuintli.

Reach Kat Sorensen at