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Posted: Sunday, July 10, 2005

Going to the dogsBy MARK QUINERPeninsula ClarionPaula Lovett had her Australian shepherd puppy at Skyview High School on Friday. But her puppy — Medalion Sagebrush Annie, or Sage — was not there for the same reason the other 650 or so dogs were.

"She's just here to see what's going on," Lovett said, as the puppy snoozed under the shade of a chair.

Lovett is just one of many dog lovers who seeks thrills, bonding and prestige with her dogs by attending dog shows and competitions.

On Friday, she was not missing one second of the Kenai Kennel Club's annual dog show, obedience, agility and rally trials this weekend at Skyview.

"I've always had Australian Shepherds," Lovett said. "(But) I like seeing all the different dogs."

She was not alone. People young and old milled around the grounds Friday with their dogs on leashes showing them off waiting for competition, while some attended with their children or alone to get some attention from friendly dogs.

Lovett did not enter Sage in any of the weekend's competitions because the dog is too young. Lovett was still plenty involved, however. As an Australian shepherd breeder, she had a handler showing some of her dogs in conformation.

Conformation, an event where dogs are judged based on the breed's standard, is one of four competitions taking place this weekend.

Obedience is a competition where dogs demonstrate their ability to respond to various commands. The agility trials give handlers a chance to direct dogs through an obstacle course. And rally, a new event, is a combination of obedience and agility.

Agility trials and conformation were taking place at the same time Friday morning. Spectators could find the conformation crowd wearing fancy dresses and suits leading their dogs around while a judge inspected the animals. Spectators politely applauded in delight.

Not far away, the agility crowd did warm-up stretches in sweat pants and T-shirts and cheered as dogs crossed see-saws and leaped over jumps.

"It's a culture difference," Lovett said.

She added that although there are different cultures that converge in one location, many participate in all of the events.

Deniece Isaacs lounged in a chair in her blue jeans and watched the agility trials while giving her Australian cattle dog a rest from the competition. She had changed out of the skirt she wore for conformation.

"The conformation is more like a beauty contest — like Miss America," Isaacs said.

"This is just so much fun," she said, referring to agility.

Sheila Laughton was still in her dress clothes. Laughton and her husband drove to Kenai from Reno, Nev., participating in dog shows along the way. However, the Alaska experience was special for Laughton.

"We wanted to do this for a very long time," said Laughton, a seasoned dog handler.

It was clear that adults were not the only ones capable of being experienced handlers.

Lindsey Pabst was enjoying her 11th birthday Friday with her dachshund Flirt in agility ring. Lindsey said she has participated in dog show events since she was 3 — and that she has trained Flirt by herself.

"My mom hasn't trained her one bit," she said.

Her favorite part of the event is having time to bond with her dog, she said.

"When you do the agility, it's all about being one with the dog. It's teamwork and faith in your dog," she said.

The event continues today starting at 8 a.m. Admission is $5 per vehicle.

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