Weekend trials show off best of man's best friends

Posted: Thursday, July 17, 2003

From teacup-sized terriers to gigantic Great Danes and every breed in between, the dog show held over the weekend at Skyview High School had them all.

The annual show was actually three shows in one the 78th, 79th and 80th. The show is licensed by the American Kennel Club and put on through the efforts of the Kenai Kennel Club a group of people whose lives passionately revolve around dogs.

"We love dogs," said Sandy Potter, a show participant from Anchorage. She came down with three friends and four breeds to be in the shows.

"We're dog people," she said. "We love the camaraderie of dog shows. It's fun to gather together and all do this with each other."


Robert Crawford and Mr. Bronze, an 8-year-old Shetland sheep dog, share fuzzy beards.

Photo by M. Scott Moon

This year's show offered three separate divisions obedience, agility and conformation.

Obedience is where a dog performs a variety of exercises, such as sits, downs, stays and heeling at different paces, and the handler and dog are judged on how well they do.

Agility takes it a step further. A handler directs a dog through an obstacle course including jumps, tunnels, seesaws and poles to weave through. Dogs are faulted for actions such as taking down a jump bar or running obstacles out of sequence. The goal is to complete the course with a clean run and under the amount of allotted time for a qualifying score.

Conformation is perhaps the most misunderstood of the three divisions. Many spectators think it is a beauty contest. In actuality, conformation judges a dog against the AKC standards for that particular breed. A combination of features are taken into consideration, such as structural build, gait and coat type, rather than just the aesthetic appearance of the animal.


Mingo, a Chinese pug owned by Faith Hays, clears a barrier near the end of an agility run during last Saturday's dog show at Skyview High School.

Photo by M. Scott Moon

"It's nice to have all three in one show," said Meleah Fowler of Anchorage. She's been involved in the dog show circuit for 11 years and has traveled all over Alaska and the West Coast of the United States. Fowler had two German shepherds in the most recent dog show.

Lisa Garcia also made the trip down from Anchorage because she said, "This is one of our favorite shows."

Garcia had two dachshunds in the agility division and two in conformation. She was beaming with pride after her dog's performance completing the agility course.

"He qualified in under 33 seconds," she said. Not bad for a 12-year-old dog."


Pat Bouschor's 10-year-old standard dachshund My Guy works his way through the weave poles during an agility run Saturday.

Photo by M. Scott Moon

Garcia said she likes to do agility with her dog because it promotes teamwork and makes a closer bond between owner and pet.

"They also love it," she added. "They love the challenge and love the exercise."

Her dogs did equally well in the conformation. One dog won Best of Breed and the other took home Best Opposite Sex, which is the best dog of that particular breed that is the opposite sex to the overall winner.

Craig and Sarah Smith of Anchorage also did well at this year's show. Their Rhodesian ridgeback named Scarlett took home the title of Best of Breed. There were two other ridgebacks in the competition, but for some of the more common breeds there were more than 20 competitors.


Many different breeds of dogs were in attendance last weekend, including the Daggett family's French bulldog Ozzie.

Photo by M. Scott Moon

"The dogs enjoy it," said Craig Smith. "It's a hobby, and we have fun doing it. It gives us family time together."

Smith said the turnout for the show wasn't as big as some of the shows he had been to in the contiguous United States, but he believed it was good for the area.

Paige Roger-Daniels, a show superintendent from Mississippi, agreed.

"It's a smaller show," she said. "There are 508 people registered each day for this show, and 500 to 850 is about average for Alaska. Down in the Lower 48 some shows bring in 3,000 a day."


Ribbon, Carrie Stillman's Brussels griffon, is more hair than dog.

Photo by M. Scott Moon

The numbers didn't sway her from saying this year's show was great and that she enjoyed being a part of it.

"I think the atmosphere here is nice, cordial and relaxed compared to the Lower 48," she said. "This sport can get pretty cutthroat at times, but not up here. Everyone just seems to get along."

After everything was said and done, Jane Dullum, president of the Kenai Kennel Club, said she was pleased with the turnout.

"It was an awesome show, and we really had fun doing it," she said. "We had good help setting it up."

Dullum said she thought the numbers for competitors were about the same for conformation, were up for agility and were slightly down for obedience.

She and her canine companion, a 21-month old Gordon setter, did well in the show.

"We took home the American championship in conformation," she said.

Her dog bested four other contenders for the prestigious title.

Dullum was surprised to have won it with such a young dog. She has won the title in the past with two other Gordon setters but had to work at it for eight years with one dog and six years for the other.

"It was awesome," she said.

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