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CCKC to hold 69th & 70th annual Dog Show & Obedience Trials

Held in Hussey Field, Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 5 & 6

The annual Carroll County Kennel Club Dog Show and Obedience Trials will be held in Hussey Field in North Conway, Sept. 5 & 6. (Mountain Ear File Photo). (click for larger version)
September 03, 2009
According to Dorothy Lindblade, Assistant Show Chairperson, and long-time member of the CCKC, these two days are great family events, steeped in history, and loads of fun. This year's events mark the 69th (Saturday) and 70th (Sunday) hosting of the "All-Breed Dog Show" and "Obedience Trials" and the club's sixth and seventh "Rally Trials."

The show opens at 7 a.m. each day and runs until 6 p.m. Dorothy, along with her husband, Carl, has been a member of the club since the mid-1970s. Their enthusiasm for the pageantry, beauty and competition of the event is still palpable after 30-plus years of membership.

The Carroll County Kennel Club was believed to be launched in early 1947 based on a photo by Bob Wentworth of Jackson that appeared on the cover of the Reporter Newspaper on April 14, 1947. The caption below the photo states that it depicts officers and directors of the "newly organized" CCKC.

Dr. Eugene "Gene" Roswell Hussey, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, is credited with beginning the club and he served as the club's president in the 1970s. Dr. Hussey received his D.V.M. in 1952, the same year he opened Hussey Veterinary Hospital in North Conway and took over running the Eastern Slope Animal Welfare League, an animal shelter that operated for over 50 years placing stray animals.

The club recognizes its official anniversary in the year of its incorporation, 1954, seven years after its founding. At 55 years old, plus or minus, the CCKC is still the much younger off-spring of the American Kennel Club of which it is a member.

Celebrating its 125th birthday, the American Kennel Club (AKC) was established in 1884 to promote the study, breeding, exhibiting and advancement of purebred dogs. The AKC is the largest not-for-profit purebred dog registry in the nation and serves as the governing body for the sport of purebred dog showmanship in the United States.

In order for a dog to participate in any AKC sanctioned event the dog must be registered with the AKC. Registration means that the dog and its ancestors are purebred. The dog must also belong to one of the 157 breeds recognized by the AKC.

Dorothy is a wealth of information when it comes to knowing what a kennel club's mission is all about. Having never attended a dog show, my perception of what occurs at a show was thoroughly altered after an hour conversation with Dorothy. I came away with a whole different perspective of what makes a good purebred dog owner and show participant.

"People may think dog shows are just a beauty contest, but they are so much more than that," she fervently tells me. "Sure, the dogs are beautiful ['especially the golden retrievers,' she laughs, because those are her breed of choice], but I personally love the obedience competitions. Those trials really show that an owner or handler has worked with their dog."

According to Dorothy, the 'Superbowl-equivalent' of dog shows is hosted by the Westminster Kennel Club in Westminster, N.Y. However, she says, "we believe our show rivals theirs. We're known as the 'Westminster of the Woods.'"

The Westminster Kennel Club's website traces its history back to even before the existence of the AKC. Its historical highlights maintain that the sport of showing dogs began in Westminster when, "in 1876 (or earlier) a group of sporting gentlemen who met regularly in the bar of a Manhattan hotel to trade stories about their shooting accomplishments and the talents of their dogs eventually formed a club and named it after their favorite hotel: The Westminster Breeding Assoc-iation. Early on, the club owned a kennel and raised pointers for hunting and field trials."

Their website time-line continues, "In 1876 the Westminster Breeding Association helped stage a dog show in Philadelphia in celebration of America's centennial. The show was such a success that the members decided to hold their own dog show to allow them to compare their dogs in a setting away from the field. The members changed the name of their organization to the Westminster Kennel Club."

In 1884, The Westminster Kennel Club was elected by the American Kennel Club as the AKC's first member club. Today, there are approximately 570 member clubs and over 4,000 affiliated clubs.

A Beginner's Guide to Dog Shows published by the AKC states that clubs are more than show-giving entities. Dorothy confirms that truth by relating some of the dog-related services that the Carroll County Kennel Club provides. In 2009, they hosted several dog ownership education and health clinics. They provide obedience training and classes designed to assist an owner and pet in achieving interactions that lead to happy pet ownership. Owners are taught to give their animals positive reinforcement for good citizenship and proper behavior both in public or during a dog show. The club also does microchip implants which allow a lost or stolen pet to be reunited with its owner.

There are lots of traditions inherent in AKC shows. For example, all of the dog owners, handlers, breeders and groomers dress up for the occasion.

"Most of the women wear dresses and skirts and the men don jackets and ties," explains Dorothy with a grin. "It's not just the dogs who are groomed." She adds with a chuckle, "we do, however, wear comfortable shoes."

For competition, dogs are classified into seven different groups, in six regular classes, and compete solely against canines of the same gender. The groups are Sporting, Hound, Working, Terrier, Toy, Non-Sporting and Herding. The classes are puppy (aged 6 to 12 months), 12 to 18 months (who are not yet champions), novice (at least 6 months of age, not yet champions), bred-by-exhibitor (not yet a champion and the exhibitor is the breeder and owner), American-bred (parents were mated in America and dog was born in America; not yet a champion), and Open (any dog of any breed, at least six months old). Ribbons and Rosettes are awarded for Obedience and Breeding.

For a dog to win its breed, it's judged against a standard — not against the other entrants. Called "conformation events," a dog is evaluated based on its ability to conform with a defined image of "the perfect dog for that breed." The dog is rated on looks, movement and temperament. The judge's job is to determine if the dog can do the job that they were bred to do. Standards vary by breed.

Conformation and obedience trials have existed throughout the history of kennel clubs. Recently, however, a new type of obedience test has added excitement and innovation to the stock criterion. Called 'Rally' courses, dogs are guided by their handlers through a series of 10-20 stations where signs are located telling the handler what task the dog should perform.

"These events are interesting because neither the handler nor the dog knows what's coming next," Dorothy explains. "They're not as regimented as the conventional obedience trials and the judging is more relaxed. They are looking for good communication between the pet and its handler."

Popular favorites of the Carroll County Kennel Show are the Puppy Gala and the Junior Showmanship Competition. Puppies aged six to nine months or nine to twelve months give their best efforts in their respective classes. In the Junior Showmanship, young pet breeders and owners under the age of 18 put their dogs through their paces.

As in horse-racing, where owners often employ jockeys to ride their would-be champions to victory, pet owners often hire professional handlers to show their dogs. However, in the Junior Showmanship category each dog must be owned by the junior handler or by the junior handler's father, mother, brother, sister, uncle, aunt, grandfather, or grandmother, including the corresponding step and half relations, or by a member of the junior handler's household.

Like any great sporting event, there are always enthusiastic supporters, interested observers and nervous participants. This year's competition has over 650 canine entrants from far and near, all hoping to take home a prize. They'll be accompanied by optimistic breeders, proud owners, fastidious groomers and skilled handlers.

At the showgrounds, there will be fabulous food — lobster rolls, crab cakes and all kinds of doggie treats. There'll be tears and cheers; frustration and laughter. Tradition and new beginnings. All in all, it will be an affair to remember. And it's happening this weekend in North Conway. You won't want to miss this year's "Westminster of the Woods."

For more information, visit www.infodog.com or www.carrollcounty kennelclub.org.

Martin Lord Osman
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