The Mountain Valley Cluster Dog Show happily went to the dogs – as did their owners, handlers and friends from all over the East Coast last week.
About 5,000 dogs showed off their haircuts, grooming, gentle temperament and breed standards at the 22nd annual show that took place over five days at the Salem Civic Center.
Numbers of them were world-class dogs who came from famous bloodlines and went home with rosettes for Best of Breed or similar titles, and points toward multiple grand championships.
Others, like Tchotchke, a 15-month-old Danish Swedish Farmdog, were showing because their breed is in the Foundation Stock Service, meaning the American Kennel Club hasn’t yet recognized it.
Owner Aimee Kincaid of Orlando, Fla., explained her dog isn’t commonly seen in the United States – yet. “She has to get a Certificate of Merit, and a certain number of requirements before her breed can move into the AKC’s miscellaneous category,” Kincaid said.
Her owner is hoping Tchotchke’s small size – similar to a petite beagle – will work to her advantage in shows. “She will end up in the Working Group, and because she’s so small compared to the rest, the judge will place her on a table and give her a closer look,” Kincaid explained.
Among the more unusual breeds trotting around the show rings in Sunday afternoon finals were Bugsy, a white, curly-haired Lagotto Romagnolo originally known as a truffle-hunting dog. “This hasn’t been the best show for him,” said owner Lynda Lysher of Ocala, Fla., as she waited for the next ring. “But he successfully jumped into the water for the first time in the Dock Diving competition,” she added happily.
Later, Bugsy took third in the Sporting Group, taking home a green rosette.
Lara Hill of Belmont, N.C., was taking 1-year-old Powder Puff Chinese Crested Bruiser to compete in Groups.
“He won Best of Best,” she said, joyfully. “He’s already a Champion and working on Grand Champion.” It was Bruiser and Hill’s first time at the Salem show. “This is a good show,” she said, adding she, “thought half of the Chinese Crested people from North Carolina came.”
Relaxing behind them in his crate was one of the big fluffies, Moon, a 3-year-old St. Bernard who is already a finished Champion going for Grand Champion.
“This is one of my favorite shows,” said Jennifer Hanger of Maurertown, Va., who was doing double duty as a dog owner and first-time vendor. She developed and sells a line of raw foods after losing a number of her former St. Bernards to cancer, she said.
Hanger has shown her dogs at the Salem show for years, and added, “I love this show.”
A basset named Tuckleberry Hercules Unchained was at the show for love, instead of competition. His owner, Jeannette Nestor of the Pittsburgh, Pa., area, brought him to breed with Gabby, a Virginia bitch. It was her first visit to Salem. “Now that there might be puppies, we may be coming to Virginia a lot more,” she said.
Some of the youngest people holding dogs at the show included Ashley Tatum, a Hidden Valley Middle School student. She was holding onto “Flash,” a massive black teddy bear of a Newfoundland, as Flash’s person showed another dog in the ring.
Ashley is a member of the 4-H Clover Club, and she and fellow students volunteer at the dog show each year. “I love being able to pet and hold dogs,” she said.
Among the lesser-known dogs at the show were more than a dozen Irish Water Spaniels. Roanoke County residents Richard and Mary Su Turner were particularly interested in that class, as their 14-week-old puppy, Oonagh, will be competing someday.
They were watching Ryder, who comes from an Australian Grand Champion, and is “half British and half Australian, which means he is a wonderful addition to this very small gene pool,” Su explained.
Catawba resident Stephanie Schneider spent all five days showing her mom’s dog, Simon, a blue Afghanhound. “She won something each day,” Schneider said about the 13-month old. Her mother is Theresa Morgan of Long Island.
Schneider also showed her own Pyrenean Shepherds, Echo and Luke. Dog friends help each other out at the show, she explained, going into details about how Pyrenean Shepherds were a Supported Entry. Schneider helped recruit owners of the rare breed, to get them to the show.
“They came from Missouri, Ohio, Florida, Upstate New York. People came from quite a distance for this show.”