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Dog show regulars feed on canine competition
What: Southeast Missouri Kennel Club Dog Show
When: 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Where: A.C. Brase Arena Building
Cost: Free to the public
By Scott Moyers ~ Southeast Missourian
Would you eat something that your dog had in its mouth? How about spend 30 minutes each day meticulously plucking fine hairs from its back?
No? Then you -- and your canine -- may not be suited for the life of the dog show circuit.
That's because these are just a few of the measures that some competitors in this weekend's Southeast Missouri Kennel Club Dog Show go through on a regular basis.
Seventeen-year old Rachael Kent of Memphis, Tenn., has raised her own standard of canine commitment.
"Let's put it this way: I missed my own prom to go to a dog show," she said.
Kent, like a few other dog show handlers, would pull food used to get her dog's attention from the dog's mouth and hold it for awhile in her own.
"It's a dog show thing," she explained. "You may think it's gross, but I don't. That's what separates dog show people from everyone else."
Many of the 1,200 owners of about 600 dogs at the event Saturday faithfully travel the dog show circuit all over the country every summer weekend.
People came from 30 states to parade their prized pets -- poodles, French bulldogs, pugs, chowchows and 125 other breeds -- before judges and dog fans.
And the shows require hours of preparation, from training the dogs to obey commands as well as the time needed to primp the pups into show condition.
"They're really babied," said Mary Brown of Canton, Ill. "There's special food, there's even treadmills for dogs. But really it's just that people in dog shows take really good care of their dogs."
While some dog shows offer monetary prizes, the Cape Girardeau annual show, which continues today, offers only trophies and ribbons for best of breed and a best of show prize.
But those who do it say it's worth it.
"I enjoy going to the shows," said Carl Yochum, also of Memphis. "I've been going for 29 years. We're like a dog show family. We see the same people, and it's fun for those of us who love dogs to get together."
Into the rings
At the A.C. Brase Arena Building, the main floor was divided into several cordoned-off dog rings. The rings were set up for dogs of different breeds to be judged for coat texture, the shape of their bodies, how they walk and other criteria.
During the judging, the field of 600 were whittled down to seven as dogs were strolled past judges and "stacked," which means placing them on small tables so judges could feel their coats, rub their faces and study their demeanor.
Polly Smith, a judge who came from Virginia, said the judging can often be rigorous.
"There was a cocker spaniel, a beautiful dog," she said. "But she would not get her tail up. The rules say you have to have a happy, merry dog. If she can't get her tail up, she can't win."
A lot of the preparation is hard work, Smith said, but she added there is a degree of luck involved.
"The best thing a dog handler can do is pray that their dog will show well," she said.
Dog shows are a serious business for participants, said Bill Busch, the show chairman for the kennel club's event, which has been held in Cape Girardeau since 1954.
"They are so into these dogs, they're almost like their kids," Busch said. "They really count on winning in a big way when they come to these shows. They think the world of these dogs, and they're really hurt if they don't win."
'What happened, girl?'
Some were visibly upset as their dogs were eliminated. One man carried his Shih Tzu off, saying, "What happened, girl? You were ready. You were really ready."
Doris Gaume of St. Louis said that every dog owner who puts his pet in a dog show thinks his is the best.
"So when you lose, it's difficult to think that someone else has a better dog," she said. "Because to us, no one has a better dog than ours."
Mary Rosborough of Clay City, Ill., brought out her English bulldog, Stormie, to show just two weeks after it underwent surgery for a spinal block.
"I didn't think he'd be ready," she said. "He could have died, but here he is."
But in the end, there's only one best of show winner.
This year, the prize went to Eddie Dziuk of Columbia, Mo., and his beagle, Grace. It actually was Grace's 10th best of show trophy.
"She's just very good," said Dziuk, who has been going to dog shows since he was 10. "She's got a good personality that draws attention to her."
While some slave away over their dogs, Dziuk insisted he just bathes Grace.
"It's not supposed to be work for her," he said. "It's just a chance to come out and see people, and she loves it. That comes through. She enjoys it. There's your secret."
335-6611, extension 137