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Dog show draws people countrywide

Jul. 07, 2013 @ 11:08 PM

HUNTINGTON -- Lisa Bettis hasn't been home to Goshen, Ind., in a month. She has a nation-leading Bichon to keep up with, and she's been traveling the country to keep him at the top of his game.

The 4-year-old champion pooch, Honor, came to Huntington this past weekend for two days of dog shows, the 93rd and 94th All Breed Dog Shows, Obedience Trials and Rally Trials at the Big Sandy Superstore Arena, where on Saturday he was named the Reserve Best in Show for the Nonsporting Group.

He was one of nearly 600 dogs that participated in two days of competition in downtown Huntington. Like usual, the event drew people from around the country, as competitors strive to increase their dogs' standing in the show world, said Gail Sheets, vice president and president elect of the Huntington Kennel Club, which puts on the show. Most of the participants come from the Eastern United States, she said, and most aim to help their dog earn -- through the accumulated American Kennel Club point system -- the status of grand champion.

They're judged on appearance -- everything from their coat to their height, as compared to the breed standards -- as well as obedience.

Dog showing "is addictive," Sheets said. "People are trying to show the perfect dog, of which there is no such thing, but they try to get as close as they can."

They do it for a number of other reasons as well, participants said.

"I like the competition -- showing my dog to the best of my ability and winning," said Vicki Sandage, an Ashland veterinarian who was judging over the weekend and is working her way toward being a licensed judge.

For Ray Harrington of Venetia, Pa., owner of a champion Bearded Collie, Zack, dog showing is also about the camaraderie.

"You meet a lot of people and make a lot of friends," he said.

Cheryl Tavares and Gail Swails of Richmond, Va., said they enjoy the travel -- seeing new cities, trying the restaurants -- as much as spending time with their sheep dogs.

"You can go to a dog show any place in the country," Swails said.

For Bettis, following Honor around on his string of victories has taken her to Florida, Virginia, Massachusetts and West Virginia this summer, along with an upcoming trip to Minnesota. In February, he won Nonsporting Group 1 at Westminster, a huge deal in the dog showing world.

His strengths?

"He has such a great personality. He enjoys this, and that helps a lot," Bettis said. "And he has such a beautiful face, and his structure is what the breed calls for."

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