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Video, photos, interviews, and over 9,000 dogs competing at the United Kennel Club’s PREMIER dog show!


July 2011

David Arthur, UKC Conformation Judge


2011 UKC PREMIER DOG SHOWAfter a one-year hiatus to Richmond Indiana, the UKC once again graced the fairgrounds of Kalamazoo, MI.  Over the course of four days and with a break in Michigan’s summertime heat, competitors, visitors, vendors, judges, onlookers and canine fanciers from all over the continent gathered for the annual romp in its carnival-like atmosphere!


To some, they were glad to be home, while to others, they were just glad to be at PREMIER.  As Rat Terrier fancier Stacy McWilliams put it, “Love it!  I don’t care where this show ground is.  To be honest with you, I would attend it anywhere because I think it’s the fun time with family (and) friends, and it’s all about the dogs."


But this event is more than just a weekend for a relaxed family vacation.  As the pinnacle of the UKC show calendar, PREMIER draws the largest number of entries, and for those who compete, winning here is big!  See the video below and get a feel for UKC shows.


Although this year’s competition was fierce, the event maintained its easy-going UKC charm.  That is the main reason amateurs and professionals alike trekked back to Kalamazoo for a week’s worth of drama, excitement, glory, and occasional humiliation.  In a word, it’s “fun!”  “Typical PREMIER; people are having fun (and) the weather is fabulous, fabulous, fabulous,” Diana Allen, a Purina representative exclaimed.  “The weather is great, the exhibitors seem to be having a great time, the vendors seem to be doing well, (and) the food is awesome.”  No less spectacular were the dogs themselves.  From the viewpoint of Kathy Short, one of the judges, “I think the quality of dogs has improved so much in the past couple of years, it is amazing what we see out here.  I’m totally impressed by the exhibitors and their dogs.”  Of course, conformation isn’t the only side to the show.


If you’re into performance, PREMIER reveled in it.  “I love it.” Said German Shepherd breeder Dottie Bowman. “I really enjoy the PREMIER.  I enjoy everything that they’ve got; they have a lot to offer.   They’ve got the terrier races, the dock dogs, the weight pulls, and of course, my conformation, plus obedience and rally.  I mean, we’ve seen it all."


UKC Terrier Races!

Another unique venue was the Terrier Racing, whereby dogs are placed into a starting box and when released, they run down a straightaway, over some hurdles, and dive for a hole in a well-padded backstop.  The concept is simple.  The first one through the hole wins!


UKC PREMIER 2011 Terrier RacesMike Turner, the judge on Saturday, gave the low-down on how the dogs are trained for racing.  “They’re a terrier, and you’re trying to wake up the prey drive.   Typically you’ll see them do (it) once, twice, (and) about the third time, ‘hey, I got the idea here,’ and off we go!”  And when it comes to Terriers, size does matter.  “What we do is to try to keep them competitive.   We’ve got them sorted out by breed type, because you have some more muscular dogs and some leaner dogs.  But we also try to break them out by height.  So you’ve got ten inches and under, ten to twelve and a half inches, twelve and a half to fifteen, and over 15.  And what that tends to do, is to kind of balance them out, so you have a more even race."


Many heartwarming stories also arose during the week.  There was Rhonda Naggie and her rescued Standard Poodle Jasper.  “Jasper got saved at six months old.  He had been at a place where a woman bred Yorkies, Standard Poodles, and a couple of other breeds.  The spring before Jasper was born, she had a fire, and thirty-some dogs died.  Well, they rebuilt another shed-type barn, and his litter was the next litter.


Rhonda explained, “All winter long they were neglected.  When the USDA and two rescue groups went in, they got seven of the eight puppies out, and he was one of them.  They were nothing but matted messes. I saw a picture of him, what he looked like, and you couldn’t even see their faces.  They were put out in the premises in March, so all winter long they were totally neglected.  They were malnourished (and) full of parasites.”  But on competition day, he looked handsome, well kept, and ready for his first Rally Obedience trial.  It was amazing to see what a little love could do.


United Kennel Club Rally Sport

Tater Tot, a three-legged Dane and Rally sport competitor was also there with his owner, Jean Lewis.  “He was found in a dumpster when he was nine weeks old,” Jean said.  “He was about the size of his head, and he had a little bit of a limp.  We took him in right away, and his elbow had been broken in two places.  The bone fragments had already started to deteriorate, so they were no longer viable.  So what would have been screws or pins, turned into a full-blown amputation.”  Did he qualify that day?  “He did not,” Jean sighed.  “But he did very, very, well.  I screwed up!  It was all me!  All me!  I was so nervous about him being in the ring for the first time, that I misread a sign."


And, of course, there were moments of glory too.  Kathy Shorter, a top English Pointer breeder and handler, dazzled the crowd by not only winning Friday’s Best in Show with her 14 month old girl, UCH Seasyde Wynot Can Only Imagine, but also the top spot in the annual Top Ten event.


And how did she pull off such a feat?  “Basically I started showing Coonhounds as a teenager.  My family raised them and campaigned them on the coonhound side at the benched shows.  Then, I guess, maybe fifteen years ago I decided I wanted to step out and do a little bit of multi-breed.  I bought a Doberman and wasn’t successful, and then I got into Pointers, and have been in Pointers twelve years now.”  Thus her more than 30 years of hard work paid off that weekend!


Dock Diving - A UKC Trademark Event!

PREMIER 2011 - Dock Diving, A UKC Trademark Event!“We’ve been a sport with UKC for almost four years,” Lynn Postma pointed out regarding the Dock Dogs. But this year, there was a change. “It’s a new Total Dog Event and we’re really excited about it. Show dogs can come and jump . . . to get Total Dog; you just have to have a qualifying jump."


What does it take to qualify? “Jumping off the dock; and it doesn’t matter how far it is. We have five divisions, and the dog decides what division they’re in. You don’t, as an exhibitor, decide, the dog does by how far they jump. And if the dog jumps in the Master’s Division, that’s a qualifying leg, just as would it be if they jump in the Novice Division."


There were also plenty of brave souls trying their hands at new events.  When asked about competing in her first Rally trials, Tina Camp, a well-known conformation judge, exclaimed, “Very, very scary!  I’ve done conformation for twenty-plus years.  But I don’t know why I tried it; very nerve-wracking and difficult.”  Later, she confessed to enjoying the experience.  “After you breathe – yes, it’s all good after you breathe – It was fun!  The judge was absolutely wonderful, (and) the Rally people have been awesome to me."


But such is both the reputation and nature of UKC.  Bit by bit, people have been crossing-over from other registries, only to find that the one word that sums up the PREMIER experience is, “fun!"


Bill Sahloff, well renowned in AKC, said it quite well when asked why he had come, “For fun and to learn about the rare breeds actually.”  Smiling broadly, he continued, “It’s much more relaxed.  I get a chance to actually talk to the people.  And as I judge these shows a number of times, the camaraderie, I mean, everyone is happy, (and) they’re friendly.”  When asked about judging the Top Ten, he replied, “I’ve done this twice, and I enjoyed it immensely because here you have dogs from all over the country – it’s not localized – and I was fortunate to do the Top Ten.  To me, that is an absolute thrill because I saw some fantastic dogs."


“This is really great,” said Erin Miller, who was attending her first PREMIER. “This is more laid-back.  The judges are a little more friendly, and they talk to you, and share information, what they’re thinking, and give some advice.  This is really nice."


Even the local community came out to celebrate the show.  “We live in Kalamazoo, (and) we just came out to look at the dogs,” said Dominick Pullo, as he and his family watched the Terrier Races.  “We have a rat terrier at home that’s probably a blend with somebody who’s a little taller.  But he’s one of those dogs that . . . would just scooch down there; he loves to run and chase.”  As for the rest of the show, “We saw the dogs jumping in the water; (the) kids loved that.  That was a lot of fun, (and) those dogs were really amazing."


UKC Total Dog Shows Are Fun!

Many had come for their first time.  Some, like Ms. Miller, were new to the dog sport, while others, such as Debbie Perrott and Shirley Knipe, are old hands in the show world.  “(We’ve) been showing for about 53 years,” Debbie reminisced.  “We started with German Shepherds, then we went to German Wirehaired Pointers.  Then we went to (the) Petit Basset – we were in the beginning of that dog in the United States – and then we became interested in the Spinone Italiano.  Our bitch won the Garden the first year the Spinone was introduced into AKC."


When asked what enticed them to show at PREMIER, Debbie continued, “We took the dog to a temperament test in Florida because he’s also a service dog.   We met the UKC people there, and they were talking to us about UKC, so we went to a show somewhere in Georgia or Florida, and he won Best of Breed and Best in Show!  So he was just eligible for the Top Ten.


“So that’s how we got started, but the people are so congenial at UKC.  There’s a different atmosphere.  Everybody’s cheering for each other and helpful to each other, and it’s just a better feeling about what you enjoy doing."


Of course, they felt better yet when their Spinone, Am/UCH Javal I'm Movin On To Hootwire, came in just behind Kathy Shorter’s English Pointer during the Top Ten event.  The show wasn’t the only activity on the fairgrounds.  Kalamazoo is presently in the process of upgrading the facilities, to include a brand new building and an entirely new camping area.  “The town has been great about listening to our concerns,” said Wayne Cavanaugh, the registry’s owner and President.   “I think they missed us quite a bit last year.  We really needed things like 30 amp service for our campers to keep our dogs safe, we needed a new building and they’ve been so kind."


From the exhibitor’s vantage, it was just a great dog show weekend.  As Diana Allen said, “No one has said anything about the new construction.  Most people don’t even notice because they’re showing over there, they’re showing here, (and) they’re not even going that way."


Even the vendors seemed pleased.  Shears and sharpening Guru Ralph Whitman pointed out, “With the . . . new building, I think it’s going to be a win-win all of the way around.”


All too soon, the week was over, and as the exhibitors packed to leave, the rings came down for the year, and quietness began to settle over the fairgrounds, the question arose as to UKC’s future plans.


“Well, it’s kind of like getting a fish tank,” Wayne explained.  “Buy a big one and when the tank gets bigger, the fish gets bigger, and all of a sudden you’ve got a whale.  You know, we started this thing with a few hundred dogs; we’re over almost 9,000 entries this year.  So the future to me is, when there were 200 entries, 300 entries, even a thousand, if someone said to me, ‘Could you double these entries?’  Five years ago, I would have said, ‘sure’, (and) they would have thought I was crazy.  But can I double this entry?  Yes!  And when this building is completed, and those beautiful long fields are completed, and we add more and more performance events, and the world catches on to the idea that dogs are not just pretty faces and that we can do something else with them; I think the sky’s the limit."


United Kennel Club Video Overview


Marla Miller understood that vision, when approached about Lure-Coursing.  “I do it because I want to show my Poodles are multifaceted, not just pretty!”  Joe Buchanan was a bit more practical on the subject.  “I want my bulldogs to sleep in the trailer at night!"  And so it was a good week.  Win or lose, we all had fun, with enough boasts, brags, and belly aches to hold us over until we return next year for another fantastic PREMIER.


Photo Credit: The Staff of United Kennel Club, Your Total Dog Registry Since 1898; where we have Real Dogs for Real People


Related Article: See pre-show information on UKC Premier EST 2002 © 11071610


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