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Dog day at the fairgrounds

Veronica Whitney

Bebe, a Norfolk terrier, had won Best of Breed that morning at the dog show at the Eagle County Fairgrounds and was now shopping at one of the several booths.

A couple booths away, Echo, a pregnant Alaskan malamute was getting a therapeutic massage from Debbie Towndrow, a certified massage therapist owner of Woof and Hoof Massage in Denver.

“The dogs love it, they jump right on the table,” said Robin Hug, Echo’s owner.



The massage helps to improve movement and also deals with behavioral issues during the competition, Towndrow explained. Massages for dogs were $30 and people could also get the treat for $35.

At Animal Whispering, Jebbie Brown of Vail, is deciding which homeopathic remedies she’ll get for her two dogs.



For two days, the Eagle County Fairgrounds smelled like dog shampoo and hair spray and the highway noise was offset by the hairdryers.

“There’s a huge financial and emotional commitment in breeding dogs,” said Ray Schafer, an Australian shepherd breeder of Kim who used to live in Vail.

“These shows are growing in popularity. It’s fun to be around people who share the same interest. But I do it for the dogs, they love it. These (dogs) aren’t show pieces, they sleep in beds at home.”



The Roaring Fork Kennel Club organized the dog show – an American Kennel Club sanctioned event – where 873 dogs of more than 100 breeds competed, including Boston terriers, French bulldogs, chow chows, Shetland sheepdogs, Rhodesian ridgebacks, Chinese cresteds, miniature pinschers, mastiffs, Spaniels and great Pyrenees.

Ten judges looked at how each dog meets the standard for their breed.

“Judges look at how the head is set, the dog’s coat, the way the tail is set, the bite and the movement of the dog,” said Bob Krais, chairman of the Roaring Fork Kennel Club.

Rich Snavely brought two smooth fox terriers to the show. He came instead of his wife, who usually attends the shows but stayed at home in Denver with a new litter.

“My wife goes to 40 shows a year. A lot of them are out of state and as far as Pennsylvania,” he said.

Dogs get points at every show and that’s how they can win a championship, Krais said.

Winning competitions could also mean the dog’s puppies will be worth more, Ray Schafer said. Depending on their quality, puppies can start at $1,000, he said.

“Most dog breeders are pretty eccentric,” Schafer said. “The dogs pretty much consume your life, your time and your house,” he said with a laugh.

It took Snavely a short while to prepare his terriers for the show. He shaved their butts so the judges can see the dog’s muscular tone and conformation, then he clippered the excess of hair.

In turn, Dennis Corash of Erie spent more than seven hours preparing Autumn, a 9-month-old Bedlington terrier, one of the breeds that doesn’t shed.

“It takes one and a half hour to bathe him,” said Corash, a dog show veteran of 40 years. “Then you shave him and then you have four hours with the scissors doing trimming work.”

Ten feet away, Lilly, also a Bedlington terrier, stood stoically on a desk while her owner, Diane Stille of Hudson combed her feet holding her leg up for several minutes.

“The only thing in common between dog owners is the dogs,” Snavely said. “Dog owners have all different professions, they come from all walks of life.”

Corash is a principal at a charter school and Stille, a marketing manager.

“This is one of the few things I can do and not think about work,” Corash said. “It’s even better than fishing.”

The most prevalent breeds in Colorado, Krais said, are Labrador and golden retrievers. In the east coast you can see more poodles, he said.

“Some dogs really like the competition and those are the ones that show the best,” Krais said. “Other dogs don’t like to come at all and that shows too.”

Veronica Whitney can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 454, or at vwhitney@vaildaily.com.


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