You thought you had a bad hair day last Saturday? Think about what it was like to be scrutinized and judged in the drizzle.
The damp weather meant owners and handlers had to give their pooches extra brushes and do a little more grooming during the Greenwich Kennel Club's 80th annual dog show at Taylor Farm Park in East Norwalk.
"It's more difficult in the damp weather with a dog with a long coat," said Dawn Kelly, of Virginia, as she combed out the long chestnut-colored hair of her Yorkshire terrier, Baci, under one of the tents set up in the park. "You don't want to get them all wet and mess up what you did."
Martin Siegman wouldn't have to worry about grooming his dogs, even if he had shown them. Siegman, of Plainedge, N.Y., came to the event with Luna and Thor, his two Bergamascos, an Italian herding dog with a matted coat that resembles dreadlocks. Other members of a Bergamasco club he belongs to were showing, and Siegman was there to support them.
"You can't brush it," Siegman said of the dogs' fur. "There's not as much maintenance."
A downpour would have been another story. "You don't want to get them wet," Siegman said. "It's a two-day project to dry her."
The annual event drew more than 1,500 canines, with judging throughout the day leading to the awarding of the coveted Best in Show last Saturday evening. There were also many other activities, including obedience and rally trials, as well as a dog fashion show, with designs created by members of the New England Fashion Design Association, based in Norwalk.
A new part of the event was a special competition just for owner-handlers. Owners who show their own dogs often compete against professional handlers, explained Pattie Proctor of the American Kennel Club.
"They get to go into the ring with other owner-handlers, as opposed to other professionals all the time," Proctor said. "It kind of highlights them."
The owner-handlers showed their dogs during the regular breed competitions, and along with Best of Breed and other awards, there was a Best Owner Handler award, with the winner going on to compete against other dogs in the same group, such as sporting, hound, toy, herding and terrier.
Bill and Rose Jenks, of Sharon, brought their Yorkshire terrier Felix to compete, and walked away with the Best Owner Handler ribbon.
"We've always shown our own dogs," Bill Jenks said. "We've never hired a professional handler. We prefer it."
Franciene Pytko waited to show her bull terrier, Joplin -- named after the late rock star Janis -- during the owner-handler terrier competition. Pytko, of Shelton, said she sometimes hires a professional handler when she can't show herself. While most owners still want regular group wins, Pytko said she enjoyed the opportunity to compete against her peers. "There are no professionals, just us guys," she said. "This is more of a fun thing."
For many of the owners, showing their dogs is a hobby, but a serious one. Jan Mesh has been showing black Russian terriers since 1997. Mesh, who is originally from the Soviet Union and now lives in Bloomfield, N.J., said the breed is very popular over there, but not so common in the U.S.
The large, shaggy black dogs, which can grow to be 160 pounds, were bred by the Russian military after World War II as guard dogs.
When he is not traveling to dog shows, Mesh works as a limo driver. "It's harder than work, but it's fun," Mesh said of the dog show circuit. "I need exercise because I sit a lot, and this helps."
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