Dogs get their day at Raleigh fairgrounds

tmcdonald@newsobserver.comSeptember 2, 2013 

— It was a dog’s life Monday at the state fairgrounds, and it wasn’t a bad one.

More than 600 dogs representing over 120 breeds were enjoying a final day of careful hair trims, brushings, massages and pampering as the four-day Annual Tarheel Labor Day Cluster competition drew to a close at the fairgrounds’ Jim Graham Building.

At the end of the day, Galaxy, a 4-year-old German shepherd from Potomac, Md., was declared best in show.

He was crowned after several dogs won best of breed, then best of their group in categories including sporting dogs, hounds, working animals, terriers and toy dogs, and herding.

Earlier in the day, Cary Kennel Club President Robert “Bob” Slay thought Matisse, a Portuguese water dog, might scamper away with the “big dog” title.

“That’s the breed owned by President (Barack) Obama,” he noted.

The event is licensed by the American Kennel Club and featured local kennel clubs from Durham, Raleigh, Cary and Alamance counties.

The judges, some from as faraway as Canada, California, Arizona and upstate New York, looked for the dogs that exhibited the highest standards for its breed. Those traits could include the quality of a dog’s head, the alertness and prettiness of its face, the way its shoulders are set, the soundness of its rear, the length of its tail and movements across the judging area.

“Some of the top breeders and handlers in the country are participating in this competition,” said Karen Jackson, who lives in Monroe and had a collie named Gibbs entered in the puppy competition.

Three standard-sized poodles, Quinn, Kai and Pearl –admired by some in the crowd as drop-dead gorgeous – stood tethered to grooming tables late Monday morning while Danielle Pesko and Adriano Roche trimmed and brushed their coats before the best in breed competition in the early afternoon.

Pesko who lives in Hickory, was using scissors to give 10-month-old Quinn a “puppy cut.” She was more than halfway done with the cut. Pesko had fashioned the fur on Quinn’s legs and upper body into tubular shapes that accented his long, soft and graceful lines.

“We keep him covered up (with fur) because he’s still growing,” Pesko said. “He doesn’t know what he’s doing yet. He’s a big, big baby.”

Kai was given a “continental cut.” A white coat of fur covered Kai’s head, upper body and rump. Fur had been completely shorn from the animal’s legs and the rear of her upper body.

The cut looks impressive, albeit puzzling to some outsiders. Pesko explained that standard-sized poodles were first used to retrieve birds shot by hunters.

If the hair was not trimmed from certain places, the animal would sink while venturing into water to retrieve birds. The uncut sections of its coat would keep the brain, lungs, heart and major joints warm while the animal was in water. If there was no warmth to those areas, the animal could get cramps while in the water.

Slay, the Cary club president who is a native of Aiken, S.C., said he first started coming to the Labor Day dog show more than 35 years ago.

“It’s been going on for as long as I can remember,” he said. “They used to have it a Dorton Arena next door.”

Slay said the dog show’s popularity is easy enough to explain.

“You can’t go anywhere in America without people demonstrating their love for their dogs,” he said. “It’s a phenomenal bond.”

McDonald: 919-829-4533

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