Dog day afternoon 

Dogs looked distinctly not like their owners at the Five Valley Kennel Club’s 49th annual All-Breed Dog Show and Obedience Trials at the Western Montana Fairgrounds this week. Blown-dry, hairsprayed and freshened-up with water spritzes, over 120 breeds (accounting for over 2,000 entries) gleamed like movie stars; their handlers, many hauling their animals across the grounds stacked in doggie-crates on dollies, looked more the part of the harried parent with no time to check the mirror.

Indoors at Ring #7, Mr. Dana L. Plonkey, in light-blue blazer, judged a half-dozen prancing long-coat Chihuahuas competing for Best of Breed. Outside at Ring #13, Akitas ran in circles with their handlers, some of whom “baited” their dogs with treats stored in their own mouths. Baiting a dog keeps him looking alert, explained Steward Jan Bundsen of Spokane, who was working as a judge’s right-hand man distributing numbered armbands to competitors. Fourteen-year-old Kari Lynn Dowling stroked her 5-year-old Golden, Snap, before their Novice A Obedience competition, while Judge Robert Stein from Las Vegas took a quick break from judging the non-sporting breeds (shar-peis, Boston terriers, dalmations) in Ring #1.

Amidst the din of yip-yaps and hair dryers, no one seemed to have heard of PETA’s attempt to post a billboard in Missoula reading, “If your dog tasted like pork, would you eat her? What’s the difference?” to coincide with the Purina-sponsored show.

“We’re always on alert that PETA might do something,” said American Kennel Club Obedience Field Representative Betty Winthers, who started showing dogs in 1955. But she didn’t appear fazed. Neither did Judge Stein, who has been judging and showing since 1965. Both shrugged at the mention of PETA and were more interested in talking about the show.

Dogs competed either for confirmation (show) or obedience awards—the confirmation dogs vying for the distinguished titles of Best of Breed and Best in Show, the obedience dogs (arguably less well bred) performing tricks like the “scent discrimination exercise,” in which a dog retrieves the one object in a pile that has its owner’s scent. Can a show dog be taught an obedience dog’s tricks? “You rarely get a dual dog,” says Stein. “The two rarely meet.”

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