Dog Show draws colorful contestants

Garden variety dogs tend to be noisy and smelly, but there was none of that at the Exchange Park in Ladson over the weekend. There seemed to be an unspoken code of conduct and a quiet decorum among the over 1400 dogs at the All-Breed Dog Show sponsored by the Charleston Kennel Club and the Charleston Dog Training Club.

With that many dogs - and breeds - there was a four-legged friend for everyone to root for.

The show drew contestants from around the country.

Among the entries was Dopsey, a Scottish Deer Hound owned by Tina Starwyk of Wind Chaser Deerhounds. Tina and her husband, who live near Clemson, raise deerhounds and drive around the country in their RV competing in various dog shows. It has to be crowded in the RV because the Starwyks are usually in the company of nine of their hounds who come along for the ride.

Dopsey did well in the competition taking Breed and Group. Nevermind that she was the only Scottish Deerhound entered in the group, she still looked undone by the experience. As she stopped for a nap on the slab near an open door, a cool breeze wafted in, blowing her salt and pepper hair over her eyes.

"No doubt, she's tired from the road trip," said her owner. "She needs to go to the RV for a rest."

A one-year-old amber-colored puffball named Chatty Cathy was accompanied by her owner, Vikki Highfield, from Birmingham Alabama, who said the dog had done extremely well for her age and lack of experience. She won Best of Breed for Pomeranians.

"I have a male I was going to show too, but he blew his undercoat last week and I couldn't show him." Highfield says, explaining that meant undercoat started to shed. The people who compete in dog shows typically travel around to as many shows as possible, so it's not unusual to see people from all over the country. "We end up being like a big group of friends. You really get to know a lot of people."

Judy Kaldahl from Farmington Hills Michigan brought her Golden Retriever, Ike to compete in the show. Ike, who won Best of Breed, sat by his person, calmly watching as other dogs competed. Kaldahl, who owns a boarding kennel and grooming shop, shows dogs professionally and is on the road every weekend.

"Ike is a very laid back dog. He's very sweet," she said. "He looks a lot better that he used to. He was a very ugly puppy."

With feet almost as big as his very large head, it would be difficult to picture this enormous yellow-haired beast with the smiling brown eyes as anything but extremely adorable. Kaldahl says that as big as his feet are, she has other Goldens whose feet are much bigger.

A tri-Colored American Cocker Spaniel rested like a small child in Gail Stephenson's lap. She'd traveled from Indian Trails, North Carolina with A.J.'s Magical Diary, Maggie for short.

Stephenson says that Maggie was born in Iowa and comes from a line of champions. Her grandfather, St. Joes Born to Win was a grand champion.

"She's not even a year old yet and she's done really well in this show," Stephenson said, digging through her purse and pulling out a stack of ribbons. "She came away with Best of Breed, Best of Variety, I know."

According to Stephenson, Maggie is a dedicated couch potato. "She loves children and other animals. She even likes the squirrels we feed from our window which s funny, because she's supposed to hate them. The only person she dislikes is our neighbor. She really dislikes the neighbor."

Tillie, a Bernese Montain Dog, was a handful as Michelle Scott, down for the show from Chesapeake City, Maryland, tried to control the eight-month-old puppy. Tillie was too young to compete, but was at the show to get accustomed to the noise and activity. "She's really here for socialization. She doesn't really know how to act yet," Scott said as she kept a tight hold on the dog's lead.

According to Correy Krickberg from Summerville, he and his wife Rindi had entered "something like twenty dogs" in the show. At the end of the day, the last dog he had in the ring was Digit, his Portuguese Water Dog, who had won earlier in the Working Group. Krickberg described Digit, whose dark eyes were barely visible beneath his curly, black mop as being "a big-boned, athletic clown."

For all the dogs, champion bloodlines and ribbons, at the end of the day when competitors gathered their dogs, assessed their victories and planned for the next show, the dogs didn't really care about any of it. What they cared about was a warm place to sleep, and big bowl of kibble and a pat on the head.

Contact Sharon Gnau at 873-9424, ext. 215 or sgnau@journalscene.com