North Florida Fair Grounds Goes to the Dogs
By Keytron Hill
The Tallahassee North Florida Fair Grounds opened its doors to dogs of all sizes shapes and breeds. Despite being cute and cuddly, man’s best friend still has a standard. The Ochlockonee River Kennel Club held its five-day annual AKC All Breed Dog Show, that started Feb. 19-Feb. 23.
The show kicked off Feb. 19 focusing on obedience and rally; Friday, Saturday and Sunday consisted of agility trials and lure coursing.
“It’s not all judged on beauty. It’s not a beauty contest. Each breed has a standard written. We, as judges, try to judge the closest dog to that standard that we can. It’s a matter of how the dog is made,” said Eugene Blake, a previous dog handler and now judge of the dog show.
The first step consists of dogs being shown within their same breed to find the best dog. There are seven groups, sporting, hound, working, terrier, toy, and non-sporting and herding. In the group, the dogs are being shown amongst other dogs. They are competing to see which dog is closest to its standard. The final winners consist of Best in Show and Reserved Best in Show.
Carolyn Adams has been coming to the show since 1998 and breed’s cavaliers. She brought her dog Leo and admits to having Leo compete so that she’s aware of the quality of her dog and to know if he meets that standard.
“This show is fun and it’s a time to meet old friends and be together and just enjoy the dogs,” said Adams.
Carol Land and her dog Ollie are no strangers to competing. Ollie is a grand champion from England and has competed in over 30 shows a year in cities such as New York City, Orlando and North Carolina. Carol described the process of preparing her dog for competition.
“There’s lots of conditioning, lots of straightener, conditioners, brushing and combing. We got down here and there was lots of static. I’ve used a half of bottle of static guard,” said Land
There has been a dog show in Tallahassee since the 1940s. Tallahassee Kennel club was over the show when it first began in the 1940 but later disbanded in the 1980s, which led to Ochlokonee River taking over in 1985.
Leah James, who was the first president of the Ochlokonee River Kennel club and is now an AKC judge, described the process of putting together the show.
“You go crazy for about eight months and then you have five days. Then you have a months wrap up and then you get a month to wind down. It’s an all-yearlong plan. There are so many jobs that have to be covered,” said James.
Owners, visitors, exhibitors, and judges come each year from all around the world. Many stay in RVs and some stay in hotels. James admitted to having catered dinner by Sonny’s and other conveniences such as peach cobbler night and a variety of vendors so that show visitors don’t have to leave the fair grounds for food.
“We have wonderful food vendors out there, the vendors kind of make the show because it’s a shopping extravaganza for dog people,” said James.
For the judges of the show, there’s more to it than food vendors and just judging. Each judge has to be approved prior to the show by the American Kennel Club. Judges have to take classes, learning about specific dogs and standards of specific dogs before being approved.
Judges also have a Steward, who is responsible for passing out numbers, running the ring accordingly and making sure the ring is clean.
For James, it is all worth it, she said, “They’re (dogs) my sanity, my entertainment, my excuse to get in the car and travel the world. My excuse to meet people from all around the world and the best medicine an old gray lady can have.”