Dogs have their day in Hamburg - The Buffalo News

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Dogs have their day in Hamburg

Looking every bit the beauty queen that she is, Juicy posed for the photographer, her hair perfectly in place, her stature model perfect.

“She’s such a diva,” said Erin Present of Clarence. “She’s a princess. It’s her world. I just live in it.”

It was indeed a dog’s world at The Fairgrounds in Hamburg Saturday, but not just for any four-legged Heinz 57 variety.

No, this was a day for show dogs, some of them world-class competitors headed for the Super Bowl of dog shows – Westminster in New York City.

This stop along the way is how dogs like Juicy, a 2-year-old Chinese crested, win points and climb the rankings.

And she seemed to be relishing the spotlight of the Nickel City Cluster.

So was Bosse, a 5-year-old Russell terrier who added yet another blue ribbon on his way to an already certain appearance at Westminster.

“He thinks a lot of himself,” said his handler, Allison Sunderman of Michigan. “It’s a beauty contest. He has great structure but he also has attitude.”

Talk to any of the breeders, owners and handlers who climb to the highest echelons of this sport – and yes, they will tell it’s as competitive a sport as horse racing – and you quickly find out this is no arena for the meek and mild canine that most of us have at home.

Words like confidence and yes, even ego, are common among the people who raise show dogs.

For some, it’s evident in their elegance and sophistication.

For others, like Fizzy, a 4-year-old Siberian Husky from Lithuania and another Westminster certainty, it is rooted in almost fearless, fun-loving approach to competition.

“He’s never serious,” said his handler, Tim Terella of Edinboro, Pa. “He’s a total goofball. He’s always getting into things.”

Most of the owners and handlers – there were 1,266 dogs and 135 breeds entered in the Nickel City event – will never make it to Westminster, but their passion for dogs is just as deep as those who will make it to the big show.

“She’s my Mom’s dog,” said a tearful Melanie Pacanowski of Hamburg as she held Rosie, a Schipperke.

For Pacanowski, Saturday’s show was an opportunity to continue a legacy that her mother and father, who raised dogs and died within a year of each other, started years ago.

"She’s the last of what they bred,” she said, her cheeks streaked with tears.

There is a commonality among the folks who compete in these shows, and it’s rooted in their collective love of the animals they spend hours training and grooming.

You see it in the losers who always congratulate the winners and in the enthusiastic applause that greets almost every dog that circles the ring.

To a person, they are dog people.

“A lot of it is fellowship,” show chairwoman Rita A. Bell said of the family atmosphere that keeps people coming back year after year. “If one of them had a problem, all of them would be there to help.”

You also see it in the people who simply show up and watch like Jamie Schechter and Nikki Joseph of Buffalo.

“We came to compare our dogs to the professionals,” said Joseph, with a laugh.

How did they compare?

Not well, but then again it doesn’t really matter does it?

We all think our dogs are best in show.


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