Dog show comes to town

Published 9:54 pm Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Animal lovers like Dan Bacon never get dog tired, even when they’ve worked with a parade of more than 2,000 dogs and their owners in one weekend.

Bacon is a member of the Birmingham Kennel Club, which will host its annual dog show this weekend at the Shelby County Exhibition Center.

“We have competitors from all over the country, but we also have a lot of members who live in the county. It’s huge for the event to move here to Columbiana,” Bacon said. “We’re glad to have a roof over our head so we don’t have to worry about rain.”

The show took place at Brierfield Ironworks Historical Park in Brierfield in past years. Club President Deborah Barrett said while the park was a great venue, spring weather often got in the way.

Beginning Friday, 2,023 entrants plan to converge, tails wagging, on Columbiana.

The display excites Barrett.

“You get to see beautiful specimens of animals and it is such a family-friendly event,” she said. “These owners are very proud of their animals because they’ve worked hard to make sure their dogs are at their best.”

The weekend’s events will include competitions in eight rings each day. Handlers must show the dogs’ best assets such as top lines (backs), coloring, symmetry and movement. Judges will select a best in breed and best in show at the end of each day.

Damon Folmar of Columbiana began showing Staffordshire Bull Terriers in 1982. He knows what it takes to breed a champion. Folmar’s owned 14 champions in all.

“A champion dog means the dog meets or exceeds the breed standard for that breed that is published by the AKC,” Folmar said. “Our best in show dog … won in Indianapolis over 2,500 other dogs. Of course, Westminster is the premier show in the country and we’ve been lucky enough to have two best of breed winners there.”

Judges base their decisions on AKC breed standards for each variety of canine. Folmar’s bull terriers therefore aren’t judged for the same characteristics as Bacon’s Dalmatians. Bacon, who’s owned Dalmatians since he was a kid, said it takes research and hard work to win.

“It is very tough, it’s very competitive,” Bacon said. “We’re competing against a lot of handlers who do it for a living. So, we get a lot of enjoyment out of winning.”

Judges consider a dog best in show, Barrett said, when it represents its breed better than any other dog represents their own. This means judges consider every inch of the animal.

Ellen Worthington of Wilsonville travels the country judging dog competitions. She said for the spectator these shows provide both entertainment and education.

“It’s a great way for people to learn and even establish for themselves what appeals to them as a pet,” Worthington said. “What better opportunity to learn about a dog than talking directly to a breeder who knows everything about them.”

The event, which will run April 3–5, will also include vendor booths offering goodies for the animal lover such as T-shirts, leashes and dog treats.