TUNBRIDGE – Campervans nestled next to each other on the fairgrounds for the Woodstock and Green Mountain Kennel Clubs held their annual dog show this week.
Participants pitched small tents to protect themselves from the rain, and the puppies stood on folding tables while their owners blew their coats. A long white tent stretched across the lawn and overflowed with dogs, from profusely plush Saint Bernard to prancing and freshly groomed Shih Tzus.
All were there for a long-awaited chance to strut into competition after a long pandemic, which has taken its toll not only on humans but on their canine companions.
Clubs had to cancel their show last year due to COVID-19, and hosts and guests were happy to be back.
âThis is the most attended show I have ever seen,â said Dana Dean, secretary of the Woodstock Dog Club. âI can thank COVID-19 for this. People are looking for shows. They have pent up energy and pent up dogs.
In 2019, around 700 dogs attended each of the show’s four days before it was canceled last summer during the pandemic. This year the number has skyrocketed, with an average of over 1,000 dogs competing daily since Thursday.
Normally Susan and Peter Colcord from Manchester take their Pomeranians to a dog show every weekend. During the pandemic, they had to travel to Texas and Florida for dog shows so their ‘special champion’ Bad Boy could protect his place – the American Kennel Club ranks him third among Pomeranians nationally for its conformity to breed standards. . Most weekends, however, they couldn’t compete.
âIt was horrible, scary,â said Susan Colcord when asked about the COVID-19 break. This week they drove their campervan out of Manchester so he could compete with other Pomeranians for ‘Best of Breed’ and eventually take first place in his group, the Toy Dogs, and have a chance to. âBest in Show.â Four of these all-breed conformation dog shows were scheduled to take place between Thursday and Sunday, along with a series of other competitions, including obedience tests and scent work.
On Saturday, Bad Boy was not a champion in the eyes of the judges.
âWe don’t know what happened,â said Susan Colcord.
However, the Colcords were content to find a regular rhythm of regional dog shows. On Saturday morning, they sat next to their campervan and watched the prize dog’s 4 month old puppies scurry around a paddock they had set up on the grass while Bad Boy himself scrambled around. rested in the arms of Peter Colcord. They took the younger ones to get used to the people and the noise of the show.
â(The pandemic) has affected the puppies,â said Susan Colcord. “COVID dogs take longer to get used to things, some don’t.”
Although contestants came from all over the United States and Canada to witness the show, Sara Eastman brought her Dalmatian with sweet brown spots, Thriller, from their home in White River Junction. Eastman said Thriller was “rusty” after the pandemic, so she had string cheese on hand to keep him motivated.
He’s 9, so he competed in the veterans competition this Saturday. He was also preparing to participate in the obedience tests held in one of the fairground barns so that he could show off his tricks, including a voluntary handshake and a high-five. Unlike breed conformation competitions, obedience trials focus on the relationship between a dog and its owner.
But the feel of Thriller isn’t just a spectacle for the judges; it’s also for Eastman.
âCamaraderie,â Eastman said when asked what she likes about dog shows. “It’s fun getting close to your dogs, traveling with them, and having them play for you.”
Susan Fraser, a resident of Massachusetts, watched the breed competitions from the side with her pint-sized puppy, a Brussels Griffon named Fallon. Fraser has been at dog shows since 1979. When asked how many dogs she had, she simply replied “more than I should”. His 2-year-old Brussels, Rio, had already had a successful run, winning fourth place in toy dogs and second in owner handling.
âYou want a dog that has a certain attitude, a good show attitude, and who moves well,â she said. âAttitudeâ was a popular word among dog owners describing what makes a winner.
But winning wasn’t necessarily on Fraser’s mind, nor on many owners who were happy to walk away, share their passion with other dog lovers, and connect with their dogs.
âThey are little spiritual beings who show you unconditional love,â Fraser said. “People need to learn from them.”
Claire Potter is a member of the Report for America Corps. She can be reached at [email protected] or 603-727-3242.