The Southeast Arkansas Kennel Club Dog Show returned to the Pine Bluff Convention Center this weekend with more than 700 dogs of nearly every conceivable breed competing in a range of judged events under the auspices of the American Kennel Club.
SEAC secretary Claire Peacock said that the group has been hosting two dog shows annually since 1956.
“We are one of only two AKC member clubs in the state, with the second one in Little Rock,” Peacock said. “It’s a real accomplishment. The show that we are hosting is what is known as an AKC points show, which means that the competitors here are able to earn points towards becoming breed champions.”
Peacock said that the dogs are judged in areas including obedience, rally and confirmation.
“In confirmation, a dog is judged based on the appropriate physical characteristics that are considered the breed standard by the AKC,” Peacock said. “Rally is where the dog and the handler compete on a course designated by the judge.
“Competitors start at the class level where they work to achieve points towards getting a championship,” Peacock said. “They then compete for best in group and best in show.”
Peacock said many of the dogs that are shown are not accompanied by their owners but instead by professional handlers who make their livelihood caring for dogs and moving them through competitions across the United States.
“I was raised into this,” said Collette Livingston of Dallas, Texas, in reference to her career as a dog handler as she groomed a golden retriever in a hallway just off of the arena Saturday afternoon. “Dog handling is a family business. Both of my brothers are handlers as well.”
When asked why she does it, Livingston said that she and her brothers were raised by parents who showed their own dogs and the profession fell into place.
“It’s a 24/7 job but I get to see my friends and to travel around the country,” Livingston said. “We are constantly with the dogs: we feed them; we clean up after them; we bathe them; we groom them; and we play with them.”
Livingston said that show weekends are quite hectic.
“We start at 6 a.m. by walking all of the dogs, feeding them and getting them groomed,” Livingston said. “We are given a judging schedule during the week so that we know what comes when. We usually finish up on a show day around 10 p.m. and then we can get some rest.”
Livingston said that she has clients from all over the country who entrust her with the care of their dogs.
“Part of our job is finding where the best group of judges for our dogs are going to be when we are putting together a show schedule,” Livingston said.
Nine-year-old Megan Rice of Cabot was at the show with Angel, her 7-month-old German shorthaired pointer.
Rice was entered as a novice junior in the junior division of the competition.
“I started showing dogs because of my nana,” Megan said. “I’ve been doing it for more than a year.”
Darren and Jennifer Rice are the proud parents of Megan.
“Her aunt shows dogs in the agility category and her nana shows in the confirmation category so they got Megan interested in doing this,” Darren Rice said.
“He drives and I show,” Megan interjected to clear up the division of duties between father and daughter.
Christa Medaries of West Monroe, La., ran her 2-year-old female Shetland sheepdog Kiely through the the novice rally competition.
“Kiely won third place today,” Medaries said. “She won her championship a few weeks ago and she’s won best in breed a few times as well.”
Medaries said that Kiely is the first dog that she has bred.
“I’ve entered her in the agility and obedience competitions,” Medaries said. “We’re just starting out in rally and at the novice level, they let us use leashes on the dogs. At the more advanced level the dog’s actions are completely controlled by voice commands.”
Kiely happily played with a pink dog toy as her owner explained that the dog is of the blue merle variety of her breed, which is signified by particular markings on the dog’s fur and skin.
Angela Hudson and her husband Jimmy breed Shetland sheep dogs from their home in Holly Bluff, Miss., and brought 2-year-old Party, a female sheltie, to show in the competition.
“My husband is the one who knows the most about this,” Hudson said as she acknowledged that he was not with her at the moment. “It is great to be here and meet with other people and learn and socialize.”
Hudson said that they had been showing dogs for two years and breeding them for three.
“For a sheltie, the AKC says that they can’t be more than 16 inches tall and can’t be less than 13 inches tall,” Hudson said. “They are also supposed to display a sweet disposition.”
Hudson was impressed with the venue.
“We love this facility,” Hudson said. “I told my husband that we will be back in Pine Bluff next year.”