A Day at a Championship Dog Show

An inside look at what it’s like at the 2009 AKC/Eukanuba National Championship.

After two weeks of disappointing news about one of the world’s foremost human athletes, it was a treat to spend a soggy Saturday watching some of the world’s classiest canine competitors battle for Best in Show at the AKC/Eukanuba National Championship in Long Beach, Calif.

The first thing a visitor sees after entering the show, held this year at the Long Beach Convention Center, is the Meet the Breeds area. Here, breed clubs’ booths line the hall and give people a chance to learn about – and, in most cases, meet – the breeds entered in the show. A total of some 4,000 dogs this year!

And while I’m no dog show expert (though I can boast a visit to the granddaddy of all dog shows, Westminster), this event is remarkable for how accessible it feels to the average dog owner. Opportunities to meet and learn about different breeds abound, and some of the popular demonstrations – from obedience to herding – draw crowds as big as the ones for the most heated ring competitions.

My favorite moment was watching a family – mom, dad and two young boys – walk by and stop, mouths agape, to admire a gorgeous Weimaraner. While the boys stroked the dog and dad whipped out a camera to record the moment, I could hear mom asking the handler some questions about the dog and what kind of pet it makes.

I didn’t hear the handler’s response, but was struck by the significance of the chance encounter. Here were tomorrow’s dog owners meeting someone who is helping to shape the next generation of dogs, at one of the world’s top dog shows. What could be more beautiful than that?

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