Dogs Put Best Paw Forward Owners Who Travel Show Circuit Pamper Their 'Prima Donnas'

Article excerpt

Byline: Jean Murphy Daily Herald Correspondent

To Virginia Marie Murphy of Libertyville and Evanston, "a beautiful dog is like a work of art or a lovely piece of jewelry."

The pleasure such an animal brings its breeder, said Marilyn Laschinski of Vernon Hills, "is a little bit of pride because you know that you have produced something nice and pretty and able to compete."

Both local women are active participants in a world about which most know little - dog shows. Both had winning dogs in a recent show held at Arlington Park racetrack in Arlington Heights, sponsored by the Kennel Club of Yorkville.

"The dogs who appear in shows are the prima donnas of the dog world," explained Murphy.

And their manner, Murphy said, is like that of a movie star. "They can be affectionate, but they are very choosy about whom they are affectionate to," she said.

Most show dogs don't make good household pets because their temperaments are too hyperactive. They have not been raised in a house, so they are not housebroken, said Murphy.

The purpose behind dog shows is to keep the various breeds true and clean and to give breeders examples of perfection so they know what to work toward in their breeding programs, Murphy said.

Prize money is usually between $100 and $300, which is a drop in the bucket compared to the expense of traveling around the country, staying in hotels, entry fees, and other expenses.

"If you have a top dog, you can be gone a lot and not have much of a home life," she explained. "So most people who show dogs are single, widows, or couples who enjoy doing it together."

"I've been gone for months at a time with my dogs so you have to like to travel," Murphy continued. "But it is exciting. It is kind of like an alter-ego thing. You don't have to be a prima donna. Your dog is! But it is also a lot of hard work, money and emotion. It is very hard to lose, and if you have a good dog even he or she is disappointed by a loss."

In a show, the first dogs compete against all others of the same breed. The handler takes the dog into the ring, Murphy said, puts him or her up on a table and a judge goes over the dog carefully to check for correct bone structure and composition for the particular breed.

The dog then is put on the ground, and the handler moves the animal back and forth in a straight line and around a ring so the judge can check for how the dog moves, its personality and its behavior. After they have seen all of the dogs, the judge chooses the most perfect example and awards its Best of Breed.

Next, dogs that are Best of Breed competitors move on to the group competition. Here, breed winners are grouped into one of seven different categories for another competition. The different groups are sporting dogs, non-sporting dogs, terriers, hounds, working dogs, herding dogs and toy dogs. …