There was a lot to celebrate as the River Valley Cluster dog shows wrapped up their four-day run Sunday at the Owensboro Convention Center.
This year’s event, sponsored by the Owensboro River City Kennel Club and the Southern Indiana Kennel Club, saw 3,776 entries registered before the deadline; 959 more than last year and the highest number to date.
“The increase is fabulous,” said show president Cindi Ashley Bosley. “We’re seeing shows down 10-15% nationally (so) the significant increase we’re seeing here this year is just exceptional.”
The exhibitors were also delighted.
“It went really well,” said Geneva Melton, of London, Kentucky, who showed off 10 of her Akitas and Pointers throughout the event. “We couldn’t finish a dog (for their championship) that we wanted to finish because we didn’t have enough points for it. But we had some really good major honors, great comments from the judges, great comments from people who taught me and told me I showed really well.
Another added benefit has been the reintroduction of spectators, who were absent for the past two years due to the cancellation of the event in 2020 and the surge in COVID-19 cases across the region last year. .
“Having spectators at the event really helps the energy, especially towards the end of the show with the bands and the best of the show,” Bosley said. “It’s definitely a plus for the exhibitors and often the dogs too, because they feel the energy of the crowd and sometimes it actually helps them show better.”
Melton added: “With the spectators here, you get new people watching the dogs, new people looking at the sport. I think it’s great to have them.
Jennifer Renfrow of Owensboro has been attending dog shows since she was 13 and makes it a point to come to the River Valley Cluster and other shows in the area when they pop up.
“I’m a dog lover – that’s the main thing,” she said. “I love dogs and I especially like big dogs. The bigger they are, the more there are (of them) to love.
Although she doesn’t show dogs, Renfrow takes home advice to apply to her own American Staffordshire Terrier, Baby Girl.
“Coming to these dog shows and seeing how they discipline the dogs has helped me train my own,” she said. “…I helped train him to do a lot of things and be consistent.”
The event also saw first-time dog show attendees like Shamar Foster of Hopkinsville and Hannah Beitler of Fort Wayne, Indiana.
“I like it,” Foster said. “(Hannah) wanted to watch the Frenchies. She’s a big Frenchie fan. We really like dogs. We just want to see them all.
Before arriving at the convention center, Foster said he and Beitler were expecting something different.
“We just thought they were going to run through hoops,” he laughed.
Bosley likes knowing that the event can serve as an introduction to a world she and many others are passionate about and provide a more behind-the-scenes look at what’s going on beyond what’s seen in the ring.
“It’s really fun to share the event with the public,” she says. “Naturally most people think dog shows are either like cunning dogs or if they watched the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York, usually in January – the vibe is completely different to what we have here. You can see the dogs being groomed, conditioned, actually in their holding area waiting to show.
Melton said viewers get to learn more about the dogs they don’t know.
“It’s a way to let people know about your race, especially a race that a lot of people don’t know about or are prejudiced against,” she said. “People think Akitas are aggressive; but really once to know them, they are just giant idiots who just want to play with you.
Bosley was grateful for a “handful” of volunteers from both kennel clubs, the general public helping out when needed, and help from the convention center and the city.
“The show went really well,” Bosley said.