TUNBRIDGE — RVs nestled next to each other on the Woodstock and Green Mountain Kennel Club fairgrounds held their annual dog show this week.
Attendees pitched small tents for shelter from the rain, and preening pups stood on folding tables while their owners blew their coats off. A long white tent stretched across the lawn and overflowed with dogs, from abundantly fluffy St. Bernards to freshly groomed Shih Tzus.
All were there for a long-awaited chance to strut their stuff in 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.
“It was the busiest show I have ever seen,” said Dana Dean, secretary of the Woodstock Dog Club. “I can thank COVID-19 for that. People are looking for shows. They have pent up energy and pent up dogs.
In 2019, around 700 dogs attended each of the four days of the show before it was canceled last summer during the pandemic. This year the number has skyrocketed, with an average of more than 1,000 dogs competing daily since Thursday.
Normally, Susan and Peter Colcord from Manchester bring their Pomeranians to a dog show every weekend. During the pandemic, they had to travel to Texas and Florida for dog shows so that their “special champion”, Bad Boy, could protect his place – the American Kennel Club ranks him third among Pomeranians nationally for his compliance with breed standards. Most weekends, however, they couldn’t compete.
“It was awful, nerve-wracking,” Susan Colcord said when asked about the COVID-19 disruption. This week they drove their camper van from Manchester so he could compete with other Pomeranians for the ‘Best of Breed’ and maybe win first place in his group, the toy dogs, and have a chance. of “Best in Show.” Four of these all-breed conformation dog shows were scheduled to take place between Thursday and Sunday, along with a range of other competitions including obedience trials and scent work.
On Saturday, Bad Boy was not a champion in the eyes of the judges.
“We don’t know what happened,” Susan Colcord said.
However, the Colcords were content to find a regular rhythm of regional dog shows. On Saturday morning, they sat next to their motorhome and watched the award-winning dog’s 4-month-old puppies dash around a pen they had set up on the grass while Bad Boy himself rested in the arms of Peter Colcord. They brought the younger ones with them to get used to the people and the noise of the show.
“(The pandemic) has affected puppies,” Susan Colcord said. “COVID dogs take longer to get used to things, others don’t.”
Although contestants came from all over the United States and Canada to watch the show, Sara Eastman brought her soft brown-spotted Dalmatian, Thriller, from their home in White River Junction. Eastman said Thriller was “rusty” post-pandemic, so she had some string cheese on hand to keep him motivated.
He is 9 years old, so he participated in the veterans competition this Saturday. He was also preparing to participate in the obedience trials held in one of the fairground barns so he could show off his tricks, including a willing handshake and a high-five. Unlike breed conformation trials, obedience trials focus on the relationship between a dog and its owner.
But Thriller’s usability isn’t just a show for the judges; it is also for Eastman.
“Comradeship,” Eastman said when asked what she likes about dog shows. “It’s fun to get close to your dogs, travel with them and have them play for you.”
Massachusetts resident Susan Fraser watched the breed competitions from the sidelines with her pint-sized pup, a Brussels Griffon named Fallon. Fraser has been competing in 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, taking fourth place in Toy Dogs and second in Owner Handling.
“You want a dog that has some attitude, a good show attitude, and moves well,” she said. “Attitude” was a popular word among dog owners describing what makes a winner.
But winning wasn’t necessarily on Fraser’s mind, nor on many of the owners who were happy to be back, sharing their passion with other dog lovers and connecting with their canines.
“They are little spiritual beings that show you unconditional love,” Fraser said. “People have to learn from them.”
Claire Potter is a member of the Report for America body. She can be reached at email@example.com or 603-727-3242.