By Jake Steinmann
Fans of the Westminster Dog Show will have the opportunity to see many of the same dogs they’ve seen on television – and maybe some from their own Bolton neighborhood– in person at the Wachusett Kennel Club shows in Marlborough on Aug. 20 and 21.
“When you watch Westminster, you’re missing a lot of the events that happen beforehand,” says Bolton’s Anne Testoni, PhD, who chairs the Saturday competition. “You’re only seeing the end result of days of judging. There is a lot that happens leading up to what you see on television. It’s much more than just a beauty contest.”
Anne’s particular passion is for Basset Hounds, which she has owned, trained, exhibited, and bred under the Spectrum Basset Hound kennel name for over 20 years. Her dogs have earned American Kennel Club titles in conformation (Champion and Grand Champion), obedience, rally, and agility. She also trains her dogs in the field for the sports of tracking and field trialing. Anne’s love of dogs was part of her motivation for moving to Bolton.
“It’s a very dog friendly town. And when you started competing with dogs, you find you can’t have just one (she owns five). So having access to the kind of space you get in Bolton was invaluable. There’s a great community of dog trainers and competitors in the area as well.”
The Wachusett Kennel Club includes several other Bolton residents who will be participating in the competition as well.
Cara Armour, a show steward for the weekend, will be exhibiting two of her female Boxers, one of which is her first home bred conformation show dog. Jean Gamble, who has lived in Bolton since 1993, shows Weimaraners and Ridgebacks at many AKC events, and serves as the trophy chairman for the Wachusett Kennel Club events.
The shows begin at 8:30AM both days with individual breed judging. The best of each breed then competes in one of seven Groups in the early afternoon. Finally, the seven Group winners compete for Best in Show late-afternoon each day. Specific breed judging times can be found by downloading the weekend judging program from the club’s website: www.wachusettkc.org. The show attracts competitors and judges from all over the country, including one judge traveling from Prince Edwards Island, Canada, to select the best quality specimens.
“It’s a perfect opportunity for anyone who is considering getting a dog, or wants to learn more about a particular breed.” says Anne. “The people who bring dogs to the shows are incredibly passionate and knowledgeable about their dogs and their training, and they are more than happy to talk about the dogs. This is what they love. If you want to learn about a particular breed, these are the people to talk to.”
New this year on Saturday is a “PeeWee” class for kids between the ages of 5 and 9 years old accompanied in the ring at all times by a responsible adult. This is not a competition, but rather a fun learning experience. Other events include obedience competitions both Saturday and Sunday, two Rally trials and a “Novice Night” Obedience trial on Friday starting at 3pm.
Obedience trials require the dog to complete a series of predefined commands when directed to do so by their owner. A rally is similar, but the commands are given to the owners on the night of the competition, so there’s a greater degree of uncertainty. “I’m always in awe of what the high level obedience owners can do with their dogs,” Anne remarks. “These events remind you why dogs are so special in the animal kingdom. We’ve bred them to work with us, and it forms an incredible bond. They’re still our pets, but when they get in the ring, they do some amazing things.”
Saturday and Sunday will both feature 4- to 6-month old Beginner Puppy events in the afternoon. The show includes an extensive vendor area, with many booths selling unique, homemade dog supplies and gifts that are not available in retail stores.
The shows take place on Saturday and Sunday, August 20 and 21 at the Royal Plaza Trade Center, 181 Boston Post Road West (Route 20), just west of I-495.
The Friday afternoon and evening event is free to the public. Admission for Saturday and Sunday is $5.00 for adults and $3 for children under 12 and seniors 60 and older. Plenty of free parking is available near the show site, and food and beverages will be available during show hours at the Trade Center snack bar. This event is only for pre-entered dogs—other dogs will not be allowed in the building.