They come in all forms: big, small, furry, shaven - some even have dreadlocks. And if the Celtic Classic Dog Show is any indication, people are passionate about their dogs, no matter what breed.
Out-of-towners' mobile homes litter the parking lot at the York Expo Center for the five-day circuit, which is in its sixth year. The show, which runs till Sunday, is the second-largest on the East Coast, behind only the Westminster Kennel Club show.
Pam Lefever of Dover Township participated in the show with Sophie, a 14-month-old English cocker spaniel.
"They are the best-kept secrets," she said of the breed. "Great family pets and great with children." She said show dogs begin competing at 6 to 9 months old.
Sophie, with her
Dog-show beauty takes work. Before going in the ring, Sophie's ears were wrapped tightly in bright-blue "vet wrap" in order to keep her ears clean and straight. And before every show, Sophie takes a bath.
When it was showtime, the two trotted around the circumference of the white gated ring, and Lefever placed Sophie on the table for the judge to get a closer look. Although Sophie won her breed's show under different judging on Wednesday, the judge did not pick her this time.
"It is very subjective," Lefever said. "And you know that going into it."
For more than 30 years, Lefever has shown dogs year-round. She said it's a big networking event.
"It's kind of like tailgating for sports games," she said.
The show is run in conjunction by the York, Lancaster and Delaware County kennel clubs.
"You will get as high competition here as you will in Westminster," said Ray Dannecker, a member of the York Kennel Club. He said many of the owners at the Celtic Classic are professional handlers.
Dannecker said anybody can enter the competition, which is divided into three parts: conformation, obedience and rally judging. Conformation judges how the dogs conform to their breed standards, whereas the obedience and rally rings showcase how well the dogs can obey commands. Dannecker divided the conformation and obedience/rally shows simply: beauty and brains.
"There's really something for every dog," he said. "If you have a dog that can do both, you really have something."
He said the obedience aspect of the show is particularly useful for the safety of the dogs and their owners.
"It's control, but it's more about teamwork," said Dannecker, who has 20 years of training experience. "And you don't have to have a purebred dog to have fun here."
Fittingly, there is almost no barking in the obedience building.
York Kennel Club Vice President Jeff Moore said the club is committed to community outreach. Earlier this year, it donated animal resuscitators to York area fire companies to better serve pets in emergencies.
The Celtic Classic - named so because it takes place around St. Patrick's Day - will continue until Sunday at the York Expo Center, 334 Carlisle Ave. in West Manchester Township.
- Reach Mollie Durkin at firstname.lastname@example.org.