Twenty-five years ago, fate walked into the lives of a Lower Windsor Township couple.
"Right before we got married, a stray dog showed up at my parents' front door, and we decided to keep him," Kelly Skiptunas says of how she and her husband, Tony, started on a path toward showing Rottweilers. Their veterinarian suggested the stray was a Rottie mix, and "we decided that was a breed that we would really be interested in."
The Skiptunases share their home with four Rottweilers these days - Benny, Spencer, Thompson and Stoeger - and these champions of the ring do their best to run their human parents ragged. As members of the working dog group, Rotties have oodles of energy.
"These big dogs require a lot of exercise," Kelly says, describing the hours of individualized attention the family gives each dog on a daily basis. "We've had to start running them behind our pickup truck (in the driveway). It's called road working."
In the summer, the dogs work off some of their energy another way.
"One of the things the dogs really look forward to is the pool. These dogs love to swim," Tony adds. "They'll dive underwater to get a Frisbee. They act like big goofs."
Celtic Classic: Big goofs though they are at home, the dogs know their stuff in the ring, too. At least two of the dogs will compete in the annual Celtic Classic Dog Show at the York Expo Center.
"We know the No. 1 Rottweiler in the country will be at the show this year," Tony says. "We welcome the challenge."
The show is an excellent one for owners, handlers, dogs and spectators, the Skiptunases say.
"We go every year whether we have any dogs entered or not," Kelly says. "If you're in the market for a puppy, I think it's a great place to go because you'll learn about all kinds of dogs you're interested in.
Ambassadors: Getting a dog is only the beginning of the journey. Over the years, the Skiptunases have trained their dogs in a wide variety of skills.
Aside from showing in conformation - aka how the dog's appearance meets the breed standard - the couple's Rottweilers have tackled basic obedience, carting, sheep herding, therapy and reading assistance. Last fall, Benny was even recognized nationally for his therapy work as the first Rottweiler ever to receive one of the American Kennel Club Humane Fund Awards for Canine Excellence.
The dogs' role as ambassadors for the breed, showing the sweet, goofy canines under the potentially intimidating exteriors, is a top priority for the Skiptunases.
"The most important thing with the Rottweiler is socialization and training," Kelly says. "We spend a lot of time getting these dogs out to the playground, schools, the hospital."
Spectators at the Celtic Classic, of course, can see the Skiptunases' dogs competing there - along with thousands of other hopeful canines.
"It seems to be getting more and more popular," Kelly says of the show. "It's just a lot of fun for the family."
The sixth annual Celtic Classic Dog Show features canines competing in conformation, obedience and rally events March 13-17 at the York Expo Center, 334 Carlisle Ave., West Manchester Township.
The show is organized by the York, Lancaster and Delaware County kennel clubs.
Spectators can watch the action in the ring, take behind-the-scenes tours and shop. Bear in mind that dogs and handlers can be on tight schedules, and don't approach a dog without permission. If a handler is busy, ask about a better time to visit with the dog.
Admission is $5 for adults and free for children under 10.
For more information, call 848-2596 or visit www.thecelticclassic.com.
If you're confused by the designations surrounding dogs' formal names in competition, you're not alone. Here's a guide to get you through, using the four dogs owned by Tony and Kelly Skiptunas.
Benny, age 10: AKC/CKC CH Oakviews Roughrider v Esmond RN CI TT TDI CGC RTD THD TDI
Spencer, 7: BISS AKC GCH CKC/UKC CH Esmonds Rally Round the Flag CGC TDI
Thompson, 3: V-Rated AKC/CKC CH Woodrott's American Thunder HT CGC
Stoeger, 2: AKC/CKC CH Woodrott's Riding Shotgun
Names like "Benny" and "Spencer" are the dogs' call names, which is exactly how it sounds: That's what the dogs are called on an everyday basis. The formal names, like "Oakviews Roughrider v Esmond," can reflect the dog's parentage - in this case, Esmond Rottweilers and Oakview Rottweilers are the breeders who brought Benny's mom and dad together.
The letters in front of a dog's name are conformation titles. The AKC, CKC and UKC are the American, Canadian and United kennel clubs. A "CH" means champion and a "GCH" means grand champion. Dogs accumulate points to receive championship designations by winning in the ring. The "BISS" in Spencer's name means he won best in breed honors at a Best in Specialty Show where only Rottweilers competed, and the "V" rating in Thompson's name indicates excellent conformation in a German-style Sieger show.
The letters after a dog's name are working titles. "RN" is a rally title (rally novice) and "CI" is a carting title (carting intermediate). "HT" means herding tested. "TDI" is a Therapy Dogs Inc. certification, and "RTD" and "THD" denote a registered therapy dog. "CGC" is Canine Good Citizen for well-mannered dogs, and "TT" stands for temperament test.
- Reach Mel Barber at email@example.com.