More than 1,800 compete for honors in Western Pennsylvania dog show

| Sunday, March 31, 2013, 11:24 p.m.

Like trainers preparing a boxer, owners John and Diane Mitchell and handler Dawn Backos applied the finishing touches to Windy and Kiss, standard schnauzers, before they entered the ring.

John Mitchell, 43, of Beaver Falls waxed Windy's legs from the paws to accent her salt-and-pepper fur. Backos, a handler from Greensburg, applied corn starch-like mousse to whiten and stand up her fur. And Dianne Mitchell reassured Kiss, “Good puppy,” in a soothing voice.

“They get treats. You talk to them. Just treat them like a little baby,” Backos said.

The all-breed show sponsored by the Western Pennsylvania Kennel Association Inc. attracted 859 dogs representing 138 breeds and varieties on Sunday in the Monroeville Convention Center. Saturday's event had 1,019 dogs. Each day has a set of award winners. The dogs are not judged by how they compare against each other, but on how they compare with the standards for that breed. Bloodhounds, for instance, require long ears.

Some dogs take a lot of preparation, and others can practically step into the ring.

Cookie Nee, 56, of Irwin owns U Neeq, a papillon. Nee said U Neeq is neither too white nor too black, with a tail that curls nicely over his back and a kiss — a marking like pursed lips — atop his head. She said she just gives him a bath and trims his feet before he goes into the ring.

“He's a natural,” she said. “I don't have to do anything for him.”

Then there's Toro, a standard poodle, who stood on the grooming table while Joseph Vergnetti, his owner, breeder and handler, fussed over him. He tied the dog's double top knot on its head with a purple rubber band that matched the wrap at the end of his ears.

Vergnetti, 60, of Medina, Ohio, combed and picked at him like a stylist in a beauty salon.

“You'd be surprised at how much they enjoy being fussed on,” he said.

Morgan Kiefhaber, 53, of Colden, N.Y., entered three of her six basset hounds, Ariel, Chunky and Balloo. She has them bathed, their nails trimmed and their eyes cleaned. Just before showtime, she removed the drool from their dangling ears and sprayed them with a coat shine made from mink oil.

“It takes away the hound smell,” she confided.

Not all those attending were owners, handlers and breeders. Frank Cost, his wife, Diane Dudek, and their daughter Kinsley, 4, and two aunts went to the show

because the girl loves dogs. Kinsley wore a black sequined beanie and an Easter bunny necklace and carried a black- and-white terrier purse, an Easter present. She owns a rescue dog named Chance.

“She loves to watch dogs being groomed,” her mother said.

Nancy Glabicki, 71, of Murrysville has been involved with dogs for 35 years. A board member of the kennel group, she was an announcer this year and owns a Belgian tervuren. She has entered her dogs in the show previously.

“If she loses, I just say, ‘There's a show tomorrow,' ” she said.

Bill Zlatos is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7828 or

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