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Kennel association's annual dog show draws 1,000 canine entries

| Saturday, April 5, 2014, 6:41 p.m.
Heidi Murrin | Tribune-Review
Natalia Backos, 6, of Greensburg, displays a treat to the family dog Promise, a standard schnauzer, while showing her at the annual Western Pennsylvania Kennel Club Dog Show at the Monroeville Convention Center Saturday, April 5, 2014.
Heidi Murrin | Tribune-Review
Tammy Johnston, of Baldwin, and her nephew Jeff Symsek, 14, of Bethel Park, do their best to get Tammy's 15' beagle Tucker to pose for a picture at the annual Western Pennsylvania Kennel Club Dog Show at the Monroeville Convention Center Saturday, April 5, 2014.
Heidi Murrin | Tribune-Review
Judge Gary Doerge, right, makes his decision in a group of standard poodles at the annual Western Pennsylvania Kennel Club Dog Show at the Monroeville Convention Center Saturday, April 4, 2014.

Floppy-eared Monty sprawled his rich mahogany coat across a dachshund-sized crate just inches from the temporary home of an Irish setter more than twice his size.

“He's retired,” said Kim Haupt, 57, of Cleveland of Monty. “But he's like most of the dogs around here — a little spoiled.”

The Western Pennsylvania Kennel Association's annual dog show drew more than 1,000 canine entries and hundreds of spectators to the Monroeville Convention Center on Saturday for best of breed and best of show honors.

Judges awarded Champion Woodsides Megabucks, a German shepherd owned by Kiki Courtelis, Joyce Wilkinson and Jodi and Jason Duin, best in show. Chinese shar-pei GCH Shine's Deck The Halls, owned by Debra and Robert Cooper; Linda Teitelbaum, and Rebecca Pentecost DVM, won reserve best in show.

Dawn Backos, 45, of Greensburg called the event a backyard show. The Backoses plan vacations around dog shows all over the country, often pleading with school administrators for time off for their daughters.

The girls show standard schnauzers for a family friend, and they're involved with cleaning, feeding and training. Her oldest, Alexandra, 16, apprentices with Angela Lloyd, the Westminster Kennel Club's 2011 Best in Show handler.

“In most sports, kids don't get a chance to meet the best in the field. My girls are being mentored by their idols, the same people they see on television,” Backos said. “My nephew plays hockey. He doesn't get to hang out every day with Mario Lemieux.”

Bundled in her mother's arms, 6-year-old Natalia Backos failed to advance in showing standard schnauzer, Promise, and was not taking her loss well.

“I know. You're disappointed, huh?” her mother said, teasing. “Baby, there's no crying in dog shows.”

Behind Backos, tufts of fur wafted across the stone tile floor where ordered chaos ruled grooming stations cordoned off by bright yellow tape. Genteel dogs jumped at the buzz of hair dryers while younger, spunkier pups sniffed and yelped at the close-quartered action.

Tucked along a wall, Brian Kurtis photographed the winners, tossing red rubber squeak toys and tennis balls to keep the canines in place long enough to catch a pose.

“It's an old sport with a lot of rules and a lot of manners,” said Amy Coglio, chairperson for the association's Meet the Breeds event. “You need mentors — experienced handlers, amateurs and children all learning and showing together. This isn't a sport you just pick up a book and study for.”

Haupt started with Irish setters as a little girl. Now she mentors her own apprentice, who bred her first litter this year.

The sense of community among dog owners, trainers, handlers and their families is overwhelming, she said. In her 35-plus years of showing dogs, Haupt said, she has attended baby showers, weddings and near-births during dog shows.

“It's its own society,” she said. “Life happens here.”

Megan Harris is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5815 or mharris@tribweb.com.

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