Monday, December 22, 2014

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Salt City Cluster Dog Show returns to fairgrounds

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Salt City Cluster Dog Show returns to fairgrounds
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Pet owners usually think their four-legged friends are something special. This weekend, thousands are putting that pride to the test at the Salt City Cluster Dog Show. Our Sarah Blazonis tells us what it takes to get competitors ready to put their best paw forward.

NEW YORK STATE FAIRGROUNDS -- At first glance, you might think competing in the Salt City Cluster Dog show is a walk in the park.

"We try to make the experience nice for the dogs, you know. It's like when you go to the spa -- it's the same for them," said trainer Ariel Cukier as he put the finishing touches on Axle the Tibetan Terrier's grooming, which included blow drying and brushing.

But Axle's blow out is just a final step in a long road towards the competition.

It's a path Lauren Hull's Great Pyrenees, Ellie, has been on for the past six months, or since she was eight weeks old.

"We usually work everyday after school. I'll come home and put the show leash on and I'll be like, 'Come on, Ellie, let's go to work,'" said Hull.

And time isn't the only commitment owners of Saturday's 1,700 competitors are familiar with. Training, grooming, and other costs add up fast.

"People travel all over. I mean, a lot of people fly in with their dogs, people drive long distances, and they do this every weekend for the love of the sport," said North Country Kennel Club President Desiree Williams.

Officials say the goal of the show circuit for many is for their dog to eventually walk away with a championship, grand championship, or become top ranked in the country for its breed. Brian Lepel's St. Bernard, Bourbon, is working toward grand champion status.

"You get out, you meet a lot of people, you learn about the breed, I'm always learning more stuff about the breed as time goes on," said Lepel of why he enjoys showing Bourbon.

Officials say that's one of the benefits for the public, too. Visitors to the show get to see a variety of breeds -- including the rare Skye Terrier.

"They're on the endangered list," said Skye Terrier Owner Alan Smith. "They were between tigers and pandas, they've now slipped below pandas. There's, at most, 3,000 alive in the world today."

It's also a good place for future pet owners to get an idea of what breed is right for their family, whether or not they plan to make them a show dog.

And if you want to check out the dog show, you still have some time. The show wraps up Sunday at the fairgrounds. ClientIP:, UserAgent: CCBot/2.0 ( Profile: TWCSAMLSP