PHOTOS: One of Southeast's largest dog shows in town

By Virginia Johnson, Reporter
Last Updated: Tuesday, January 16, 2018, 4:59 PM EST

It's the biggest AKC dog show in the Southeast -- more than 15,000 canines are competing at the Gulf Coast Clusters Dog Show between January 11 and January 21 at Florida Classic Park in Brooksville.

They are looking to be the best in best in breed, group and show. They are looking to gain points needed to become Champions.

They are looking to dominate in Rally, Obedience and Lure Coursing (think Jason Statham and Brad Pitt in the "Snatch" betting scene for the Caravan, but with a mechanical version of a hare).

Here are the observations of this reporter and photojournalist Bobby Collins after spending an afternoon in the park.

Keeping silky locks performance ready is tricky in the best weather conditions.

We showed up when a healthy wind was sweeping through the confirmation rings.

It was there Bobby spotted a tight line-up of Shih Tzus.

These dogs are roundabouts 10 pounds and that many inches off the ground.

And, their hair grows as long as there are tall, their locks just sweeping the ground like an evening gown.

In this Shih Tzu line-up, it was all blowing long locks — so much so that you couldn’t see where one dog ended and the other began except for when their handlers frantically brushes their dog’s side hair down down down.

And the wind would blow it out of place in the same moment.


Shih Tzus long flowing hair blows in the wind as handlers try in vain to keep their locks in perfect show condition.

It's the Shih Tzu's struggle.

And the struggle is real.

Quick Fun Facts

Boston Terriers are not terriers - they compete in the non-sporting group of canines.

Australian Shepherds are not from Down Under — more like Out West – in the U.S.

Shelties are not mini Collies.

And Great Danes are not some kind of miniature horse hybrid.


One of the Dog show lessons learned -- Boston Terriers are not considered Terriers. They compete in the non-sporting breed.

Something Special

While walking between rings with Borzois on parade, and Cocker Spaniels running out one by one, we spot an animal unfamiliar to us.

I mean it’s a dog— as tall as a Great Dane, with build of a sprinter—the way a greyhound or a cheetah’s body rises up under their ribcages toward their back hips? And they have with sort of wolfish, wiry hair hanging off of a shorter coat—sort of like an Irish Wolfhound.

That was our final guess — we were close.

Our new buddy Fergus is a champion Scottish Deerhound. His human—Sandy Eubank. They live in Chapel Hill, N.C.

"They were originally bred to hunt down deer," explained Eubank. "So he can chase and run down a deer singlehandedly. They can run up to 45 miles an hour."

How do you catch him if he runs?

"You don't -- you make him love you, and you call him," said Eubanks, laughing.

Say My Name

Calling some of these canines can be complicated.

Even the tiniest of toy poodles have pretty complicated names.

We found such a specimen.

"He is Champion, International Champion Ziegfeld Harten Rock Me Amadeus," says owner Suzanne Grande. Of Spring Hill.

Thankfully he’s got a nickname – Ammo.

Pre-Show Rituals

Ammo's back stage in the grooming tent, where hair and fur are blown out and fluffed up right before the ring.

Just a few feet away on his own much, much bigger grooming table we see a breed that's all about the hair—the Old English Sheepdog.

We spoke with Potter's human Allison Sohn, both of whom traveled from Atlanta.

"I’m gonna tease some of this his butt up make it nice and fluffy," said Sohn, using hair tools you might find in my own bag.

Sohn smooths down Potter's middle area and tries to create the perfect look — pear-shaped from one angle and square from another.

But for Potter – and the more than 175 dog breeds here — the judges look for the substance beneath the style.

"They are not picking one over the other because it's cuter or it's fluffier," said organizer Dan Dahlberg of the judges, "she is attempting to find the dog that best fits its breed standard."

Sohn explains the Sisyphus-like routine of every dog show.

"I'm gonna brush all this up," she said referring to the Potter’s backside, "and the judge -- they’re smooth all this down, they’re gonna get their hands in there and check his body and make sure the body is square under the hair. But we still do it because it’s what you do!"

The Mutts are Coming

Finally, we learned that the AKC does have a place for mixed breed dogs. They are being allowed to compete in the Rally and Obedience contests, as well are Lure Coursing.