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Area canines vie to be Fun Fest's 'top dog' at show

Kristen Buckles • Jul 13, 2009 at 12:00 AM

KINGSPORT — They all tried to be on their best behavior as they anxiously awaited the judges’ decision at Monday’s Fun Fest Pet Dog Show.

Some shifted nervously, while others jerked at the leashes. A few seemed nervous around so many people.

Of course, that was just the owners. Most of the dogs were taking it easy.

“It’s fun. It’s just pure fun,” event organizer Charles LeBlanc said. “Everybody’s proud of their animals. They want them to be showed off in some way.”

That opportunity to brag is what he believes draws out between 1,500 and 3,500 people to the dog show every year.

“It lets anybody get out and show their dog,” he said.

In contrast to other shows where only animals with pedigrees can participate, every Todd, Duke and Hairy are allowed to join the Fun Fest Pet Dog Show at Allandale Mansion.

That does not make it any less of a competition, however, LeBlanc said.

“We try to run it as true to form as a regular dog show so that it gives everyone the experience,” he said.

That included a preregistration process, which required proof of rabies vaccination in order to compete.

There were seven categories at the dog show, and each category had an adult and kids division.

Categories included homeliest, handsomest male, prettiest female, an owner-dog look-alike without costume, best costume and best tricks. There was also a best Heinz 57 category, which LeBlanc described as a dog with unclear heritage.

“It’s kind of like the Heinz 57 brand,” he said. “It’s got a lot of different stuff in it.”

Behind all the fun did lie a purpose, however.

“Children are the reason why we do this, for them to learn how to take care of their dogs,” LeBlanc said.

As LeBlanc predicted, the big draw of the event seemed to be the opportunity to brag –– and brag they did.

“I love showing her off. She’s my baby; she’s my child. I like to socialize her, too,” Amy Leonard said of her German shepherd mix, Gabrielle.

Nearby proud owner Dustin Vaughn was full of praise for his 110-pound Alaskan malamute, Kuma.

“He’s the star attraction everywhere we go because he’s so big and handsome,” Vaughn said.

Others just enjoyed the chance to dress their dogs up in costume.

A lace veil covered Libby, a golden retriever who was ready to marry her sweetheart, Sparky, a shepherd mix.

“They’ve been in love for many years, so we just thought it was time for them to be legally married,” Patti Lawrence, Libby’s owner, said.

Morgan Taylor, a giant schnauzer, sported what Shelia Ferguson, his owner, said was a replica of the jacket that Michael Jackson wore in his “Thriller” video. He also had a sequined sleeve on one leg.

The outfit was a tribute to the late singer.

“We just love Michael Jackson,” Ferguson said.

Several people commented that they also enjoyed seeing all the different breeds. According to LeBlanc, this has been one of the show’s best years.

“If there are 190 dogs here, there may be 190 breeds,” he said.

Whatever the breed, there always seemed to be a proud owner at the other end of the leash.

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