Parker the 2-year-old French bulldog sported a diamond-studded blue collar as he waited for his turn in the ring Saturday.
“For the breed he’s pretty serious,” said owner Paula Ellis, of Lakewood.
Proving her point, the next passerby encouraged Parker cheerfully: “Put a smile on your face.”
He’s among the more than 2,000 dogs being shown this weekend at the Washington State Fairgrounds in Puyallup as part of the Western Washington Cluster, which runs through Monday. It’s hosted by the Tacoma Kennel Club, Puyallup Valley Dog Fanciers and the Sammamish Kennel Club. Each holds a dog show open to all breeds one day of the event.
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Sam Badkin of Bremerton said her 2-year-old Great Dane, Hendrix, was trying to follow in the footsteps of his mom, who was a champion show dog.
At shows he knows it’s time to work. At home, he’s a quiet couch potato, Badkin said, “but not very brave at all, which is funny at 180 pounds.”
Perusing the cluster is a good way for people looking for a dog to think about which breeds would suit them, Badkin said.
“Do you like to go on hikes? Do you like to be on your couch? Do you want a lap dog?” she gave as examples of what potential owners should think about. “You’re seeing the top of what dogs should look like, and these people are filled with information.”
As she spoke, Hendrix went nose-to-nose and made friends with a little girl who came up to say hello.
“They’re family dogs,” she said. “He has a little girl at home.”
Another friendship, perhaps less predictable, started Saturday between Usher, the 127-pound Akita, and Daisy, the tiny Japanese Chin, their owners said.
Barbara Lewis, Usher’s owner, said he grew up with Chins, and seems to think he’s one of them.
“It’s not common for an Akita to let a small dog lick his face,” she said as the pups gave each other kisses.
She said she’s been coming to the cluster for years, and likes that it’s an easy drive from her Lynnwood home.
“This is a subculture we immerse ourselves in, and then we go back to our real lives,” said cluster coordinator Sakura Moses, who works in marketing at Tacoma Community College.
She thinks the event is more than 20 years old. In addition to the January cluster, a smaller version is held in June each year, without the Sammamish Kennel Club. Outside of the shows, the cluster this year is also featuring clinics for judges to learn about particular breeds, health checks for the animals and vendors of various dog-related merchandise.
She particularly enjoys watching the youngest handlers, ages 5 to 9, who are in the Pee Wee division. They will show their dogs at noon Monday.
“Another puff ball!” one small child visiting the show said excitedly Saturday, before being told the dog in question was called a Pomeranian.
It wasn’t just humans who wanted to see what the event was about, though.
A wayward Newfoundland wandered around the parking lot in the morning, and sat with event organizers until its owner was called and plans were made to retrieve it.
It turned out the dog lived nearby, and had taken itself on a walk to the show.