It's funny to think that the corgis, Dachshunds, Rottweilers and beagles on display at the Durango Kennel Club's annual
show this last weekend all descended from wolves.
The three-day all-breed tournament is an official American Kennel Club event - formerly held in Durango - with 10
professional judges from across the country and a team of pro show-runners. But the only thing untamed on Sunday was
the spirit of competition among owners.
Held in the inauspicious confines of the Montezuma County Fairgrounds, the Cortez show isn't Westminster, but it's a
fine dog show, say handlers and breeders.
They say the smaller venue is more intimate, the packed dirt makes an ideal ring surface, parking is free, the
competition is sharp and the vibe is definitely more "laid-back" than other shows in the AKC circuit.
Dog-show rules "get a little complicated," said show chairwoman Pam Shirley.
A Best in Show winner is crowned each day after judges narrow the field from best of breed and best of category.
Obedience trials are also held.
Sunday, the Best in Show award went to a Shar-Pei, Saturday it was a Rottweiler, and Friday it was a Finnish spitz.
There were 607 good boys and girls entered, with many handlers showing multiple dogs. The total was down considerably
from last year, but 25 states were represented among the field, as well as Canada.
The dogs, though, were staggeringly diverse.
Fleece-soft papillions frisked on the dirt. Regal whippets strode by their judges with confidence. Bulldogs at peace
licked the air.
The seven AKC categories were represented - sporting, hound, working, terrier, toy, non-sporting and herding.
Sunday morning, the versatile working dogs were on display.
In order to make much money breeding Bernese mountain dogs - bred first in Europe to pull carts and keep guard - you
have to be irresponsible, breeder Sharon Montville said. So she doesn't.
Montville can spend up to $1,000 before a litter is even born. But she said such expenses are not spared at puppy
mills, a big problem in the purebred dog world.
For Montville, who runs a dog day care, Central Bark, in Colorado Springs, it's a lifelong commitment. She regularly
calls owners to check in, asking for pictures of her puppies as they grow.
"It's like being a grandma," she said. "I can be kind of pesky."
And unlike most grandmothers, Montville has necropsies performed right after her dogs die so she knows why, and she
has a database on her computer for tracking information.
Eight-month-old Mystic won't have puppies because of a minor hereditary heart condition, but she looks good on the
outside and has "clean movement," according to her owner, and you can't teach clean movement.
She'll start taking better than third in her group, like she did this year, when she gets a little older, her owner
"She'll win once she gets her coat," Montville said.