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73rd Rubber City dog show set for Summit County Fairgrounds

By Kathy Antoniotti
Beacon Journal staff writer

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Professional handler Nina Fetter, of Lima, gets a smooch from Sunny Bear, a Pyrenean Shepherd, in her customized RV that she will be showing this weekend at the Rubber City Kennel Club's AKC Dog Show at the Summit County Fairgrounds in Tallmadge. (Karen Schiely/Akron Beacon Journal)

TALLMADGE: The dog that takes the title Best of Show at the Rubber City Kennel Club’s annual Northern Ohio Winter Classic dog show this weekend will have a “certain something” that sets it apart from the rest of the pack.

Call it charisma or attitude, the top dog at the American Kennel Club confirmation show will have the biggest “it” factor when compared to the other 1,600 dogs expected to compete at Summit County Fairgrounds.

“From a judge’s point of view, it’s so hard to not notice a dog that goes around the ring and looks like, ‘You are so lucky I’m here today,’ just asking for the blue ribbon by his attitude,” said show chairwoman Marianne Reder, a 12-year member of the local organization who breeds AKC-registered Weimaraners.

Nina Fetter, a handler from Lima, Ohio, who brought 18 dogs to the event, said that description fits a high-energy 2-year-old Chinese Shar-Pei named Tinsel that has the ability to communicate to judges, “Look at me. It’s all about me,” she said.

“It’s why she won five Best in Show titles last year,” Fetter said.

The show will take place from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday in the fairgrounds arena in Tallmadge. The Columbiana County Kennel Club will kick off the weekend with a competition from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. today.

The Rubber City Kennel Club, which formed in 1940, is a member club of the AKC. It sponsored its first show in 1941 at East Market Gardens, Akron’s premier ballroom that served during World War II as a military storage site. More than seven decades later, the show is still running strong, despite a slight drop off of entries in recent years due to the recession, organizers said.

The event will have a sizeable impact on the Greater Akron economy, with visitors who began arriving Thursday to prepare their pampered, pure-bred pooches for competition.

It is estimated the event will generate more than $1 million in revenue, said Jim Mahon, director of marketing and communications for the Akron/Summit County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

“Based on the estimated total attendance figure of 2,900 for both shows (provided to us by the event planners) ... and their anticipated room nights, the coinciding shows will generate just over $1 million for the area,” Mahon said by email.

Dogs, breeders, owners and handlers from across the U.S. and Canada are expected to compete in this year’s event, said Paul Morehouse, president of the Rubber City club. He formerly raised Cardigan Welsh corgis and has been a member of the club since 1976.

Visitors to the free event might even see one of the dogs made famous by recent appearances in televised dog shows, Morehouse said.

“It’s conceivable, but I can’t say for sure — perhaps handlers that come for group placement or Best in Show points,” he said.

Considering this event is one of the first held each year, exhibitors who are yearning to be the top dog in the country in 2013 will want to get a jump on the competition at this show, Reder said.

Dogs and their exhibitors will be judged in one of seven categories that include sporting, working, hounds, terriers, toy, herding and nonsporting groups. Competing animals must belong to an AKC-member club and be registered with the AKC.

The 13 judges at the show will be assessing more than 200 breeds.

“They really have to have a lot of experience, not only judging dogs, but of judging their specific breeds,” said Reder, who is hosting both shows.

Morehouse said judges for the show will come from as far away as Scottsdale, Ariz.

“Entrants compete against the written standard for the breed,” he explained, as opposed to against each other.

Fetter, who handles and conditions 64 show dogs, some of which she owns outright, transported them to the fairgrounds in a 45-foot motor home lined with cages to hold dogs and the equipment necessary to show them.

One of the dogs she will show, a Pyrenean shepherd named Sunny Bear, is co-owned by Patricia Princehouse of Chagrin Falls. Sunny Bear is the No. 1 dog in its breed in the nation, Fetter said.

A good handler will gross $2,500 to $3,500 a month per dog, depending on how well an animal shows, she said. She earns an additional $500 bonus for each Best of Show win, Fetter said.

Contrary to what people might think, an animal’s confirmation, or its build, is not the most important aspect of judging, Reder said. First, a dog must have a good temperament and be healthy.

The dog’s confirmation is the third thing the judge looks at to make sure it fits the standard established by the sponsoring breed’s club and the AKC.

A dog that shows any aggression in the ring automatically is disqualified from the show, Reder said. “A dog may be drop-dead gorgeous, but if it growls, it is excused from the ring.”

Reder and Morehouse dismiss the characterization that show dog owners are the well-heeled members of society, although the initial expense of buying a puppy from champion stock can be costly.

“This is the only sport in the country where you can start competing in your very first show against the top dog in the country,” Reder said.

Kathy Antoniotti can be reached at 330-996-3565 or