Dogs thrill at annual Cobo shows

By: Jennie Miller | C&G Newspapers | Published March 9, 2011

 Brodie Glaza, 9, of Royal Oak plays with Peggy, a Welsh terrier, as Audrey Zahn, 8, of Royal Oak watches and laughs with another furry friend during the Detroit Kennel Club Dog Shows March 5-6.

Brodie Glaza, 9, of Royal Oak plays with Peggy, a Welsh terrier, as Audrey Zahn, 8, of Royal Oak watches and laughs with another furry friend during the Detroit Kennel Club Dog Shows March 5-6.

Photo by Andrew Potter

DETROIT — A 209-pound Newfoundland rolled onto his back in the middle of an aisle at the Detroit Kennel Club Dog Shows, held at Cobo Center March 5-6. He milked every pat he got from passers-by charmed by his gentle demeanor and fluffy brown coat.

He was among thousands of dogs of countless breeds that were also doing their very best to woo the public — in between competitions, that is.

Prada, an 11-month-old English springer spaniel, managed to flirt with onlookers even while being primped for her turn in the ring. Patrons found it nearly impossible to pass her by without cooing and fussing over her, propped as she was on a table, getting her soft black-and-white coat brushed, her long ears wrapped in purple tape to keep them from getting wet or dirty before the big show.

Dog handlers wouldn’t have had it any other way. They loved the interaction with the public — a rarity at dog shows. The Detroit Kennel Club Dog Shows are among six in the country that are “benched,” meaning the dogs and their handlers remain onsite all weekend to interact with the public.

“There are so many people stopping by to see the dogs,” said Cathy Ross of Baden, Penn. It was her first time at a benched show, even though she’s been showing dogs like Prada for 10 years. “I love how busy it is. It’s a huge show.”

People peppered Ross with questions about Prada and Ross’ other pup, Aramis, as they stopped in her section.

“They’re so loving,” Ross said of the dogs. “They’ll do whatever you want to do — they’ll be a couch potato or they’ll go for a run. They meld into your family’s lifestyle.”

Kathy Whitney of South Lyon was in charge of six of the Newfoundlands in the show. She’s been coming to the Detroit Kennel Club Dog Shows for 30 years, and has shown 30 champions.

“This is a prestigious show,” Whitney said, adding that in addition to the high level of competition, it’s also a great time because it’s benched. Whitney was joined by a group of people she calls her “Newfie family.” They had a card table set up and interacted with all who passed by.

“You can talk to people, you can show off your dogs, talk about the breed,” Whitney said, adding that Newfies are her favorite topic of conversation. “They’re amazing. They’re very calm dogs, and they love to be around people. They’ll go anywhere with you; as long as they’re with you, that’s all they want. And they don’t seem to know their size.”

Kenneth Calloway, 29, of Rochester got into showing dogs nearly seven years ago, after attending the Cobo shows, having already owned an English bulldog. Now he’s got three, and two were shown in the recent competition.

“I like the competitiveness of it,” said the Stoney Creek High School football coach. “I approach it like a football game. I try to present the best dog possible. And I like all these people you meet from all over the country.”

Jeff Soulliere of Harrison Township was hanging out in the area reserved for Chesapeake Bay retrievers with his little buddy, Jake, 5.

“I really like to get out here and see the people and the dogs,” Soulliere said, adding that Jake is a past Grand Champion.

In addition to the breed judging and benched areas, dog show attendees also had the chance to observe demonstration events on obedience, herding, hunting and racing; peruse the more than 40 vendors selling dog food, art, jewelry, books, toys and treats; and explore information booths and seminars on various dog-related topics, such as pet therapy.

Erik Bergishagen of Birmingham, president of the Detroit Kennel Club, estimates that some 25,000 people pass through Cobo Center throughout the weekend for the annual event. March 5-6 marked the 106th and 107th Cobo Dog Shows in Detroit.

For more information, visit