By JESSICA PRIEST
Photo: Handler David Fitzpatrick of East Berlin, Pa., shows off Malachy at the Reliant Park World Series of Dog Shows. Brett Coomer Chronicle.
Every dog has its day, but Sunday belonged to a 3-year-old Pekingese.
The mop-like canine, named Malachy, stole the show as he waddled around Reliant Center, drawing giggles from the smitten crowd at the Reliant Park World Series of Dog Shows. Hours later, he earned best in show.
Lorene Hogan, a dog handler from Colorado, had a hunch the pooch would win the coveted title.
With 25 years in the business, her expertise proved essential during the tough toy dog competition as several people debated heatedly whether a Maltese would take the crown.
“I’d pick the Pekinese if I were you,” Hogan said to her frazzled neighbors.
And she was right.
“You’re famous!” David Fitzpatrick, the dog’s handler and one of its three owners said, as photographers captured the pup with his prize.
A Pekingese breeder, Fitzpatrick has also earned a name for himself as one of the only handlers in this week’s event to own the dog he was showing. This reflects a shift in dog show culture, which is traditionally perceived as an elitist activity, into something everyone can participate in, show judge Darcy Quinlan said.
That’s not all that’s changed in the show world. Toy dogs have also become top dogs.
“Did you know that toy dogs were originally created to get the fleas off people?” Quinlan said. “People would put them in their bed so fleas would jump on the dog instead of them.”
Cathy De La Garza, the show chairman for the Galveston County Kennel Club, said an estimated 3,000 dogs were admitted Sunday to what has become the country’s fifth largest dog show. Each one works hard as judges determine winners on temperament, health and looks depending on the breed’s specifications.
“It’s like taking a kid and breaking them into Hollywood,” De La Garza said.
Not everyone came for the glory though. Some dogs and their owners just wanted to boogie — literally.
Pam Martin, a dog trainer from Garland, demonstrated to visitors the art of freestyle canine dancing when she put on KC and the Sunshine Band’s Boogie Shoes and strolled around a stage with her dog Viva, a border collie and Jack Russell terrier mix.
The sport, which is designed to show the relationship between owner and dog, relies on positive reinforcement and simply picking the right tunes, said Emily Pyle, the host of the event and operator of Happy Hounds training faciility in Houston.
Decked out in red sequins, Viva, Pyle explained, was able to move in sync with her owner, extending her hind legs and even climbing aboard Martin’s back because she was rewarded with treats and cheers.
Martin said she got Viva from friends in Las Vegas shortly after her husband passed away in 2003.
“Every song on the drive over there made me sad because it would remind me of him,” she said. “But the ride back was completely different. (Viva) definitely filled a void.”
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