Laurel's 3rd annual dog show attracts the best

Dogs of all shapes, sizes and vocal ranges gathered with their owners at McCullough Field Sunday for Laurel's third annual Dog Days of Summer dog show.

The competition, sponsored this year by Laurel Parks and Recreation, comprised nine contests — including Best Puppy, Looks Most Like Owner and Best Vocal Performance — and saw 59 competitors, from golden retrievers to pugs to a dog in a tuxedo.

Dogs greeted each other as their owners sat in lawn chairs, waiting for their turn to enter the show ring, a patch of field roped off by orange tape. In one corner of the park, organizers had set up a cooling station, complete with kiddie pools, water bowls and a freezer stocked with doggie ice cream.

Event organizer Bonny DuCote, a recreation program specialist for Laurel's Parks and Recreation Department, emceed the event. Laurel City Council members Donna Crary and Valerie Nicholas; and Laurel Police Cpl. John Mrozek, who works with the canine unit, were the judges.

Shadow, a teacup poodle with shiny black fur, won first place for Best Puppy. At 4.2 pounds, the 18-month-old had to move his legs doubly fast to keep up with owner Retha Scott, of Severn.

"He's excited to see most of the dogs, but some of the bigger ones intimidate him," Scott said.

Three months younger than Shadow but nearly 20 times his weight, Ben, a golden retriever, placed first in the Most Obedient competition. Ben stuck close to owner Jan Merka, of Laurel, as he walked in a square formation, turning suddenly at sharp right angles. When Merka threw a toy, Ben waited patiently for permission to retrieve it.

Merka said he had been training Ben for about a year at Applewoods Dog Training, in Laurel. His current project is training Ben to pull him on cross-country skis: He hopes that the two of them can go ski touring this winter.

Amanda Parson, of Beltsville, and Erica Decker, of Laurel, came to McCullough Field to check out the contest and ended up registering their dogs, both Australian shepherds, in the Best Pair of Dogs competition. Six-year-old Picasso, a blue merle; and 20-month-old Toley, a tricolor, took first place in the contest.

"They're really cute together," Parson said of the pair. "They get along really well."

The final prize, for Best in Show, went to Sugar, a 23-month-old Labrador retriever who had already won the Terrific Pet Tricks contest. Owner Roxanne Lee gave him the ribbon, which he held in his mouth as he jumped and pranced around, excited by the cheers and praise.

Lee, who is an instructor at Applewoods, said that her training method didn't involve tricks, treats or electric collars. Instead, she taught Sugar to "take responsibility for (his) behavior and to think."

"Now, if only I could get him to act like this all the time in obedience training!" she joked.

First-place winners

Best Senior Dog: Daisy, owned by Rosemary and Jim Robinson

Best Puppy: Shadow, owned by Retha Scott

Best Pair of Dogs: Picasso, owned by Amanda Parson; and Toley, owned by Erica Decker

Looks Most Like Owner: Charlie, owned by Morgan Reiter

Best Dressed: Bella, owned by Nikki Dull

Most Affectionate/Best Tail Wagger: Eagan, owned by Aimee DelVecchio

Best Vocal Performance: Bubba, owned by Colleen Lhotsky

Most Obedient: Ben, owned by Jan Merka

Terrific Pet Tricks: Sugar, owned by Roxanne Lee

Best in Show: Sugar, owned by Roxanne Lee

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