By Nancy Carlson • Columnist • 

A showcase of diversity

I did something that was a lot of fun a couple of weekends ago: I attended the Greater Clark County Kennel Club All Breed Dog Show in Ridgefield, Wash., and I had a blast. It had been years since I’d traipsed around a dog show, which sure added to the novelty.

I had become somewhat lackadaisical in my appreciation for the truly amazing world of dogs, and the show made me a believer again.

Now, I do not write this to tell you about the fabulous time you missed out on. I write to inform you that there is a bigger, even better event just around the corner that you and your family could enjoy — the Rose City Classic All Breed Dog Show at the Portland Expo Center Jan. 15-19.

If you call yourself a dog lover and have never been to the Rose City Classic, this is something you should remedy immediately.

I, like many of you, love living in McMinnville, but a mecca of doggy diversity it is not. Walking, driving, even at the dog park, I see about the same 25 or so breeds of dogs over and over again. We have lovely Labs, Australian Shepherds, Pit Bulls, German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, Weimaraners, Chihuahuas, Pomeranians, Beagles, Dachshunds, a smattering of St. Bernards, and, of course, your Labradoodles, Goldendoodles, and Cockapoos.

But let’s face it, folks. At the risk of offending about half my readers — if you’ve seen one Labrador retriever, you’ve seen them all. They come in three colors — black, yellow and chocolate — and they are all about the same size once grown. Now, I am not saying that if you’ve met one Lab you’ve met them all. Each is endearing in his or her own unique way.

But in terms of looking at Lab after Lab after Lab — boring! And I could say the same for all the dogs I’ve listed above. They are wonderful, but where are the Azawakhs? The Cesky Terriers? The Leonbergers? The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers? The Dandie Dinmonts? The Finnish Lapphunds? And, of course, the Plotts? I’ll tell you where they are, or at least where they will be — at the Rose City Classic.

Nowhere on the planet is there a species more diverse than the dog. They may (or may not) be descended from wolves, but very few look anything like wolves anymore. Some of them weigh no more than a bag of sugar. Some can tip the scales at 250 pounds. Some look, for all the world, like dust mops with legs. Some are completely hairless. They are fat, thin, long, short, huge, tiny. Some are sublimely elegant; others are utterly ridiculous.

They were bred to guard our palaces, ward off predators, hunt our food, herd our flocks, lead our carriages down dark roads, rid us of vermin, or just sit in our laps to make us smile.

Going to the Internet and looking at pictures of the 178 breeds of dogs recognized by the American Kennel Club is better than nothing. But going to the Rose City Classic and seeing them all in the fur is a hundred times better. And I maintain that this is a family event — almost all kids claim to love dogs, but I think most of them are completely clueless when it comes to realizing how diverse and fascinating the world of purebred dogs can be.

Here are the nuts and bolts: The show runs Jan 15-19, but the first day is devoted to specialties (single breed dog shows), so unless you’re really interested in one of the few breeds that will be shown that day, I would give it a miss. Most of the hoopla at the Rose City Classic happens Saturday and Sunday.

Be forewarned — it is crowded with a capital C. Plan on paying for parking in one of the outlying lots and taking a shuttle. Admission $10 per person, or $20 per family. The dogs eat a lot healthier than the people do — most of the food carts do not cater to those of us worried about weight or cholesterol. And by the way, believe it or not, you can’t bring your dog. Only dogs competing are allowed in the Portland Expo Center. Fluffy needs to stay home.

Years ago, the Rose City Classic was a bench show, which means that all the breeds of dogs stayed on the grounds all day, which was great for us spectators but a bit tedious for the pooches and their breeders and handlers. So now, each breed has a scheduled show time. Dogs of that breed arrive just in time to be groomed and, unless they place as Best of Breed, leave shortly after their competition is completed.

So if you have in mind seeing your favorite breed in the ring, check the schedule on the web and try to be on time — the show does move along.

If you are actually wanting to meet and talk with breeders, perhaps with the thought of a puppy in your future, be sensitive to the fact that, at least before the competition, their attention will undoubtedly be elsewhere. There is much about the Fancy — dog show confirmation competition— that strikes me as silly and frivolous.

But those who do show their dogs take it very seriously, invest a huge amount of time, energy and money in the sport, and they will not want me to prattle on about my childhood pet or be asked what are undoubtedly amateur questions 5 minutes before they go into the ring.

After the competitive part is behind them, most breeders are much more sociable and happy to discuss the wonders of their dogs with you. If you are really interested in eventually acquiring a puppy of your favorite breed—and there is no better place to start a puppy search than the Rose City Classic — you may even take the trouble to contact the breeder in advance to let them know that you will be at the show and would like to meet them and their dogs. If you google the breed club (start at the website and work your way from there) many of the breeders who are breed club members list their e-mails on the site and are likely to be at the Rose City Classic.

Keep in mind that the breeders at the Rose City Classic do not breed puppies to sell. They breed puppies to continue to improve the breed they are devoted to.

These people may be a bit on the vain side and they surely do love their ribbons and trophies, but they are not in it for the money. However, every breeder will infrequently have a pup or two who for whatever reason won’t be “show quality,” and if you can convince that breeder that you will be a worthy owner and provide that pup from their kennel with a wonderful life, then you may be able to buy that pup.

But to do that you are going to have to develop a relationship with the breeder and convince him of your worth and excellent intentions. In my experience, if you want a purebred puppy with a great temperament and an almost certain guarantee of good health, it’s well worth the effort. The people who compete with their dogs at the Rose City Classic are the stewards of their breed, and they take their stewardship very seriously.

But whether or not you are wishing and hoping for a purebred pooch in your future, take in the Rose City Classic. I’ll bet you a bag of dog biscuits that you’ll enjoy it.

Nancy Carlson can be reached at

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