The cream of the local canine crop competes at the annual Cranberry Cluster

Over 120 breeds vie for top honors in Falmouth
Half brothers Tito and Baker are Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs. Photo by Samantha Pearsall.

by Samantha Pearsall

This past weekend Cape Cod Kennel Club (CCKC) and South Shore Kennel Club (SSKC) collaborated for a 4-day dog show event known as the annual Cranberry Cluster. A total of 1,251 dogs from 128 different breeds, from Newfoundlands to Shih Tzsus, strutted their stuff in the show rings at the Barnstable County Fairgrounds. The show was held Thursday through Sunday from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m.

One of the shows’ chairs, Linda Flynn, who is also the Delegate to the American Kennel Club for SSKC, said “Weekends are always busier than the Thursday and Friday shows, however, it is all weather-dependant.” Saturday was a wash out with few spectators, but Sunday’s warm sunshine brought in crowds who were watching the events and shopping for their own pups.

Al and Scandal take top honors

Linda Tamar of New Jersey and Gerri Kelly of Falmouth were all-smiles with their winning canines: Al, a black Miniature Schnauzer; and Scandal, a Chinese Crested. Scandal was trying on various outfits including blue jeans and even a colorful tiny dress. Kelly is the oldest living member of CCKC and has been breeding dogs for 51 years on the Cape. She loves breeding Miniature Schnauzers because “they are the dog with the human’s brain,” she said. They have a really easy-going temperament, no body odor, or shedding hair, Kelly added. Al is a champion at just one-year-old.

Growing in popularity

Cranberry Cluster has become increasingly popular over the last 10 years. The show originally was held only on Saturdays and Sundays and was recently extended two extra days because of the large number of entrants. Flynn said now some days the shows bring in nearly 500 spectators.

This show is the Cape’s only all-breed dog show, that also offers obedience trials and rally trials. The two clubs are both non-profits and operate independently.

They offer puppy-training classes, agility training, show handling classes, scholarships, and other services to their members.

Breeding "better" dogs

Flynn, when judging, looks for certain aspects that are specific to each breed and each of the seven groups (toy, sporting, non-sporting, herding, hound, terrier, working). “There are written standards of what the dogs should look like, and there are disqualifiers too,” she said. The dogs must be healthy and up to date with vaccines and other shots.

“In the showing ring we do an evaluation of the breeding stock. It looks like a beauty contest, but we want to make dogs healthier and stronger so they’re even better than the dogs that came before them,” Flynn said. They also evaluate the dog’s temperament and how they behave in the ring.

Honors for every type of breed and activity

Under the Obediance Rally tent Kirby, a young and affectionate Rhodesian Ridgeback of Plymouth was waiting to hear if he would be named the highest scoring Ridgeback in the competition. His owner, by Pamela Shattuck, held two ribbons already and was waiting excitedly for the announcement.

Austin is a two and half year old Burmese Mountain Dog. His owner, Sue Morrill said, “they are mainly from Switzerland and were used to pull carts, they’re great family companions and raised as farm dogs.” Austin later won the title “winners dog” in his ring.

Darleen Flood, a breeder, owner, and groomer of Sandwich, explained that English Springer Spaniels actually enjoy being groomed. Their ears get tied back to maintain a particular curly neatness to fur. “Jesse loves all the girls,” Flood said pointing to two other spaniels in a crate below Jesse’s grooming table, “he’s always pining over them all!”

The winning Spaniel and best veteran would later be Woodlanders Praise Hymn who is owned by Sue Sutton of Maine.

Libby, a 14-month Brittany from Pembroke was competing in the sporting dogs group. Kim Hatton, her giddy owner, said it was Libby’s first show. Hatton was also new at showing, as she just began this past spring. Before Libby, the only dogs she ever owned were Golden Retrievers, but she just loves Brittanys now. Hatton will be returning with another, older Brittany, next month for the agility show.

Flynn has been involved in dog showing and breeding since 1978.  She was a long-time breeder of German Short-Haired Pointers, but her “retirement breed” will be something smaller like a French Bulldog. She says she works these shows for free and doesn’t mind because she loves dogs, they’re her passion.

No longer just for rich adults

“This sport is not just for the rich anymore, it’s affordable now and we’d like to protect that,” Flynn said. It’s not just for adults either. There’s a junior showmanship where children as young as 10 years old can show their dogs. “Some are so polished,” she said, “and it’s so fun to watch the novices too. Some of these kids are even better at training the dogs than their parents.”

For anyone who is considering getting involved in showing dogs, Flynn urges you to learn from others first. “Join a local kennel club here on the Cape or South Shore, it’s not expensive. And we need new blood to work these events and bring in new dogs.” Investigate different breeds for the type of dog you’re looking for and come watch shows.

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