Some kids spend Saturday mornings watching cartoons, but on Sept. 21, kids in Carrboro had a different reason to wake up early.
By 9:45 a.m. a line of children waited to register their dogs in Carrboro Kids’ Dog Show at Hank Anderson III Community Park on N.C. Highway 54. Some dogs sat obediently as their owners filled out forms at the registration table. Other dogs pulled their owners into the crowd or barked at bright red balloons. Kids excitedly told each other which categories they entered their dogs in. Julie Collins, a recreation supervisor at Carrboro Recreation and Parks Department, said entertainment wasn’t always the show’s focus.
“It used to be more informational,” she said. “Our focus now is on the kids having fun with their dogs. The response we got last year was so positive we decided to keep having it.”
Collins, a 41-year-old Chapel Hill resident, coordinated the dog show last year after a four-year hiatus. She and Robert Douglass, facilities supervisor at Carrboro Recreation and Parks Department, directed the event again this year.
In 2008, the dog show invited local businesses to pass out brochures, set up exhibits, and give presentations on proper pet care. This year’s kid-friendly event included a 15-minute dog training session and a series of contests. Children entered their dogs in up to three of the following categories: “Most Original Costume,” “Best Kisser,” “Terrific Tricks,” “Most Obedient,” “Least Obedient,” “Smallest” and “Largest.” To keep the event fun and fair, each contestant could win first place in only one category.
Ashley Ownbey, a 21-year-old Chapel Hill resident, volunteered at the dog show on Sept. 21. She helped children register their dogs, judged contests and cleaned up after the event. Although the show’s focus shifted to contests, Ownbey said the point is not to take home the most prizes or outdo other contestants.
“It’s not really a competition as much as it is a good time,” she said. “Everyone loves a pet, so to see kids actually do things with their dogs is good.”
Spectators stood along the dog park’s fences to watch the show. Three boys throwing a ball stopped to lean against the fence and watch kids show off their pets. Two women sat on a nearby bench, laughing and talking about costume selections. Collins said she enjoyed seeing people in the park come over to see what the show had to offer.
“It doesn’t have to be just for the people participating,” she said. “Everyone ends up being part of the audience.”
Ian Vermeulen, an 11-year-old Chapel Hill resident, had never been to Carrboro Kids’ Dog Show before. His mom heard about the event through a friend whose children also entered their dog in the show. Ian entered his Chihuahua-Jack Russell terrier, Bella, in three categories including “Most Original Costume.” Bella wore a blue and pink fairy costume to her dog show debut and took home first place in the category.
“We found the costume in my sister’s room,” Ian said after the show. “We were just like, ‘Oh, this would be cute for her,’ because it’s a fairy, and she’s a fairy dog.”
Ian said he enjoyed the show because it gave him the opportunity to see other dogs and what tricks they could do. He and Bella also participated in the show’s training demonstration, which took place before the contests.
Coordinators at Carrboro Recreation and Parks Department included the short session to teach kids how to properly handle their dogs. Barbara Long, a 20-year dog trainer, and her Gordon setter, Niamh, led the demonstration. The pair helped children teach their dogs to sit, spin in a circle and touch specific objects on command.
Long, 58, of Northern Chatham County, owns Paw in Hand Dog Training in Chapel Hill and teaches a technique called “positive reinforcement” training. Rewarding dogs with treats and affection creates trust between a pet and an owner, she said.
Learning to correctly handle a dog is a skill children should learn at a young age. Not only do kids become responsible pet owners, they build stronger relationships with their dogs, Long said.
“If you help build that bond between a dog and a kid early, they’re going to be life-long friends,” she said. “I think that’s wonderful.”
Long said an event where kids learn responsibility, show off their dogs and have fun while doing it is a great addition to the community calendar.
“Carrboro is a pretty doggy town,” she said. “There’s a lot of dog people walking around and sitting at Weaver Street or other cafes. Dogs are part of our family and they’re part of our community.”
Winners from the event included:
“Most Original Costume”:
- First place: Bella and Ian Vermeulen, 11, of Chapel Hill
- Second place: Ginger and Tanda Vadamou, 6, of Chapel Hill
- Third place: Koko and Kate Doherty, 10, of Chapel Hill
- First place: Chichi and Helene Goldberg, 5, of Chapel Hill
- Second place: Shasta and Bridget McMahon, 8, of Chapel Hill
- First place: Shasta and Bridget McMahon
- Second place: Baya and Nicole Beetham, 9, of Chapel Hill
- Third place: Bella and Ian Vermeulen
- First place: Koko and Kate Doherty
- Second place: Chichi and Helene Goldberg
- Third place: Baya and Nicole Beetham
- First place: Daisy and Hailey Lambert, 10, of Chapel Hill
- Second place: Piper and Geneva Moracco, 8, of Chapel Hill
- Third place: Sparky and Brendan McMahon, 6, of Chapel Hill
- First place: Ginger and Tanda Vadamou
- Second place: Bella and Ian Vermeulen
- Piper and Geneva Moracco
Prizes provided by Phydeaux pet shop in Chapel Hill.