Talking to Owners at the 2011 Purina National Dog Show
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Talking to Owners at the 2011 Purina National Dog Show

Sunday was the final day of this year’s Purina National, which bills itself as “Canada’s most prestigious dog show.” Owners and their pets spent a long weekend vying for pieces of a forty-thousand-dollar purse. Torontoist spoke to some of them between rounds of judging. Our interviews are after the jump.

Dog: Simon G (Saturday’s Best in Show winner)
Breed: Standard Poodle
Owner: Barbara Carlson, Buffalo
Handler: Chrystal Murray, Guelph (pictured)
This entire conversation takes place while Murray uses a pair of curved clippers to prune a little white puffy dog (not Simon) into perfect spheres, like topiary. We ask her how long she’s been handling dogs, and she tells us thirteen years.
Torontoist: What’s the hardest part of taking care of other people’s dogs at these shows?
Murray: I have a good answer for that, but I might get in trouble if I say it.
The most stressful thing is making sure they’re groomed up to par.
How did you get into dog handling?
It’s a family business.
My mother was very good at dealing with coats. Turns out it’s hereditary.
Dog: Breeze
Breed: Sheltie
Owner: Maureen Lynch, Smiths Falls
Torontoist: Is that a Sheltie?
Lynch confirms that it is.
Lynch: Her great, great grandfather used to do Purina Campaign of Champions. [A kind of annual ad campaign, featuring show dogs.]
He was the April boy on their calendar for 2001.
Do you do a lot of dog shows?
Lynch says she’s been doing them for fifteen years.
What’s the secret to breeding a winning dog?
It’s called a crapshoot. You try your best with DNA.
So how do you groom a Sheltie to show?
We put a combination of white chalk in their whites, to whiten their whites. [White fur, that is.]
It’s kind of like a beauty pageant.
Dog: Harlem
Breed: Lhasa Apso
Owner: Shirley Clark
Torontoist: Where did you travel from to come to the dog show, today?
Clark: Alberta.
What’s that shaker of white stuff you have there?
Clark shows us a small McCormick’s spice shaker that has been emptied of its original contents and filled with a white powder. The powder, she says, is corn starch.
It helps to take the sticky out of the coat. [From drool, and vomit, and the like.]
It’s hard on a black dog, because you really have to brush to get it out.
Clark says she got her first Lhasa Apso in 1976, and has been breeding them ever since. Her current dogs are direct descendants of a single Lhasa Apso, born in 1981. Another one of Clark’s Lhasas is, according to her, currently the number-fifteen ranked dog in the United States.
So how many Lhasa Apsos do you have, right now?
Currently I have nineteen.
How much of your time do you spend combing fur?
Most of it.
Dog: Seamus
Breed: English Mastiff
Owner: Traci Weaver, Rochester
Torontoist: How do you transport a dog this size?
Weaver: I brought two of them with me, and I just have an Exhibition. An SUV.
How long have you been showing mastiffs?
Six years.
How many mastiffs do you own?
Weaver says she has ten mastiffs. Four puppies, six full-grown.
How do you find space for all those huge dogs?
They have their own room.
How much dog food do you go through?
Not as much as you might think.
He eats four or five cups a day.
How do you get a mastiff ready for a show?
Mastiffs are pretty easy. We bathe them and groom their coats.
So, no chalk or cornstarch?
All natural.
Photos by Dean Bradley/Torontoist.