State College has gone to the dogs.
The Happy Valley Cluster, a conformation, obedience and rally show, has graced the Grange fairgrounds since Thursday, pitting dog against dog in a battle of poise, agility and all-around good looks.
Susan Reighard, recording secretary of the Nita-Nee Kennel Club, will appear Sunday alongside her dog, Georgie (formally known as Sunray’s Ivy League Hey There Georgie Girl). The bulldog will be competing in the conformation category, which measures a canine’s overall appearance and structure.
Reighard recently spoke more about Georgie and her pre-show routine.
Q: You’re currently the recording secretary of the Nita-Nee Kennel Club. How did you become involved with the group?
A: I joined the Nita-Nee Kennel Club in 1990 when I started showing a black and tan cocker spaniel that we purchased for our children.
Q: What is the mission of the Nita-Nee Kennel Club?
A: The club works to further the advancement and betterment of all dogs — not just purebred dogs — through public service and education, and through AKC-sanctioned dog shows and performance events like obedience and agility trials.
Q: What is the size and scope of something like this event? Are you meeting dog owners from around the country?
A: Our shows attract exhibitors more so from the mid-Atlantic region, but I’ve certainly met people from Texas, California and Canada at our shows as well.
Q: Do you only raise bulldogs or do you have other dogs? What appeals to you about bulldogs?
A: We only have bulldogs now. We love them because they’re more “human” than other breeds. They’re comical, loving and loyal — and despite what people say, beautiful, inside and out.
Q: When did you begin entering dog shows? What was your inspiration?
A: I started showing bulldogs in 1975, when I was in college. I had wanted a bulldog to show from the time I was a student in junior high. Back then, we got the TV Guide in the mail every week. One week there was an interview with the late comedian Flip Wilson, who was very popular at that time and had his own show on TV. The interviewer asked Flip why he had recently purchased a bulldog for his children. He said that he wanted to show his kids that something can be ugly on the outside (his words, not mine!), but beautiful on the inside. From that time on, I was hooked. My parents bought me a puppy in 1975. We saw a male for sale in the Altoona Mirror for $75. It was love at first sight!
Q: How do you prepare each dog for a show? What is the training or grooming regiment required?
A: I usually start grooming for a show about a week ahead. I make sure nails are trimmed, ears and wrinkles are cleaned, whiskers are shaved. Then the night before I bathe the dog. Right before going in the ring I do the final touches. Training starts very early with a puppy socialization class. Then I take as many handling classes as I can with my dogs.
Q: How has your technique developed with each show you’ve entered?
A: I try to pick up a new handling trick or grooming tip every time I go in the ring. And again, I take as many handling classes as I can. I can take them with the same instructor and same syllabus and still learn new things.
Q: Do the dogs seem to enjoy it?
A: Yes! If they don’t, you might as well give it up!
Q: What’s your favorite aspect of working with dogs?
A: I just love to be in the company of dogs. I find it very relaxing.