Dogging around the fair

Youth and open shows bring fun competition, memories

Michelle Balleck

Jordan McLeslie has a special attachment to her family pet.

“I really like my dog (Dale) and he’s really fun to play with,” she said.

So she decided to sign up for the dog obedience and showmanship competitions offered through 4-H at the Moffat County Fair.

“I work with him basically every single day,” the 11-year-old said.

She and her sister, Kristina McLeslie, 9, are in their first year of the project and are members of the Classy Canines club.

The two competed against each other Tuesday morning in the contest, held at the Moffat County Fairgrounds.

“Say she wins and I lose, she doesn’t rub it in or anything,” Jordan said, “but it’s just hard knowing one of us feels good, and one of us doesn’t.”

But no matter who wins, the girls have fun. They smiled at each other in the show ring and played in the grass between rounds.

Dog show superintendent Amy Andrews said that’s what it’s all about.

“I like the animals and the kids,” she said. “That’s why I’ve done it for so long.”

Judges Susan Johnson and Marynette Rihanek of Parker also have been involved in the program for a while. They travel to various county fairs judging the shows and giving youths tips as they go.

“Old 4-Hers never die, they just come back as judges,” Rihanek said. “I figure, someone had to do it for me, so I’ll do it for these kids.”

Andrews, a 15-year leader and superintendent, took last year off, then resumed as superintendent for the 2005 fair because this is the first time in a long time there have been two local 4-H dog clubs.

Shannan Koucherik leads one of them — K9 Kids. But after 30 years advising, she’s retiring after this fair.

Not before she judged the first Open Dog Rally O Fun Match Tuesday evening. The event was open to all ages. Participants were led through stations where they followed commands on posted signs.

“It’s really a great way to work on your relationship with your dog,” Koucherik said. “It’s a really good teaching tool to integrate into the 4-H program.”

One of her 4-Hers, 9-year-old Kayla Hall, had a bike accident that left her with stitches in her lips just the day before competition, and her dog was hurt from another mishap.

But the two trudged on, participating in the showmanship category of the 4-H show and preparing for today’s lamb show.

Stories such as that are the most memorable for Koucherik. She recently received a card from a youth telling her that one day, Koucherik would see her on television, at a national dog show.

“I’ve become attached to all the kids,” Koucherik said. “But you reach a point in your life when you realize the season’s over, and you pass the leash on to someone else.”

Michelle Perry may be reached at 824-7031 or

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