Vermillion enjoys dogged competition

Vermillion enjoys dogged competition
Georgia Peach, the 7-month-old bloodhound owned by Caroline Stewart, South Sioux City, NE, seemed to not hold much interest in what was going on around her Saturday morning at the Sioux Valley Kennel Club dog show in Vermillion.

Her droopy eyes and loose skin around the face made it look like she was more in the mood for a nap. The dog, however, could take everything in at Saturday's event simply by taking a deep breath.

Her extremely keen sense of smell told her everything she needed to know.

Stewart has been showing dogs for approximately five years, and early on, she was smitten by bloodhounds.

"I love the breed because they are so happy, they are comical, they are loving, they are devoted," she said, "and I think they are one of the best dogs there is."

Georgia was among over 1,000 dogs that began arriving, with their owners, in Vermillion on Friday. The dog show began early Saturday morning, and wrapped up Sunday afternoon at the Clay County Fairgrounds.

Six show rings were set up on the fairgrounds. Seven varieties of canines were judged in the various rings: working dogs, herding dogs, sporting dogs, non-sporting dogs, terriers, toys and hounds.

Tom Lilleberg drove eight hours from his home in Elizabeth, IL, to show his three Great Dane dogs in the AKC event held in Vermillion. One of the dogs, Dusty, a blue variety of the breed, needs only one more win to be a champion. The other two dogs are of the black variety of Great Dane. One is appropriately named Noel because she was born on Christmas Eve.

Lilleberg's other black Great Dane is named Princess. "She's a beautiful dog and she's obedience trained," he said. "And she's a therapy dog. She goes to hospitals and other places where people just need to be cheered up by having contact with a dog. Everybody loves seeing a big dog that's gentle."

Many of the dogs that spent the weekend in Vermillion, like Princess, are more than just show dogs.

Tim Peterson traveled from his home in Elk River, MN, to the Sioux Valley Kennel Club dog show to exhibit his male Rottweiller, Cola.

It's a breed of dog that he admits often conjures negative images in people's minds. Peterson works at erasing those undesirable views.

"He is just a lover. The bad ones, unfortunately, were just raised poorly, and that's the tough part," he said. "I test dogs to become therapy dogs; also, I'm an evaluator for Therapy Dogs International, and I find that it doesn't matter what breed the dog is, if it isn't raised correctly, it's a tough dog to be around."

Rottweilers, Peterson said, are very social animals, and are a noble breed of dog.

"They are very loyal, and they are just fun to be around," he said. That's the fun part of owning him.

Wendy Vaerst, of White Bear Township, MN, began talking about her Great Pryenees mountain dog named Champion Euzkalzale's Heart of a Soldier, shortly before he was about to enter the show ring under the leadership of his handler, Linda Williams.

Vaerst had to stop talking long enough to applaud and shout loud whoops of encouragement as her dog ran in a circle around the ring for the judge.

"His call name is Patton, after General Patton," Vaerst said. "He was born the day my dad had heart surgery, and my dad was in the Third Army under Patton."

Patton has already had great success in the ring at several dog shows, including high honors at the AKC/Eukanuba National Championship.

But like many of the other dogs at the Vermillion show, Patton repeatedly is a champion outside of the ring.

"He is a therapy dog and works with autistic children and kids with Down syndrome at the high school where I teach," Vaerst said. "He's kind of a multi-tasker."

Great Pryenees dogs are snow white in color, with a strong, muscular build, and a thick coat.

"They were bred to be flock guardians," she said. "They will go out and they will guard the perimeter and guard sheep from whatever predators may come. They will take down mountain lions; they will take down wolves and coyotes. They are very mellow dogs and they don't respond to crisis until a crisis happens."

Lilleberg credits retirement, in part, for heightening his interest in dogs, particularly Great Danes.

"I retired 13 years ago, and my wife has always loved Great Danes, and so we began breeding them," he said. "Two years ago, we had the number five Great Dane in the country; he was at the Eukanuba Classic at Orlando, FL. His grandmother went to the Westminster show in New York. This is our life right now."

The Lillebergs own nine Great Danes.

"So when I go to buy dog food, I buy two 45-pound bags of dry dog food and two cases of the canned dog food," he said. "That will last about a week."

Lilleberg said he wasn't sure, at first, whether he wanted to get into the business of raising and showing dogs.

"I was a skeptic at first," he said, "and obviously I'm not now."

Today, Great Danes roam free throughout the Lilleberg household, and in many ways, control what goes on in the home on a daily basis.

Their gentle disposition leads one to conclude that these great dogs don't really know they are among the largest of all breeds of canines.

"They'll prove that to you when they jump on the bed to try to sleep with you," Lilleberg said. "If you're already in there, you're in trouble.

"But they're great. They're absolutely great."

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