San Antonio’s River City Cluster of Dog Shows more than just fluff

The River City Cluster of Dog Shows embarked on four days of competition this weekend at the Freeman Coliseum in San Antonio, with hundreds of dogs eager to show off their stock.

From Thursday, July 14 to Sunday, July 17, the Coliseum’s exposition was full of dogs preparing for and participating in shows. There are about 200 breeds officially recognized by the American Kennel Club and more than 170 were represented at the River City Cluster of Dog Shows.

Judging began early each morning, as dogs faced off against their own breed for the chance to move on to groups, and then potentially best in show.

Nine different rings were set up for dogs to be judged. On the perimeters, dogs were busy being primped and prepared by groomers and handlers. Dogs were busy on all sides receiving baths, nail trims, hair styling and more.

TT, a poodle, being groomed by her handler and owner Adriano Rocha.

Some dogs require a bit of extra grooming, such as Teagan, the poodle pictured above. For dogs with long hair, the grooming process can take hours.

There were also vendors throughout the exposition hall, selling treats, leashes, toys and more for dogs, and souvenirs and snacks for human attendees.

For the dogs and the handlers that show them off, their objective is simple. They are evaluated on how well the dog conforms to the breed standard set forth by the American Kennel Club.

I come in and I judge the breeds by the standard to pick out breeding stock,” said Allen Odom, who has been judging for more than 50 years. “People that are wanting dogs for breeding. And I tell them which dogs they should be using and which dogs they should not be using.”

There were four shows happening this weekend, one each day from Thursday to Sunday. The shows on Thursday and Saturday are put on by The Kennel Club of Greater Victoria, and Friday and Sunday’s are by the Bexar County Kennel Club. Local clubs will also hold breed-specific shows throughout the weekend.

There is also a category called Junior Showmanship, where kids ages 9-18 are judged on how well they perform as a handler. As Odom said – “it’s a family sport.”

Kathy Krnavek is the president of the Bexar County Kennel Club as well as the chair of all the shows this weekend. She spoke about the difficulties of holding dog shows due to the pandemic and rising prices that make it difficult for competitors to travel. The show was held in 2021, though with much smaller numbers, and with masking and social distance protocols in place.

“It’s fun for someone like me who exhibits as a sport, but for many people this is their livelihood,” Krnavek said. “And so we tried to get back on line as safely and as quickly as we could.”


Wendy Corr with her Alaskan malamute, Jyn.

Many dogs were from Texas, but others traveled from far and wide for this weekend’s shows. There were over 40 states and several different countries represented.

Pictured above is Alaskan malamute Jyn, who is six months old. His breeder, owner and handler Wendy Corr northern brought her and her brother Kylo on a road trip from California. After this, they will head to shows in Houston later this month. As Jyn posed for photos, aided by a squeaking hedgehog toy, her brother howled loudly with jealousy.


American cocker spaniels Tuffy and Tony at the River City Cluster of Dog Shows.

American cocker spaniels Tuffy and Tony are pictured above. Tuffy is four months old and this was her first show. Luckily, the more experienced Tony was there to offer comfort in the exciting and often chaotic environment of a dog show.

There is more to the sport, though, than the cuteness of the competitors. Everyone involved is deeply passionate about dogs and wants to promote their wellbeing, as well as the sport.

“Our philosophy is good dog ownership, good stewardship, be an ambassador for the sport,” Krnavek said. “We want people to walk in and go, ‘This looks like fun. I might want to do that.’ And then we want to help them make a good decision on what breed they should get.”

Jennifer Delmer, a spokesperson for the event as well as owner of Ruby, a successful Pembroke Welsh Corgi, stressed that it’s all about the dogs.

“What makes a great handler is that they love the dogs, first and foremost,” Delmer said.

Here are the winners of best in show in the four all breed shows this weekend. The names used are the dogs’ registered names, which often include the name of the breeder and designations such as GCHP — which stands for Grand Champion Platinum.

Thursday, July 14: GCHP Aurora’s Rhythm of My Heart, saluki

Friday, July 15: GCHS CH Bright Lights Rocyn’s 24K Magic, bulldog

Saturday, July 16: GCHP Southports Ares God of War, mastiff

Sunday, July 17: GCHP Southports Ares God of War, mastiff

For more detailed results from the weekend, click here.

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