THE sound of barking could be heard for miles in county Limerick, as almost 1,300 pampered pooches gathered for the annual dog show in the Fitzgerald Woodlands House Hotel, Adare.
Dogs of all shapes, sizes and breeds proved who is pawsitively the best, coming from far and wide to partake in the show, which is now 90 years in the running.
Poised, composed and groomed to perfection with not a hair out of place, over 232 breeds of dog from near and far strutted their stuff for the title of Best in Show. at the event held last Thursday.
“It’s not just the prize, it’s all about achievement of being placed,” said Limerick & District Canine Club chairperson Anthony Kelly, who’s been involved with the club for 40 years.
“These are ideal showing conditions,” he added as he looked up at the grey clouds, “this weather is perfect for dogs, it’s cool, there’s no sun so it’s not too hot for them.
“The coated dogs have a huge problem if it rains, the non-coated would have no problem.”
Thankfully, there were no downpours for the event, which is considered a firm highlight in the calendar of proud dog owners.
“People were setting up at quarter to five this morning,” Anthony said, “People come from the UK, Northern Ireland, Belgium, Russia and Poland - they make it a holiday while they complete the show circuit.”
The show is part of the prestigious Munster Circuit, a week of Shows starting in Clonmel, before moving on to Killarney and finally Castleisland.
In a show ring, six red setters mirror the pose of the iconic Bus Éireann mascot, the sheen off their rich, auburn coats visible from afar. “Every breed has a standard, and they need to conform to that,” said Anthony, looking on, “it’s based on structure, composition of the dog and movement.”
The entrants are now lined up, sitting expectantly beside their owners, who collectively share a look of determination as the judge looks over each of them one last time, with four rosettes in his hand.
After shaking his head and looking rather aghast, he is overheard saying: “they are all lovely dogs, this is a hard one.”
Fellow judge and St Patrick’s parish priest Very Ref. Fr David Gibson of Clancy Strand knows this struggle all too well, even after judging for 20 years.
“There’s no favourite part to this, it’s too difficult- they’re all beautiful and only one can win so it’s so hard!”
David has bred and shown Chihuahua Smooth Coat and Hungarian Puli for 20 year, and in more recent years Saluki.
Owners of impressively large Bernese mountain dogs chat to the owners of a small group of pugs, who look up at their large canine counterparts with defiant fear and trepidation.
A tiny chihuahua stands at ankle-height to their owner, and both look out onto the show ring, sizing up the competition.
A small Italian greyhound sits in her cage, seemingly taking a rest from the competition.
Her owner added: “She has a broken hip, it cost €5k to replace it.”
Great care and attention was given to all of the dogs present by their owners, who meticulously preened and combed their coats and even protecting their paws from the damp ground with special boots.
Marian Hayes, who hails from Cratloe is the beaming owner of two-year-old Tibetan terrier Monet, who won best of breed on the day.
“I’ve been coming here all my life, since I was a child, so for forty years,” she said, as Monet looks out from under a carefully styled hairdo.
“It’s all great, it’s one of the best shows on the circuit, the committee are fabulous and the facilities of the hotel are fantastic.”
A golden retriever won this year’s Best in Show, closely followed by a Tibetan spaniel, chow chow and a smooth-haired dachshund.