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Friday, January 18 , 2019, 3:23 pm | Fair 63º


Arrival of ‘Gentle Giants’ Kicks Off Lompoc Valley Dog Shows

Two days of specialty events will be followed by all-breed shows at Ryon Park; Lompoc's Old Town Market will host a Pet Festival and Dog Show Friday night


Ella Bartlett might have been the smallest handler of the hulking Irish wolfhounds taking a turn in the competition ring Thursday afternoon.

But the 11-year-old girl leading one of the gentle giants lumbering on the lawn brought deep roots to the Lompoc park where her mom and grandmother also showed wolfhounds.

The Western Sighthounds Combined Specialities kicked off four days of dog shows. In addition to specialties, all-breed dog shows will occur Saturday and Sunday with hundreds of competitors plus their human handlers.

Admission is free to watch the competition at Ryon Park, at 800 W. Ocean Ave. 

Competition occurs from approximately 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, and winners in early categories will advance to the best in show finals later in the afternoon. 

Before Thursday, Ella and Granger had never spent much time together, but the girl volunteered to show the dog since the owner had entered another animal in the same class.

To help build their friendship, the girl spent time combing Granger’s blond fur before they entered the ring.

“This is a good experience because she gets to get her hands on another dog and it’s one that she’s not familiar with,” said Ella’s mom, Jamie Souza Bartlett. “But she’s very sweet so I said go ahead and give it a whirl.”

Ella has been a handler for other shows since the age of 9, but has attended them, including Lompoc’s, since she was an infant.

“Because I really love dogs,” she said.

Her mom and grandmother also were showing dogs Thursday. The three generations captured awards last year at a Northern California show. 

As one group of wolfhounds took their turn in the dog show ring, another named Maccabee took advantage of his owner’s absence to rest on her chair, the hulking dog leaning his hind end on the seat near George Weisz. 

He and his wife Leesa traveled from Scottsdale, Arizona for the Lompoc shows with their two Irish wolfhounds.

Judge Eileen Flanagan from New Jersey checks out Irish wolfhounds on Thursday at Lompoc’s Ryon Park, where four days of dogs shows are planned through Sunday. Click to view larger
Judge Eileen Flanagan from New Jersey checks out Irish wolfhounds on Thursday at Lompoc’s Ryon Park, where four days of dogs shows are planned through Sunday. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

“They’re just as sweet as they can be,” Leesa Weisz said. “They see into your soul.”

Except for their size, the wolfhounds are great travelers, she said. A Ford travel van, minus the middle seat, serves as the Irish wolfhound mobile, she added. 

Spending time in Santa Barbara before arriving in Lompoc, they found hotel and restaurant accommodating the giant four-legged companions.

The dog shows, which have been held in Lompoc for many years, help fill local hotels and motels with two-legged visitors along with their four-legged friends.

“For the four days, the dog show has a tremendous impact on the tourism in this town,” said Paul Patel, board president for Explore Lompoc.

Patel said the tourism industry wants the dog shows to continue as rumors have swirled that the local tradition might end due to changes in the Lompoc Valley Kennel Club.

“Whatever we can do to encourage the dog show to stay here we will work with them,” Patel said.

The weekend dog theme will spread to Lompoc's Old Town Market which will host a Pet Festival and Dog Show for Friday night’s event.

Participants at the street fair on the 100 block of South H Street will include pet friendly organizations such as Shadow’s Fund, Companion Animal Placement Assistance and more.

While dog shows down the street are serious business, the Old Town Market show will hand out awards for tallest dog, best trick performance and dog that looks most like its owner.

Old Town Market, which also will include food booths, farmer’s market, bounce houses and more, will occur from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday. 

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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