Tuesday, September 27, 2022

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Joe's Neighborhood

Dog lovers everywhere



It seems a simple enough word. Sure, I love my daughter and her notorious criminal accomplice, my wife, but the answer is clear.

“No, never, no way will we get another flea-bitten dog!”

But my adult daughter is wonderfully persistent in everything. Especially when it comes to dogs.

“It will be my dog. I’ll take care of it. I’ll only keep it at your house until I get my own place. I’ll pay all the vet bills. I’ll do all the training.”

CNA - Stop HIV Iowa (Sept)

That was six years ago.

Long before my daughter moved a continent away.

Long before my wife decided she loves dogs just a fraction more than she loves her husband.

Yup, even long before I forgot I once had hair.

The Iowa State Fairgrounds is packed. Twelve rings are up and running at the Cyclone Country Kennel Club Dog Show. Hundreds of people. Hundreds of dogs. Even a hundred dog groomers. There are sellers for every dog gizmo you’d ever want. And a passel of judges, tons of awards, and plenty of blue ribbons. Everywhere you look, it’s a dogpalooza.

But no beer tent. Trust me. I looked.

My wife is competing today. Yup, she and Charlie, my daughter’s German Shepherd, are in four events each day for three days.

As I sip my 45th coffee, I wonder who all these people are? What drives them to spend their weekends standing on concrete floors and scooping up dog poop? Are they actually one dog biscuit short, as I secretly suspect?

Let’s start with Julie King. She’s never going to be able to hide her dog inside a celebrities’ spangly purse, or even under a biblical bushel basket.

“I grew up with large dogs and horses. Leisel is my third Great Dane. I have a wonderful trainer, Anna Childs, and she helped me with Leisel when I became frustrated. Anna is so positive about Leisel, I was encouraged to compete. So here I am.”

Julie smiles, shaking her head at the turn of events.

“And how’s Leisel at home?”

“When she goes outside, she spends most of the time playing with my horse. If the horse is not paying attention to her, Leisel will go up and yank on his tail. And if she’s not paying attention to my horse, he will go over and grab Leisel by the scruff and kind of pick her front end up and take off. And Leisel will chase him.”

Hah! Where’s that competitive event anyway? And what about their easing of interspecies hostilities? Don’t Leisel and Julie deserve a blue ribbon for that? I think so.

And look, here’s a mother-daughter-dog combo that looks like it might be a silent cry for help or a truly loving family.

“This is our golden retriever, Lovie. She will show in novice obedience category,” says Amanda Lepper with her daughter Margot.

Great. But how can you juggle family, dog shows, and all that pink and red?

“I have four kids, so getting to a show is pretty hard because we’re usually doing soccer and basketball and dance and all that. But I have a mentor, Tanja Frye, one of the leaders at the Cyclone Kennel Club in Ames. She pushed me along to try class after class. And now here I am.”


“I had two kids when I started. The dog was a way for me to work hard and achieve at something. As a stay-at-home mom, wonderful as that is, you don’t get a lot of ribbons for your effort. So dog training became my therapy for child raising.”

Amen to that. OK, a blue ribbon to Amanda, Margot and Lovie.

But then let’s not forget Gary Shaffer.

“Been doing this 30 years. My wife and I love dogs. We have a small boarding kennel in Jesup, Iowa. We usually have Newfoundlands and Pomeranians, which is quite a combination. We love Pomeranians.”

No kidding. Gary moves around the competition ring with a gentle spring and a barely contained smile.

“I try to keep the dogs happy. Honestly, it’s our escape from home. We just enjoy it. There’s no money except spending it. It’s just for pleasure.”


“I was in Vietnam for a tour and a half. Then I was in the car business in Seattle, Washington. And now we go to probably 20-25 dog shows a year. Then we take care of dogs when we go home. We are known as the dog people of Jesup. I love it.”

OK, OK, a blue ribbon for the dog people of Jesup.

So here we are. Ribbons for everyone.

But what about my wife and Charlie? How did their day go?

“Amazing.” And she shows me their ribbons. “Let’s get another German Shepherd!” she gushes.

I’m sure there’s a beer tent somewhere around here. ♦

Joe Weeg spent 31 years bumping around this town as a prosecutor for the Polk County Attorney’s Office. Now retired, he writes about the frequently overlooked people, places and events in Des Moines on his blog: www. joesneighborhood.com.

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