By Shirley Shuman
Last Tuesday afternoon, 27 dogs and their handlers paraded onto the high school football field for a dog show modeled somewhat on the American Kennel Club’s shows. The culmination of a project in instructor Josh Porto’s Companion Animals Class and instructor Jami Heavner’s Exceptional Eagles class, the show was declared a success by all who participated.
Allison Westfall, who shows her dog throughout much of the United States, judged the dogs, choosing a winner from each group and a Best of Show winner. Westfall commented that the results of the students’ work “showed a lot of time and effort put into their projects.” She added, “It was exciting for me to hear what they’d learned about their chosen breeds. What impressed me most was the spirit of the dog show. Most of the students were excited to participate. This was definitely a worthwhile project.”
“They really enjoyed it,” Hefner, teacher of the Exceptional Eagles, said of her students. These students, who worked as a group, created a Commadore, a Maltese, and a bull terrier. “They were excited about putting the dogs together, especially the Commodore because they used mop heads for the fur. Those who like sensory learning really liked that,” she said. Heavner ended by saying that this was a good project for her students because they not only enjoyed it but they also learned about public speaking skills.
Instructor Porto explained the procedures the students followed to create their dogs. After he introduced the unit on dogs, he gave the assignment. Students were divided into groups according to breed standards. Then they each chose a particular breed from their group. That was followed by intense research so students could learn about their dogs.
Once the research was complete, each student was to find a picture of the chosen dog and trace the shape of the dog onto wood which their teacher provided. Next came cutting out the shape and “creating” a dog. Their instructor provided the wood and paint in primary colors (some secondary colors). The rest was up to the students, and many became highly creative.
For the actual show, Porto was the announcer. He called students and dogs onto the field by groups to be judged. Westfall, the judge, not only evaluated the appearance of the animals; she also spoke with handlers to evaluate what they knew about their dogs.
Some of the winners in different group expressed their views on their work and the results. Several also had interesting reasons for their choices of breeds. For example, Morgan Whitney, winner in the herding group, chose to create a Malinois because she had become acquainted with the breed earlier. “When I was younger, my uncle left this dog, a Malinois, in my care, and I enjoyed it.” She went on to explain that the Malinois was originally used to herd cattle and for the military and protective work. Her uncle’s dog was trained to sniff out narcotics. Of the project, Whitney called it “worthwhile.” She added, “I had a good time, and it was definitely a learning experience.”
“My brother has four beagles, and I love them,” Braylin Robinson gave as her reason for choosing a beagle for the dog show. Robinson, winner in the hound group, explained that she learned much more about the beagle through the research they did in class. This young woman was so excited abut the project that she started getting her dog ready before other students did. She used her brother’s dogs as models. Asked what she liked best about the project, Robinson answered, “Getting my dog ready for the show. It was exciting for me to be a part of it. This has been my favorite project. It was definitely worthwhile.”
Winner of Best of Show and of the terrier group, Montana Wade was one of those who went beyond the fundamental project to create an Airedale. Wade said she chose the Airedale because “it is the type of dog I’ve always liked.” This dog handler explained how she created her dog. “I made the frame out of cardboard boxes and used masking tape to hold it together. Since the Airedale is wiry, I glued cotton balls on the frame for the coat. Then I sprayed it to make it wiry. I painted the eyes myself.” All of this took several evenings of work in addition to the allotted class time. Wade’s reaction to receiving Best of Show was surprise. “I wasn’t really expecting to win because there were so many good dogs,” she said. She feels the project was “a really good bonding experience,” and said that they learned about the dogs through the research.
The other group winners include Kenzie Belknap for the Non-sporting group, Stephanie Singleton—Sporting Group, Exceptional Eagles—Working Group, and Emma Rose—Toy Group.
Two weeks of classroom work—with more for some students, plus careful planning on the part of instructor Porto, created an interesting and, as the students agreed, worthwhile project. Porto plans now to post the photos online and ask viewers to choose their favorites.