By Ben McNeely
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Diane Messenger hugged her dog, Finnegan McTavish, in the prep area at the dog show.

The show, sponsored by the Greater Monroe Kennel Club, attracted more than 1,500 dogs and their owners to the Cabarrus Arena & Events Center Saturday. 

Messenger, from Flat Rock, came to socialize with her friends, who were showing their dogs.

Finnegan, a very hairy bearded collie, was excited to be there, with the other dogs, even if he wasn’t competing.

“He’s a novice,” Messenger said. “He’s been in two shows now, and he will compete soon in a show in Winston-Salem.”

The dog show, considered a minor league show for dog owners and presenters, pitted breed against breed in tests of agility, confirmation and obedience.

And people take it very seriously, said Martha Milligan, vice president of the kennel club.

“It can get crazy around here,” she said. “but we have people from all over. I walked through the RV lot and there were license plates from North Carolina, Texas, Tennessee, Maryland, Virginia.”

It takes a lot to put on a dog show, Milligan said. There are local vendors to organize and rings to set up. With 25 members in the kennel club, they start working on the next year’s dog show the day after, Milligan said.

The three-day event is also sponsored by the Fayetteville Kennel Club and is a show that dogs, owners and trainers go to for experience, Milligan said.

“You want to make a champion,” she said, “because then they are worth more when they begin to breed.”

It’s not just the kennel club members that put on the show. The judges and stewards, which run the exhibition rings, are essential, said Diane Coble, a ring steward with the Southeastern Steward Association.

She also said a lot of dogs are shown by professional handlers and not by their owners.

“The dogs sometimes will stay with the handler and travel with the handler from show to show,” Coble said. 

Coble compared dog showing to a sport.

“Some people get paid to play ball,” Coble said. “These people are paid to show dogs.”

• Contact reporter Ben McNeely at 704-789-9131.

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