LIMA — As the dogs lined up, the judge moved around the shelter-house eyeing heads and chests. What he was looking for specifically was just about anybody’s guess, but Marian McShane’s three-year-old St. Bernard, Sesto, apparently had it.
“Best of breed,” he pointed.
She collected her ribbon.
And with that done, everyone started packing.
More than 50 fans of St. Bernards spent this past Labor Day weekend at Lima Kennel Club camped out to compete during the first ever Tri-State Saintly Cluster event, which brought together St. Bernard owners from Ohio, Michigan and Indiana as well as one from Tennessee who drove more than eight hours to get here.
The prize for winning? Pride.
“They don’t win any money. All we win is points for our champions and ribbons. And we’re super proud,” Central Indiana St. Bernard Club President Rhonda Hensley explained.
It’s all for the love of the breed.
“It kind of gets in your blood after a while,” said Art Shook, a veteran St. Bernard handler from Michigan who has been involved in the community for the last five decades. Like everyone else at the event, he had a lot of good things to say about the big dogs.
“They’re a great family dog. After one and half, they’re a relaxed dog, not very hyper, and they’re friendly with other dogs,” he said.
“They think they’re five pound lap dogs, and they weigh 180 pounds,” Hensley said. ” They’re an awesome breed. They’re awesome with kids and super protective. They’re some of the greatest dogs.”
For those reasons, Hensley and others are looking to continue that line. As with any other kind of animal showings, the goal is to strive for an ideal, and St. Bernards, in particular, are known for being one of the bigger working dog breeds. For that reason, judges are often looking for signs of strength — a big chest, good lines, a good form to the head, eyes, mouth, a strong back and a million other things, Hensley said.
Not far away, McShane, who had won best of show earlier in the day, was looking at some of her puppies for some of the same attributes. About 15 of them were jumping over each other, pulling on ears and wagging tails, for a pet at the side of the pen.
“They’re the greatest breed I’ve ever been involved with,” she said. “They’re like potato chips, you can’t have just one.”
Normally, an event like this would also draw the pet industry and other ancillary vendors, but Hensley said they had to keep it relatively small due to coronavirus regulations. They also had to nix some night events, like raffles and potlucks, but luckily, the love of the dogs and the sense of community built around the breed was still there.
“We all know each other after we show with each other all the time. It’s like family,” she said. “I haven’t seen half of these people in forever.”
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.