By the time entries close on Wednesday, January 16, for shows around the country, the all too brief period that dog show folks were off for the holidays will be a distant memory, and everything will be more or less back to what is normal for the dog show world – one dog show after another and a race to be Number 1 in whatever category to which a particular fancier aspires.

The weekend of February 2 and 3, 2013, the Saturday and Sunday before all of the Westminster festivities begin in New York, all-breed shows will take place in eight locations around the U.S., in California, Arizona and New Mexico out west, Arkansas and Missouri in the Midwest and Georgia, Massachusetts and New Jersey on the nation’s eastern side. New Jersey will begin first, on Wednesday, and runs five days. Georgia and Arizona have four all-breeds and the others are two-show weekends.

For the past several years the Sun Maid KC of Fresno shows have been quite small, in the range of 500 to 600 dogs entered. But the club works hard to provide a full weekend for its exhibitors. The highlight of the weekend is no doubt the California Junior Handler of the Year competition, in which $3,500 in scholarship awards will be given to the victors. Juniors must qualify to enter at these shows with first place wins in two or more Open classes during the 2012 calendar year at shows in the state of California.

But there’s more. This club also offers 4-to-6 Months Puppy competition, a B match on Saturday, an eye clinic, Meet the Breeds and both a raffle and a silent auction during the weekend. The International Canine Semen Bank will also be on hand. As it is so close to Valentine’s Day, the club has asked its exhibitors and judges to dress in the spirit of the holiday. The theme for this year is, “Have you kissed your honey today?”

The Heart of the Desert Classic will take place at the Arizona State Fairgrounds in Phoenix January 31 through February 4, hosted by the Sahuaro State and Lost Dutchman Kennel Clubs. Specialties take place on Thursday for Labs, Ridgebacks and Springers as well as the Sporting Dog Association of Arizona’s show, followed by four all-breed shows. Best Veteran, Bred-by-Exhibitor and Puppy competitions will take place Friday through Sunday, respectively.

These clubs up the ante for exhibitors with a setup-space decorating contest. The overall theme is “Canines Working For Us” with sub-categories for drug detector, seeing eye, cancer detector, seizure detector, therapy, search and rescue, police, military, bomb detector and service dogs, and setups are to be decorated in red, white and blue. The clubs’ aim is to show support for the versatility of the canine. Specialty clubs and individuals can participate. First prize is $100, second is $50 and third will be $25.

Now the Griffin Georgia Kennel Club reminds us of the old saying that there’s no such thing as a free lunch… but that is exactly what the club is offering exhibitors at its Thursday show during the Cherokee Rose Cluster, which will take place in Atlanta at the Exposition Center South January 31 through February 3. Courtesy of the club, Uncle Woody’s concession will provide sandwiches; shrimp; meatballs with luscious sauces; pickle, cheese, fruit and veggie trays; and desserts for one and all. It’s the club’s way of showing how much it loves its exhibitors, and it’s co-sponsored by Purina.

Purina and the other three clubs in the cluster will continue to show their appreciation for the rest of the circuit. On Friday at the Shawnee Mountain KC, the first 200 people to buy catalogs will each receive a $5 coupon good at participating vendors at the shows. On Saturday at Group time, the Conyers KC and Purina will host a sort of ice cream social, and on Sunday Purina joins the Lawrenceville KC in providing a continental breakfast for all exhibitors. In addition to these nice gestures, the clubs have more on offer, the details of which can be found in the premium list.

I had to save the best for last. I’m not sure I’ve ever found clubs offering as much as the next ones. As mentioned earlier, the big cluster for the weekend is the Atlantic Ocean Cluster, five shows hosted by the Union County, Boardwalk, and Sand and Sea Kennel Clubs, to be held in Wildwood, N.J., January 30 through February 2. These clubs offer some of the “usual” activities during the cluster, but let’s focus on the unique ones.

The Wildwoods Convention Center, where the Atlantic Ocean Cluster will take place January 30 through February 2, 2013, sits on the Jersey Shore.

The cluster has tasked itself with at least one big job, as it sponsors a pet relief fundraiser to benefit pet victims of Superstorm Sandy. The premium list notes that items needed include dog food, blankets, bedding, bowls, toys, bathing supplies, and collars and leashes. For each donation, a raffle ticket will be issued, and the drawing will be held on Sunday after Best in Show. The grand prize is one year of pet health insurance, of which any and everyone could certainly make use. Wildwood is located right on the Jersey Shore, less than 50 miles south of Atlantic City, so this was a community that certainly was impacted heavily by Sandy.

On Saturday after Best in Show, Boardwalk will join the American Kennel Club in presenting Certificates of Valor, service awards and recognition to military dogs injured and killed in the line of duty, as well as for longtime service.

Another unique offering: on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, the Boardwalk KC sponsors conformation handling clinics, billed as “Your chance to learn how the pros do it!” People brand new to showing dogs are welcome, as is anyone else who’d like to attend. It is just $15 to pre-register or $20 on the nights of the clinics. I was fortunate to attend a couple of clinics just like this in California, where a dozen or so professional handlers stayed at the show after a long day of work to share their expertise with exhibitors. In those cases, the Concerned Dog Owners of California organization was the beneficiary, but the point is that the fanciers who participated got a lot out of it and were very appreciative of the time the handlers spent with them. I think this is a terrific idea.

And as if that all isn’t enough… on Sunday Boardwalk sponsors its second annual “Groomer on the Boardwalk” competition. It’s open to all, and there will be a variety of classes in which to enter, all of which will culminate in Best Groomer in Show, with prizes awarded.

I want to really commend these three clubs for everything they’re doing to give exhibitors as well as the general public a full experience. As mentioned, they’re doing some of the usual things like CGC testing, a B match, judges’ education and a Meet the Breeds, and they also took the time to include in their premium a list of 32 local restaurants with their addresses and phone numbers. What a nice thing to do for their patrons! The clubs in this cluster are going so far above and beyond what is required.

I’m hearing more often from the chairs of upcoming shows about special things the clubs are planning. I hope that your club will be inspired to either share with us what it has to offer, or to emulate some of the wonderful clubs we cover in Shows Closing by adding some of those little – and often not so little – extras to your show. If you have anything of interest you’d like to tell us about, please email me at three or four weeks before your show closes. I’m always happy to hear from you!