Thinking about the Holiday Classic cluster of shows gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling for several reasons. I was, for a brief time when I lived in Southern California, a member of the Shoreline Dog Fanciers Association of Southern California, and am particularly fond of, among others, show chairman and Poodle breeder extraordinaire Peggy McDill, as well as club delegate and Bloodhound maven Susan Hamil. It also reminds me how much I loved living in beautiful Orange County. These shows also once preceded one of the most enjoyable events to attend for dog watching, the AKC/Eukanuba National Championship, which of course has now moved to Florida. No matter. The Holiday Classic still has much to offer.

Now held at the Orange County Fairgrounds in Costa Mesa, Calif., Friday, December 7 through Monday, December 10, the four shows hosted by Shoreline and the Malibu Kennel Club will no doubt be decked out in holiday finery, as they are a mere two weeks before Christmas.

I love, first off, that the premium list announces that Junior Showmanship on Friday and Monday will be judged in the afternoon “to accommodate students.” It’s unusual that club members want to make sure that the kids can take care of priority one, getting to school, then come to the show to compete in juniors.

In another thoughtful gesture, the clubs are accepting donations of previously owned cell phones, which will be used to benefit the AKC Humane Fund.

Shoreline hosts two obedience and two rally trials and 4-to-6 Months Puppy conformation competition on Friday, and on Saturday will have Best Bred-by-

Exhibitor and AKC Owner-Handler series competition. Malibu hosts a Best Puppy competition on Sunday. Canine Good Citizen tests will also be conducted on the weekend, for just $10 per dog.

Dr. Beckie Williams, of Yorba Regional Animal Hospital Reproductive Services and sometime partner of Bill Shelton and Steve Leyerly in the Coventry Pembroke Welsh Corgis, will be on hand for reproductive evaluations. The International Canine Semen Bank is offering a $50 discount on semen collection, freezing and storage. An eye clinic will also take place on the weekend.

It looks like “shows in my old hometowns” is the theme of today’s article, since there are also shows in my original home city, Dallas, on this weekend. The Lone Star Classic  includes three all-breed shows held at the Dallas Market Hall on December 7 through 9, hosted by the Texas KC, Trinity Valley KC and the Greater Collin KC. The cluster actually kicks off on Thursday with the North Texas Terrier Club show, specialties for Irish Setters, Cockers, Salukis and Poodles, and two specialties for Basset Hounds.

I often think about the days when I was handling professionally, when everyone would get the holiday bug at the last shows of the year and decorate around the grooming areas with Christmas trees and other festive finery. If I live to be 100, I will never forget one December at the Mississippi shows, when Ed Henderson, Brenda Comb’s wonderful husband, painstakingly cut beautiful snowflakes from white paper that magically turned into amazing strings of garland. We hung them on the tree that our setups shared, along with little squeaky toys and the colorful ribbons we’d won during the day. It made a pretty tree! At those pre-Christmas shows, handlers and exhibitors would all somehow manage to come up with a dish, so that we could have a potluck dinner after the show was over, and we used white paper, too, to create a drawing canvas on which we played a raucous game of Pictionary. Oh, there would be 30 or 40 of us eating and playing together, which is what family does at the holidays.

The Dallas cluster will celebrate the holidays with its third annual Grooming Area Decorating Contest. It’s so nice that the clubs encourage exhibitors to get into the holiday spirit with this contest, which includes cash prizes for the winners! I’m sure it makes for a really delightful setup area. I hope that handlers and exhibitors still make holiday memories at the December shows that they’ll carry with them for years to come.

The Lone Star Classic will also include obedience and rally trials, Canine Good Citizen testing for just $10, and Texas KC offers an obedience match on Friday after Best in Show.

The Skokie Valley Kennel Club gets in the Christmas spirit at its December shows in a little different way. Preceded by two all-breed shows in Wheaton, Ill., on Thursday and Friday, these shows will be held in Rosemont, Ill., just to the east of O’Hare airport, on Saturday and Sunday, December 8 and 9. The dog show moves this year from the north side of the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center to the south side, as the International Gem and Jewelry Show will be held in the other space. Talk about a shopping opportunity!

In the holiday spirit, this club is doing a number of things that will benefit others. A photo booth at the show on Saturday and Sunday will offer pictures with Santa Claus, the proceeds of which will benefit Rainbow Animal Assisted Therapy, “the oldest and largest organization of its type” in Chicago. Anyone at the shows who donates a 20-pound or larger bag of dog food for the local Pet Food Pantry will receive a free show catalog.

On Saturday and Sunday, the Will County Search and Rescue team will give demonstrations for spectators before Group and Best in Show judging. Also as a service to the community, the club will hold a Meet the Breeds on the weekend. The AKC Owner-Handler Series, CGC testing, and all-breed and veteran sweepstakes round out the weekend.

As mentioned last week, the three shows that now precede AKC/Eukanuba, called the Orlando Cluster also close on this weekend. They’re hosted by the Space Coast, Brevard and Central Florida Kennel Clubs on Wednesday through Friday, December 12 through 14, prior to the AKC show on Saturday and Sunday at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla. This amounts to an early closing date for these shows, as they typically would close the following Wednesday. As also previously mentioned, the shows are limited to 4,200 entries, but… well, I think the chances of them reaching this limit are fairly slim.

Thursday night after Best in Show, the second annual Michael Suave Memorial Benefit to support the AKC Humane Fund will be held at the convention center. “Another Day in Paradise – Orlando Style” will include food, auctions, raffles and entertainment, and is open to all.

If you’re going to Orlando, there are, naturally, lots of additional social activities leading up to AKC/Eukanuba. The AKC Canine Health Foundation Canines and Cocktails reception takes place on Friday from 6:30 to 9 p.m. and will include hors d’oeuvres, cocktails, a raffle and music. The tickets are a bit steep at $125 per person, but all proceeds will benefit CHF. If you’d like to support CHF in perhaps a more modest way, raffle tickets can be purchased online. You needn’t be present to win.

With AKC’s big presence in Orlando, there are numerous judges’ education opportunities as well. The AKC/Dog Judges Association of America Terrier Institute takes place Wednesday through Friday, the AKC Basic Institute for Aspiring and Newly Approved Judges will be held Thursday, and the AKC Judging Junior Showmanship Institute will be on Friday.

Here’s something different being offered during this cluster: on Thursday the Brevard KC offers for its Best in Show and Group First prizes donations to Take the Lead, $65 for BIS and $35 for each Group prize. That’s a nice gesture, I think. Owners of the likely winners probably don’t need another trinket to take home anyway, and Take the Lead benefits so many in our dog show community.

There will be a B match for the Portuguese Podengo Pequenos of America on Friday after Best in Show.

I’d love to report on the little extras that will make your upcoming show special, so if it closes more than five weeks from now, please email me and give me the scoop at