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Cotton canines
Thousands of dogs entered in Priceville show
By Ben Montgomery
Daily photo by Brennen Smith
The Cotton Cluster Dog Show was held at Celebration Arena in Priceville on Saturday. Becky Boyd relaxes between showings with her St. Bernards, Red Bull and Sobe.

PRICEVILLE — Her call name is Dixie, but her full name is Hunter Hill Dixie Highway.

Dixie, an English cocker spaniel, competed Saturday in the “bred by exhibitor class” in the annual Cotton Cluster Dog Show at Morgan County Celebration Arena. She didn’t win the awards her trainer, Joyce Geshwiler, wanted, but Dixie has another chance today.

“Every dog has a standard,” Geshwiler said. “No dog is perfect. Dixie has a beautiful structure, but her bite is a mess.”

Geshwiler, a Columbus, Tenn., resident, has judged the competition before but came as a competitor this year. She said Cotton Cluster is successful because it’s professional and well-attended. Organizers said more than 2,000 people had passed through the arena gates since Thursday.

About 1,000 dogs are entered into contests each day. Many trainers come for the week and compete over all four days.

Jean Hairston, one of the show’s promoters, said Alabama and Tennessee have the most trainers in the show, but there are others from dozens of states, some as far away as Washington and Vermont. Three dogs are from Canada this year.

“All those people are staying in motels and eating in restaurants,” Hairston said. “We figure it injects about $1 million into the Morgan County economy.”

The show has about 700 more dogs competing this year compared to last year, which Hairston said is a good sign in an age when entries are down in many dog shows, likely because of increased travel costs.

Hairston said Cotton Cluster is successful because of its “Southern hospitality” and reputation for being tightly judged, which attracts passionate competitors.

Dog show enthusiasts have their own language, she said, and that can get them in trouble sometimes, especially when phrases like “stress pooping” and “bitch” are common terminology to them.

“You should see us when we’re talking ... at restaurants,” she said. “We have to tell people, ‘we’re talking about dogs!’ ”

There’s a reason a whole world revolving around dogs exists, Geshwiler said. It’s a love for dogs.

“It’s unconditional love,” she said. “If I come in at the end of the day in a bad mood, she’s still there to love me. It’s the only kind of love you can buy.”

The show is a joint effort of the Decatur Alabama Kennel Club and the Huntsville Kennel Club. On Saturday, Auburn senior and veterinary student Kimberly Carper of Huntsville was awarded a $2,000 scholarship by the Huntsville Kennel Club.

The show wraps up today. It begins at 8 a.m. and ends at about 2:30 p.m. Parking costs $5, but admission is free.

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