Appearances were everything Sunday at Newbury Park High School as nearly 3,000 canines showed their stuff on the sports fields for the yearly Conejo Kennel Club dog show.
They came in all sizes and more than 130 breeds, but it was the looks that counted. Holly, a 2-year-old English sheep dog with little experience in herding, won first place for her strut, said owner Dody Glassco of West Covina.
"She's got beautiful movement," Glassco said.
And just as Holly had never rounded up sheep, Bentson the English pointer had never gone hunting.
But as many in Southern California know, you don't have to \o7 be\f7 the part, you just have to look it to win big.
Bentsen arched his back and pointed like an arrow, but he isn't even allowed near a pheasant, according to owner Suzanne Wilson of Riverside.
"I'm a vegetarian," she said. "I can't stand to hear a little bird scream."
The two-day event has been held every year since the club's founding in 1961. Organizers hoped to raise about $5,000 to help fund school athletic programs. The show drew participants from throughout Southern California.
Little Huckelbury, a 10-month-old smooth fox terrier from Thousand Oaks, was also a looker, winning first place for his breed.
But it wasn't supposed to be that way. Owner Patrick Michael bought the pooch as a pet for his 11-year-old daughter.
"I thought I was just buying a house dog," Michael said. "I had no idea he was a winner. Now he's going to the terrier nationals in Pennsylvania."
It was co-worker Amy Rodrigues of San Pedro who put Huckelbury on the road to stardom. She grew up showing dogs.
"I love showing dogs," Rodrigues said. "The shows are like entering a totally different world--like a traveling circus."
Like most participants, Rodrigues lists several reasons for spending her days showing dogs.
"I like to compete and I like meeting all my friends here. It's like an extended family. We all know each other."
Losing isn't easy, she added, so it's a good thing that Huckelbury won.
"These dogs are like our babies," Rodrigues said. "It's hard to understand how a judge could not like your dog. It's very emotional."
Victor Hansen's poodle, Izi, lost Sunday--a downer, but not the end of the world.
"She beat all the bitches except one," said Hansen of Studio City. "But Izi is a very good bitch. She'll soon be going to Europe to compete."
Win or lose, Melanie Masino of Santa Barbara just loves gazing at her Afghan hound and her compatriots.
"It's the most beautiful breed of dog," Masino said. "They just float when they walk."
Her Afghan Diva's hair is nearly a foot long in some places, making for an incredibly graceful trot.
But the silky fur has its drawbacks. The hair on Diva's ears is so long that she must wear a turtleneck type of contraption that keeps her ears out of trouble.
"Her fur's kind of like Velcro," Masino said. "Everything sticks to it."
Diva wasn't the only one having a bad-hair day. The poodles require as many as five hours of preening and a whole can or more of hair spray before they look just right.
But Michael said he would rather work with Huckelbury's short hair.
"His hair is wash-and-wear," Michael said. "Fifteen minutes later, he's ready to go."