HERMISTON - It can now officially be called the dog days of summer, because the annual 4-H Dog Show was held Wednesday at the Umatilla County Fairgrounds.
Dozens of four-legged contestants tried to keep the tail wagging to a minimum while being judged on things like running without bouncing too much or being able to sit for long periods of time. It's all part of the show for local dog lovers.
"It's great gratification," said Chantiel Froese of Athena, who has competed in local shows for years. In Froese's lap sat a 3 1/2-pound Pomeranian named Chance, five times smaller than many of the dogs in the competition.
However, Froese said Chance doesn't get intimidated by the bigger dogs.
"Dogs feel what you feel. If you feel comfortable and calm, they'll obey better," she said.
Dog shows have been steadily gaining popularity over the past few years, as evidenced by network coverage of the Westminster Dog Show and in films like "Best in Show."
Evelyn Larson of Pendleton has been helping put on the 4-H dog shows for more than 20 years. She sees more interest developing for the shows.
"I think our 4-H dog show is growing," Larson said. "The kids are great; some of them have been working their little hearts out for years."
The dogs that win grand championships at county competitions get a chance to move on to the Oregon State Fair.
Elizabeth Serry, 12, of Hermiston, and her Labrador retriever, Angel, 3, won first place for beginner showmanship. It was the first show for both of them.
"I like just being out here and experiencing it," Serry said.
While dogs must be under the strictest behavior, there is still the occasional bark and the inevitable "accident" on the grass. Handlers are quick to pick up the mess, but there is always a wave of spectators checking their shoes as the scent moves through the crowd.
"That's a hazard here," said Roberta Windham of Pendleton, who has had several of her kids go through the competition.
Windham's daughter, Jessica, who was showing Fido, a Siberian Husky, said dogs and handlers need to be on their toes because there is no way of knowing what will happen at a dog show.
"A lot of things can happen," Jessica Windham said. " A cat could come into the arena and drive the dogs berserk."
Complete results from the dog show will be printed as they are released with other fair results in the days ahead.