CADIZ - Having prized dogs participate at the prestigious Westminster Kennel Club dog shows is never old hat to Donna Pendleton, who started showing at the age of 14 in the junior category.
Her animals of choice then were cocker spaniels, and now her prized dogs are the gentle but huge bullmastiff breed. This year Clooney, a muscular, tan-and-fawn color animal, took select dog honors at the Westminster Kennel Club.
The Pendleton Bullmastiff dogs have muscular body as her husband, Scott, takes them on long hikes up hill and around their Cadiz farm to condition them. And being a veterinarian at his Cadiz Animal Clinic, he knows the best care for the animals.
DONNA AND JELLY ROLL — Donna Pendleton shows off Jelly Roll, mother to Clooney. - Contributed
"We would love to win best of breed, but that is another dog show," she said.
"The Westminster Kennel Club show is the longest running sport event in the country, with the Kentucky Derby losing out by only two years" Donna Pendleton said.
The Pendletons have four bullmastiffs and a French bull dog. One is Jelly Roll, mother to Clooney and Violet, who is Clooney's sister.
"Clooney is now handled at shows by Kellye St. John, a professional handler. My daughter, Hailey Brogan, did the showing until he was a champion. After that it is a different class and a professional is needed," she explained. Bullmastiffs are a pretty laid back dog and Clooney is the classic pin-up, her veterinarian husband said.
"It is about competition but it is also a social time for me. My dog friends are part of my family and I have them all over the world," Donna said. "Once up at the top level, it is a full-time job. Mike and Michele McGovern are co-owners . They are the underwriters," she said.
Showing dogs means traveling all over the country and showing three or four times a week. This is where a professional handler comes in. Once up to the top level, it takes much more time, according to Donna.
Jelly Roll, Clooney's mother, his sister and a half sister are all champions. Scott does not go to many dog shows but he is involved in feeding them a higher quality of food. And the dogs are perfectly conditioned. "Our whole life is dog hair and dog slobber," she said.
Actually Donna and Scott met at the Valley View Veterinarian Clinic at Dover in the 1990s. She was showing cocker spaniels when they came to Cadiz but they wanted something with no grooming. Doberman's were their first pick, but the Bullmastiff won out.
In the Pendleton dining room is an antique storage chest adorned with ribbons won by Clooney in September 2011. The ribbons include best bred by exhibitor, best of winners and best in sweepstakes, among others.
Clooney also won an all breed best in show and a specialty best in show. He also has three reserve best in shows.
"I have done dog raising my whole life. I am hard on dogs in training. This is not just a beauty contest. Each breed of dog has a standard they are to meet and they are judged upon that standard. There are about 30 Bullmastiff dogs shown, and being named select dog is the equivalent to first runner-up to Miss America," she said.
Clooney will be through with dog shows in June.
"We are going to Connecticut to pick up a puppy that he sired, bring it home and socialize it. This means going to parks and malls where there is noise to get it accustomed ... training starts at 6-months-old," she related.
But Clooney, named for the actor, George, by the way, can go out on a high note.