Class of 2022 veterinary student Lindsay Zachary pets a purebred Australian Shepherd at the Linn Co. Kennel Club Dog Show.

Veterinary student Lindsey Zachary, DVM '22, pets a purebred Australian Shepherd at the Linn Co. Kennel Club Dog Show.

April 21, 2022
Story and photos by Jens Odegaard

The place is absolutely packed with dogs. Afghan Hounds stroll by languidly and disdain the onlookers. Golden Retrievers cuddle-love anyone who happens by. Bichons Frises smile with their Bob Ross hairdos. Dalmatians prance with muscles gently rippling beneath sleek spotted fur. 

Dogs, purebred dogs everywhere. 

It’s the Linn County Kennel Club Dog Show at the Linn County Fairgrounds and Expo Center in Albany, Oregon. Many of the American Kennel Club’s 199 recognized breeds are here to strut their stuff, accompanied by the people who breed, show and love them. 

Laura Reeves is one of these people. She’s a second-generation breeder of German Wirehaired Pointers, an AKC judge, host of the Pure Dog Talk podcast and today she’s one of a group of AKC aficionados hosting a dozen veterinary students from the Oregon State University Carlson College of Veterinary Medicine at the dog show. Her fellow hosts are: 

  • Chris Levy, AKC judge, Pumi breeder, organizer of the event and generous donor to the CCVM. 
  • Pat Hastings, AKC judge and author of several books about developing, breeding and showing dogs. 
  • Nancy Martin, handler and career manager for numerous AKC Best in Show and group-winning champion dogs and president of FIDO, the Friends Involved in Dog Outreach pet food bank.
  • Barbara Griffin, owner and trainer of dogs in every AKC group and dog 4-H leader for more than 55 years in Oregon.   

The day for the students opened with a presentation by the group that overviewed the purebred dog world and AKC’s role in it.

“My part of the presentation was focused specifically on responsible breeders and also talking about the fact that purebred dogs are living history and art,” said Reeves. “Every single dog breed represents a very specific place, and a very specific time and a very specific people to do a very specific job. And they are built, and constructed, and designed and colored to do that job the best. And so we think of ourselves today as preservation breeders. We are the curators of the purebred dog.”

Reeves and Levy are AKC Breeders of Merit. This means they’re recognized by the AKC as “responsible breeders who have gone above and beyond on health testing, temperament, and genetic screening, as well as to the individual care and placement of puppies in responsible homes,” according to the AKC website. 

The goal of the group in hosting the veterinary students is twofold. “One of the things was the veterinarian/breeder relationship,” Levy said. “We would like the respect from the veterinary profession, that we know what we're talking about. But also to set us apart from the average breeder who puts two dogs together and sells them for money — that's not us. And that is a really important concept: that we care about these breeds. We want them to get better. We want them to be as healthy as they can be.” 

Chris Levy discusses AKC judging standards with veterinary students Lisa Douglas (left) and Dianne Quiroz (right).

According to the group, responsible breeders and the dogs they produce are a veterinarian’s best friend. Responsible breeders keep all their dogs up to date on checkups, vaccinations and other preventative care. Then, if a dog is injured or falls ill, the combination of an extremely dedicated owner and good genes leads to a high likelihood of recovery. These breeders also form long-time bonds with their local veterinarians.

The students are in attendance for a variety of reasons. “What brought me to the event is my family. They own a lot of purebred dogs, and my dad's always shown our dogs in China,” said Angela Liu, DVM ’24. “I'm just really into working with breeders in the future. So I really want to see the judging standpoint of it.”

Aileen Jordan, DVM ’24, also wants to get a peek behind the curtain to better understand the purebred world and prepare for her future career. From watching dog shows on television, Jordan had assumed it was more “pageantry versus actual showmanship and care of the breed,” she said. The morning’s presentations, as well as the hundreds of people showing and judging the dogs opened her eyes to the thoughtfulness and care that goes into responsible breeding. “I guess I thought it would be different than it was, but everyone seems very passionate about their animals. There's a lot of misconceptions on what it is like for people to have breeds and show them,” she said.

Offering another perspective is Javiera Pobleta, DVM ’25. “I have always come from a rescue and spay/neuter background, but in the last few years I have also been introduced to a lot of the ways purebred dogs can bring benefits to the overall dog population such as with helping improve their health and providing more activities to use dogs to their potential such as agility events and service dogs,” she said. “I wanted to see if I could get more information about that and hopefully find a middle ground where I can feel supportive of both sides.”

As the day progressed, students toured the dog show with their AKC hosts and had the chance to pick their brains as they met breeders and exhibitors, watched several breed and class judging sessions and observed the agility trials. “I think it helped me be a bit more open to that side of dog ownership, especially when it comes to dogs that have a very specific purpose such as bird hunting or herding,” Pobleta said. “That being said, I still love my rescue dogs and think they are just as deserving of going to good homes and being helped off the streets as well. But I can recognize that there are pros and cons to both sides, so helping responsible breeders and rescuers coexist is the best bet for the wellbeing of the pet population.”

Veterinary students Becca Ruiz (left) and Angela Liu get some "puppy cuddles."

The students also had plenty of chances to get “some puppy cuddles,” as Becca Ruiz, DVM ’24, put it. “My favorite part of the day was getting to talk to the breeders about their dogs and meeting some of the dogs in the show. These people are truly passionate about their dogs and love talking about the breed and the personalities. The dogs are extremely well socialized and well behaved and all seemed to be really happy to be strutting their stuff! I love seeing happy dogs and engaged owners!” 

Levy hopes to make the event an annual tradition and to see the interaction between AKC and the Carlson College of Veterinary Medicine grow.  “I was really pleased with it and with the enthusiasm of the students — the awesome questions that they asked — they were really interested,” she said. “We'll definitely do this again.”