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Dog show draws thousands

Around 1,100 dogs showed up every day this weekend to the Blackfoot Dog Show Cluster.

From Japan to Puerto Rico and almost every state in the union, those thousands of dogs traveled from all over the globe to compete on this spot on the Montana circuit.

A group of kids ran up to pet Leena the Collie on Sunday — and with good reason. Leena just won Best in Variety: Rough Collie, and will go on to compete for best in show.

“The adrenaline pounds when you’re in the ring and the dogs know. They know the difference between standing outside the ring and going inside the ring,” said Jenny Satyavelu, who showed Leena.

Satyavelu came from Arizona, but Leena is a Wyoming native. Lenna’s owner asked Satyavelu to compete with her.

“I fell in love with the Collie when I was tiny, from ‘Lassie,’ we all started from ‘Lassie,'” she said. “And eventually, I was able to get a Collie.”

She said the Blackfoot Cluster is a big deal for people who want to move toward the Westminster Dog Show.

For show chair Cathy Hjelm, that’s a huge confidence booster. She’s been chairing and competing for five years.

“Beating other dogs,” Hjelm said about her motivation to compete. “You want to be the best dog, and the more points you have, the higher the ranking in the breed that you are, and it’s all about points in the end of the year.”

And between organizing the whole show, Hjelm still managed to get her dog to the top 10 in the country in the Ibizan Hound breed. She said she has a very good chance of going from the Cluster to Westminster.

“It’s scary, because I’ve never been to New York before so I don’t know what I’m going to do,” Hjelm said.

The competitors from the Blackfoot show will finish out the rest of the Montana circuit, moving into Billings and wrapping up in Missoula.

When Hjelm is done competing, she’ll come back home to get the whole show going again.

“When you get this many dogs and this many people and it goes without a hitch, I just get a nice big breath and start preparing for next year’s show,” she said.

Because many of the people who show for a living are self-employed, there is an organization to help those with catastrophic medical emergencies. It’s called Take the Lead, and Satyavelu encouraged people who need help to check it out.

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