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Toledo Magazine: Local couples, families train and show dogs together

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    Mike and Joanne Roehrs with Coal.

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    Lindsey Kuhn, a top dog handler at 19, runs with her English setter Logan.

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Erin Callahan of Temperance is surrounded by her show dogs, Irish setters, from left, Fizzy, Stella, Cash, and Stout.

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Dogs keep the Kuhn family on a tight leash.

Not that anyone s complaining.

I think it s brought us a lot closer, said Lindsey Kuhn, a 19-year-old dog handler who has spent a couple of weekends every month for the last nine years traveling to shows with her parents, Terry and Diane Kuhn of Perrysburg. Their hobby has taken them to the prestigious Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York City s Madison Square Garden and to the World Dog Show in Amsterdam in 2002, among many other places.

Most young people that age don t typically hang with their parents. We re on the road a lot, and it s neat, Mr. Kuhn said. We all talk on the same level. We have a common interest.

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Ms. Callahan with Fizzy, left, and Stout.

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Some families camp. Some bowl. Some boat. Others take a passion for their pets beyond the backyard, into the rings of dog shows and performance competitions hundreds or thousands of miles away.

Most dogs in competition are really somebody s pet, said Mike Roehrs of Bowling Green, who with his wife, Joanne, owns six field spaniels, five of them American Kennel Club champions. You tend to have a lot of pride in your pet, so you share that together.

We had a connection as a family because of the dogs, agreed Erin Callahan of Temperance, a school teacher whose parents, Hugh and Shirley Callahan of Toledo, got her an Irish setter show dog when she was about 14. Mr. and Mrs. Callahan had entered dogs in obedience events, but bought the new dog for the conformation ring, where the animal s appearance is judged against what is considered the standard for the breed.

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Lindsey Kuhn, a top dog handler at 19, runs with her English setter Logan.

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Going to shows together was like a family vacation, said Ms. Callahan, who breeds Irish setters, shows her dogs, and works as a handler for other owners.

The family tradition continues, although the tables have turned. We still make a weekend of it, but instead of me going with them, they re going with me, Ms. Callahan said.

Each of the Kuhns has a role in the family hobby. Miss Kuhn grooms the dogs English setters and Irish setters and handles them in the ring. Her mother takes care of the dogs at home and assists at shows. Her dad is my manager and PR rep, she says.

Mr. Kuhn jokes that most people at the shows know him as Lindsey s father.

I do a lot of choosing the shows we will attend, getting hotels, and alerting others who would like Lindsey to show their dogs. I also do the driving and watch the rings to see how they are progressing. Typically Diane and I are considered the kennel help.

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From left, Diane, Terry, and Lindsey Kuhn, of Perrysburg, with English setters Izzy and Logan.

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They look forward to doing all of that for as long as Lindsey chooses to compete, he added.

In the meantime, it s generating more than ribbons and friendships with fellow dog fanciers. Lindsey, a sophomore at Bowling Green State University, has received scholarships from the American Kennel Club and the Irish Setter Club of American Foundation. She also earns money for college expenses by working as a dog handler.

When Robin Ford of Delta, Ohio, was a kid, she had dogs as pets and trained them to do tricks. These days, she and her husband, Mark, compete with three of their four border collies in performance events (agility, herding, and obedience). Mrs. Ford also trains dogs in addition to working as a dental assistant, and Mr. Ford has a full-time business building agility equipment.

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Bowling Green resident Mike Roehrs takes a final look at Coal, a field spaniel, before showing him at a Toledo Kennel Club All-Breed Dog Show earlier this summer.

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They travel to competitions probably twice a month. You kind of get addicted by how much fun it is, Mrs. Ford said. And it gets the heart pounding in more ways than one: It s good exercise for the dogs and good exercise for the people, she noted.

Mr. Roehrs, the field spaniel enthusiast from Bowling Green, said he was involved with dog shows before he got married. Mrs. Roehrs would often go along to cheer him on, then got hooked herself.

It was all very confusing to me in the beginning, Mrs. Roehrs admitted. She has taken their newest dog, 18-month-old Coal, to agility and obedience classes and they are working now on tracking skills.

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Mike and Joanne Roehrs with Coal.

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It s a lot of fun to do something with the family, and our dogs are our family, she said.

Mr. Roehrs, former president of the Field Spaniel Society of America, said one of the hobby s advantages for couples and families is that there s plenty of time for togetherness, both while traveling to the shows and waiting between trips into the ring.

It also teaches spouses and family members to work as a team, observed Mr. Roehrs, a social worker who specializes in marriage and family counseling.

I had to learn to shut up when Joanne is in the ring, he confessed.

Contact Ann Weber at: aweber@theblade.com or 419-724-6126.

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