Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show highlights canine love affair

LIHUE — As Sharron Weber worked at her desk, two golden retrievers lay at her feet.

“My dogs mean everything to me,” said Weber, owner of Tire Warehouse. “Pua is the best mom and Hoku is the baby.”

When Weber stands, 8-year-old Pua and 6-year-old Hoku rise, too, tails wagging, and follow their owner on Wednesday.

“They go everywhere with me except the golf course,” Weber said. “They’re just very, very good dogs — most of the time.”

Though she has never entered her dogs in competition, Weber tuned in for the 141st Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday.

A German shepherd named Rumor was crowned America’s top dog, a year after a near miss on the very same green carpet. She came out of retirement to win best in show, just the second German shepherd champion at the event that began in 1877.

Five-year-old Rumor beat out a Norwegian elkhound, a Pekingese, a miniature poodle, an Irish setter, a boxer and a Norwich terrier in the final ring. An Irish setter named Adrian finished second.

To keep her dogs in shape, Weber takes Hoku and Pua to Island School, where they run on a strip of road.

“That’s their daily exercise,” she said. “They go on deliveries with me.”

Like most dogs, Pua is protective of her owner.

“Nobody can come between us,” Weber said.

About 54 million households in the U.S. own at least one dog, according to a 2015-2016 survey by the American Pet Products Association.

That amounts to about 78 million pet dogs. The figure is up from the 70 million mark reported by the American Veterinary Medical Association in 2012.

About 320 dogs were adopted at the Kauai Humane Society in fiscal year 2016, a drop from 451 the year before, according to a KHS report.

The trend represents a five-year decline in dog adoption.

On Kauai, dogs are members of the family — especially during outdoor activities.

Debra Gochros and Astro, a decade-old Australian shepherd, volunteer for the Kauai Search and Rescue K-9 Team, a nonprofit that takes part in rescue operations.

“The benefits for the community, if there ever comes a time where you lose somebody, dogs can do a very big range and smell things that people can’t,” said Timothy O’Rourke, a volunteer with the K-9 team.

A dog owner of 25 years, Weber recommends pet owners bring their pups to obedience school and ask aspiring pet owners to adopt pups at the Kauai Humane Society.

“They have too many,” she said.

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The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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