‘It’s our own Westminster’: 14th annual VINS dog show draws crowds, donations

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  • Diane Fedorchak and her daughter Rayah Brigham, 4, of Florence watch in amusement as Weeble, a 5-year-old pit bull mix, declines to jump a barrier on a first attempt in the most agile event of the 14th annual “March Forth with Your Dog: Not Your Typical Dog Show” at Northampton High School on Saturday. Weeble, with some encouragement from owner Kristie Harris of Easthampton, did jump the barrier on a second pass and actually placed first in the category. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Comet, a 7-month-old hound mix puppy competing in the “best fetcher” category, reaches through a fence to return a retrieved tennis ball to a pair of friendly strangers — Chris Weaver and his daughter, Rowan Rattner-Weaver, 11, of Amherst — instead of to his rightful owners, Adam and Bowie Blackburn of Northampton, who had thrown it for him. Photographed during he 14th annual “March Forth with Your Dog: Not Your Typical Dog Show,” a benefit for Volunteers in Northampton Schools, held at the high school on Saturday, March 2, 2019. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Adam Blackburn and his son Bowie, 8, of Northampton try, with mixed success, to coax their 7-month-old hound mix puppy, Comet, back to them while competing in the “best fetcher” category of the 14th annual “March Forth with Your Dog: Not Your Typical Dog Show,” a benefit for Volunteers in Northampton Schools, held at the high school on Saturday, March 2, 2019. Behind them are judges Jane Fleishman, Bryan Lombardi and John Provost. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Jane Fleishman, a judge for the 14th annual “March Forth with Your Dog: Not Your Typical Dog Show,” Volunteers in Northampton School (VINS) board member Michael Holroyde and contestant Harper Kelly, 9, of Northampton, chat before the start of the VINS benefit held in the high school gym on Saturday, March 2, 2019. Harper’s dog, Joey, is 119, or just 17 dog years, and was pulled in a red wagon by Harper for the “March of the Dogs” that began the event. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Lisa Jenike and her daughter, Charlotte Rey-Bellet, 7, of Northampton had ringside seats to watch the “best fetcher” category of the 14th annual “March Forth with Your Dog: Not Your Typical Dog Show,” a benefit for Volunteers in Northampton Schools, held at the high school on Saturday, March 2, 2019. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Susan Hogan of Northampton and her 4-year-old “mystery” Chihuahua mix, Betty, won the “A pooch who can smooch” category of the 14th annual “March Forth with Your Dog: Not Your Typical Dog Show,” a benefit for Volunteers in Northampton Schools, held at the high school on Saturday. In background, Alan Burstein of Longmeadow and his 7-year-old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Frankie, watch. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Matilda Baker-Smith, 4, and Ulya Kholodar-Smith, right, 7, share a leash for their dog, Griffin, 9, taking part in the “March of the Dogs” to begin the 14th annual “March Forth with Your Dog: Not Your Typical Dog Show,” a benefit for Volunteers in Northampton Schools, held at the high school on Saturday, March 2, 2019. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Comet, a 7-month-old hound mix puppy, was happy to chase a tossed ball, but had some trouble returning it to the rightful owners, Adam and Bowie Blackburn of Northampton, in the “best fetcher” category of the 14th annual “March Forth with Your Dog: Not Your Typical Dog Show,” a benefit for Volunteers in Northampton Schools, held at the high school on Saturday, March 2, 2019. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Griffin, 9, walks in the “March of the Dogs” with his owners Matilda Baker-Smith, 4, and Ulya Kholodar-Smith, 7, at the start of the 14th annual “March Forth with Your Dog: Not Your Typical Dog Show,” a benefit for Volunteers in Northampton Schools, held at the high school on Saturday, March 2, 2019. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Cara Soifer and her kids Charlie and Benjamin Hamelin, 4 and 8, of Easthampton encourage Conrad, their 1 1/2-year-old Labrador/golden retriever mix, to return with the ball while competing in the “best fetcher” category of the 14th annual “March Forth with Your Dog: Not Your Typical Dog Show,” a benefit for Volunteers in Northampton Schools, held at the high school on Saturday, March 2, 2019. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Kristie Harris of Easthampton gets a nuzzle from one of her canines, Flokie, a 1 1/2-year-old Australian cattle dog, during the “A pooch who can smooch” category of the 14th annual “March Forth with Your Dog: Not Your Typical Dog Show,” a benefit for Volunteers in Northampton Schools, held at the high school on Saturday, March 2, 2019. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

Staff Writer 
Published: 3/3/2019 8:42:13 AM

NORTHAMPTON — When the bleachers in the Northampton High School gymnasium are filled with cheering fans, it’s often for a basketball game or other sporting event. On Saturday, however, sprawling blue tarps were rolled out over the wooden court, and a large circle-shaped fence was set up for an annual dog show benefiting volunteers in the public schools.

Dogs sniffed with curiosity at their canine companions, and young children and adults helped their furry friends compete in several contests. The 14th annual “March Forth with Your Dog: Not Your Typical Dog Show,” organized by the Volunteers in Northampton Schools, Inc. (VINS), kicked off with Mayor David Narkewicz leading a parade of nearly 25 dogs around the gymnasium for an adoring crowd.

“It’s our own Westminster,” said Jane Fleishman, a judge for the competition. There were nearly 25 dogs at the show that didn’t participate in the parade, and throughout the early afternoon, more than 30 dogs and their owners arrived for a festive four-legged fundraising event.

“All the dogs are well-behaved,” said Margarete Riddle, one of the organizers. Typically, there are anywhere from 60 to 80 dogs that attend the dog show, she said, although many do not compete but simply socialize and have fun.

Jackson Street School students Harper Kelly and Henry Rogovin brought their 17-year-old Labrador and pit bull mix named Joey. Their older companion doesn’t walk too much these days, and Kelly pulled a wagon with Joey resting inside. There were cardboard signs affixed to the wagon that read, “World’s Oldest Dog.”

“She’s a sweet old dog,” Harper’s parent Anna Kelly, of Holyoke, said. When she was younger and more agile, she loved to play fetch, Anna said, and now she mostly sleeps. Her longevity has surprised everyone.

The winner of the most agile competition, a 5-year-old pit bull mix named Weeble, cruised through the course with athleticism and obedience to her owner, Kristie Harris, of Easthampton. By jumping over 16-inch bars and running on a thin, wooden obstacle from instructions given by Harris’ hand signals, Weeble claimed the top spot.

“We’ve been doing agility for about two years now, and she’s close to being competition-ready but not quite,” Harris said. “We have fun being together.”

Harris said she has trained Weeble so that she can point in different ways while they are in an obstacle course, and her dog will know what to do at various obstacles without vocal instruction.

During the best fetcher competition, a mixed-breed, mostly black dog named Comet raced out and hounded a small ball thrown by Bridge Street School student Bowie Blackburn. Comet joined the family in October, Blackburn said, and Saturday marked their first time competing together. They placed second.

“I’m super excited,” Blackburn said after the fetching round of the dog show.

Founded in 1981, VINS is a nonprofit that provides volunteers to all of Northampton’s public schools. The organization says it has provided nearly 2,500 hours of volunteers’ time assisting students with reading, writing, math and science.


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