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Spinone Italiano purebred show dog represents Charles City with Best of Breed at AKC Finals

  • Pam Folz and her Spinone Italiano, Zara, won Best of Breed in the Owner/Handler Series Finals in Orlando, Florida last weekend. Photo submitted

  • Pam Folz shows Zara, her six-year old Spinone Italiano, at the Owner/Handler Series Finals in Florida last weekend. Photo submitted

  • The three ribbons Pam Folz won with her six-year old purebred show dog, Zara, in Florida last weekend. Photo submitted

  • Pam Folz and her six-year old Spinone Italiano, Zara, have a little fun at the Owner/Handler Series Finals in Orlando, Florida last weekend. Photo submitted

By Kelly Terpstra, [email protected]

With a cheering section watching live online almost 1,400 miles away in Charles City, Pam Folz’s purebred show dog did not disappoint.

Zara, a six-year old Spinone Italiano, took home some serious hardware at one of the most prestigious dog shows in the world this past weekend in sunny Orlando, Florida.

Competing in the American Kennel Club (AKC) National Owner-Handled Series Finals on Friday, Dec. 13, Folz and Zara took home the top prize in their breed category with a first-place finish in the Spinone Italiano Best of Breed.

Zara was also awarded Best of Opposite Sex in a warm-up show on Thursday. That’s the second-place finisher to Best of Breed dog. Zara received another ribbon, Award of Excellence, on Saturday.

Folz was pretty happy to take home three awards in three shows, while achieving their goal of Best of Breed on Friday.

“We had a great show week. Zara gave me 100 percent during the shows,” said Folz. “I couldn’t be more proud of our accomplishment as a team. I appreciate all the community support and rallying behind us.”

The first-place finish in the Owner-Handler Series advanced Zara on to the next round, which was the group round. Zara competed in the sporting division among 25 other dogs, but did not place.

“Even if you end up with nothing, you still competed with the best of the best. It’s still a very good experience,” said Folz, who is a legal assistant at the Charles City law firm of Eggert, Erb and Ellingson.

Many back home in Charles City were waiting in anticipation of the judge’s picks for when top spot was announced in Zara’s competitions. AKC live-streamed the series finals and many other shows that took place over the weekend.

“My office watched Zara and I in the Owner Handler Sporting Group on the live stream and it was cool to know they could watch us and cheer on their law dog from home,” said Folz.

In the Owner/Handler Series Finals, there are seven categories in the group round: Toy, Hound, Non-Sporting, Sporting, Working, Terrier and Herding. Each category places the top four and the winner of each of the seven groups advances to the Best in Show round. The overall winner of the Best in Show in the Owner/Handler Series was a Saluki from the Hound Group called Ponzi.

The Owner-Handler Series is held in conjunction with the AKC National Championship, which is one one of the most coveted dog shows in the world to take part in. The AKC Championships took place on Saturday and Sunday and awarded a top prize of $50,000 to its Best in Show winner, a Pekingese from the Toy Group.

More than 5,000 dogs enter to compete in the Owner/Handler Series Finals and AKC National Championships.

“This is the next biggest show. It’s this show and Westminster,” said Folz.

By winning the Award of Excellence, Zara qualified to compete in the world’s largest dog show, Crufts. The international canine event is held in Birmingham, England. Over 27,000 dogs compete in the show every year.

“We won’t be going, but it’s cool to qualify,” said Folz.

Pam, along with her husband Duane, also took part in the Meet Breeds at the AKC Championships. The Spinone Club of America set up a booth so the public could meet and learn about the breed.

“We had a great time in Florida catching up with dog folks we hadn’t seen for awhile and made new friends,” said Pam.

Zara will get back in the show ring up in St. Paul, Minnesota come January when she’ll compete with her offspring, a 6-month old puppy named Ciro.

“It will be a mother/son tag team,” said Pam.

Pam said Duane will show Ciro.

“He’s my puppy trainer. I take them over once they’re trained. He’s the one that has to go through all the embarrassing puppy antics in the ring and get them trained to behave,” Pam laughed.

The AKC National Championship will be broadcast on the Animal Planet as a three-hour special on Monday, Jan. 1, at 5 p.m.

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