OTTUMWA — Over the weekend, Bridge View Center served as a temporary dog house for hundreds of well-groomed dogs.
The Southeastern Iowa Kennel Club hosted nearly 400 dogs at its two day competition, which featured dozens of breeds both big and small. The Best of Show title Sunday went to Janice Bingaman and her Maltese, Beignet, who looks just as sweet as the French doughnut he is named after.
"I think that he and I have a special bond, and because of the shows we are constantly learning new things about each other," said Bingaman over the phone from her home in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
Bingaman is special kind of dog owner. She is also Beignet's handler, which is a job of its own. A dog handler prepares the animal for show by training, setting up exercise pens and preparing grooming tables.
Bingaman and Beignet have been competing side by side for three years, and they are getting better all the time. She explained that they have grown tremendously in the past year even though with all of Beignets titles you would think they were born winners. He is a brand and international champion in the American Kennel Club and the United Kennel Club.
Beignet and his long and silky white hair undergo daily grooming as well as a once-a-week training class to maintain his winning stance and graceful gait.
"It is such an art," said Bingaman. "I wanted to learn how to be a good groomer to make my dog look like the dogs you see in magazine pictures and learn to handle like a professional."
The tedious grooming of the long-haired Maltese is what struck her interest in the dog shows. Beignet needs constant grooming, and Bingaman explained that when he is properly groomed his coat looks "gorgeous."
The pair have competed in various states across the county and will continue to do so in the future. "Some dogs don't do well with the shows, but we both enjoy it," said Bingaman.
— Follow reporter Danielle Lunsford on Twitter @CourierDanielle