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For the Dogs: Kennel Club holding match to prepare canines for competition

Staff Photo: Erin Evans. Conyers Kennel Club member Sue Shelton uses her English setter Swagger to demonstrate how to show a dog in a match. The club will hold an American Kennel Club-sanctioned dog match at the Earl O'Neal Sports Complex in Conyers on April 30.

Staff Photo: Erin Evans. Conyers Kennel Club member Sue Shelton uses her English setter Swagger to demonstrate how to show a dog in a match. The club will hold an American Kennel Club-sanctioned dog match at the Earl O'Neal Sports Complex in Conyers on April 30.

Like many dog owners, Sue Shelton has great affection for her canines, purebred keeshonds and English setters. She refers to them as "my babies" and said the keeshonds even played a parenting role in her son's life.

"They are fabulous family dogs. They raised my son," Shelton said of the keeshonds, a dog bred to be a companion on Dutch barges in Holland. "They're not a back yard dog. They want to be with you."

Shelton is the organizer of an upcoming Conyers Kennel Club Dog Match at Earl O'Neal Sports Complex, 2730 Old Covington Road in Conyers on April 30 at noon, with entries being accepted from 10 to 11:30 a.m. that day or pre-entries before April 27.

The match, sanctioned by the American Kennel Club, is open to anyone interested in learning how to compete in a dog show. Dogs entered must be purebred. Cost is $5 for a pre-entry or $8 the day of the match.

Shelton said the match is designed for those who want to practice with their dog in a show setting but not receive championship points typically amassed in a dog show. Spectators are also welcome.

"You're not under the pressure that you would be at a regular show," said Shelton, who encouraged spectators from the community to attend the event. "This is very relaxed. You don't have to wear suits or nylons. When you go to a show, you really gussy up. Here, it's for play."

Shelton has owned keeshonds, which resemble chows, since 1972 and started showing them in 1990. Residents of Rockdale since 1996, Sue Shelton and her husband have been members of the Conyers Kennel Club for three years.

"We were looking for a kennel club where we could meet other dog owners and enjoy the camaraderie," said Shelton.

With roughly 30 members, the Conyers Kennel Club is a nonprofit dedicated to furthering interest in purebred dogs. It's members hail from Rockdale, Newton, Walton and Henry counties.

In addition to the dog matches, the Conyers Kennel Club also sponsors dog shows in the Atlanta area; a Meet the Breed Day, where the members of the public can educate themselves on various dog breeds; and handling classes, where people can learn how to train their dog (and themselves) for competitions.

The Conyers Kennel Club is also involved in several charitable efforts, including scholarship programs, canine therapy for elementary school students and support to law enforcement.

For more information, visit www.conyerskennelclub.org.