Grooming a cocker spaniel

American Spaniel dog

Little did Linda Moore realize her desire to own an American cocker spaniel would turn into a passion.

"I got out of law school and wanted a cocker spaniel, " said Moore, an attorney in Dallas. "I just happened to meet a lady who wanted to give me one, and I got hooked."

Moore, who now breeds spaniels, was in attendance Saturday for the 96th annual American Spaniel Club Flushing Show at the Knoxville Convention Center.

The three-day event, which Knoxville has hosted for the past five years, wraps up from 8 a.m.-6 p.m. on Sunday.

About 540 dogs from several countries competed in specific classes, with winners hoping to take home Best in Show victories on Sunday.

Moore, who has attended the event every year since 1989, is well familiar with champion show dogs.

Her solid black American cocker spaniel, Beckham, broke the record for the most Best in Show victories.

Beckham, who is now 7 1/2 and retired, was the group winner at the prestigious Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York in 2011.

"A lot of people say that (Westminster) is the pinnacle, because you get all the publicity there, " Moore said.

However, she said this weekend's American Spaniel Club Flushing Show is also a top-tier event.

Moore said "30 to 35" dogs from this weekend's show will likely advance to the Westminster event.

"This is a great show because it's so old, " Moore said.

Mike and Linda Pitts of Knoxville are long-time regulars at the competition. They have 19 dogs entered this weekend.

"We're professional dog handlers — that's what we do for a living, " Mike Pitts said.

He said judges follow a strict protocol as they assess the dogs.

"Every breed has a written standard of what the ideal dog should be, " Pitts said. "It looks like the dogs are competing against each other, but they're really competing against a standard. Showmanship is a big part of it. It's the way a dog moves, and the way it holds his head up and extends his legs."

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