MEMBERS OF the Happy Hounds 4-H Club are excited about the start of the 53rd Annual Howard County Fair on Aug. 15.
The young people, who range in age from 8 to 18, have been working with their canine companions to prepare for the dog match at the fair.
Since January, the club has almost doubled its membership. Recently, the club has welcomed new members Jenny Fox, Holly Fox and Kathy Rockstroh.
Jennifer Melichar, who will be a ninth-grader at Glenelg High School this year, is club president.
"The most important thing," Jennifer said, "is not winning, but having a good time."
She noted that July was a busy month for the Happy Hounds.
Not only did members show their dogs at the American Kennel Club Shows at the Howard County Fairgrounds during the July 4 weekend, but the club sponsored its own dog match at the fairgrounds July 18.
The AKC shows at the Howard County Fairgrounds were open to all dog handlers -- amateurs, professionals, young people and adults.
Jennifer and club member Jenna Starr rose to the occasion, handling their dogs beautifully. Jennifer and her Gordon Setter, Smash, took first place in Smash's breed class all three days, and Smash was Winner's Dog twice.
The Winner's Dog designation is one notch below Best of Breed.
Smash received the honor by defeating other dogs his age, then competing against winners in other age groups.
In the Junior Showmanship category, Jennifer showed her new dog, DJ. DJ did not place, but Jennifer considered the competition as an opportunity to log some quality practice time.
Jenna and Snickers, a Bernese mountain dog, walked off with a number of honors, too.
Snickers took 2nd place in her breed class on the first day. On the second day, she "went Reserve" -- one level below Winner's Dog.
To qualify for the designation, Snickers had to win her class and compete against winners of other classes.
On the final day, she won Best of Opposite Sex (female) and received points toward her championship.
Club members participated in their own Happy Hounds match, open to 4-H Club members and their dogs. There were more than 64 entries from Howard, Frederick, Harford, Carroll and Allegany counties.
The match gave the young people an opportunity to gauge the competition and evaluate their own performances before the Howard County and Maryland State fairs.
Obedience judge Linda Parrish and fitting and showing judge John Jarvis rendered decisions and answered questions about individual performances.
Happy Hounds Club members and their dogs walked away with an impressive number of honors.
In the Sub-Novice category of Junior/Intermediate Obedience -- in which young people, ages 8 to 13, handled dogs on leads -- Jennifer and her dog, Betsy, won first place, Holly Fox and her dog, Bonnie, took third place, and Amy Frasier and Rascal won the eighth-place award.
Jennifer and Betsy were also High Scoring Obedience Team at the match.
In the Senior Sub-Novice Obedience category in which dogs were on leads and handlers ranged in age from 14 to 18, Jenna and Snickers took fourth place and Michelle Johnson and her pooch, Q, took fifth place.
Brianna Rickle and Pickle took third place in First Time Junior Fitting and Showing, a category more commonly known as "junior handling."
Jennifer took second place with Angus in the Graduate Novice Obedience category -- a very challenging category because the dogs are not attached to leads.
Jennifer and Smash also took third place in Open Junior Fitting and Showing.
Parents contributed to the success of the July 18 Happy Hounds 4-H Club match.
Nancy Lemich ran the food booth. Jan Starr, Kathy Frasier and Karen Fox ensured that registration proceeded smoothly.
Al Starr, Phyllis Johnson and Dave Frasier were such good sports that they volunteered to serve as "posts" in the obedience ring.
And Sandy Melichar, parent leader of this dedicated group of young people and chairwoman of the event, kept things running like clockwork.
The Happy Hounds Club competition provides an opportunity for the club's members to qualify to show their dogs at the Maryland State Fair on Aug. 30.
Jennifer qualified with dog Betsy in the Intermediate Sub-Novice Obedience category and with Smash in the Intermediate Open Fitting and Showing Class.
Kristen Willie qualified with her Labrador Retriever, Canyon, in Senior Novice Obedience and Intermediate Novice Fitting and Showing.
Don't miss the Canine Show in the Show Pavilion at the Howard County Fairgrounds. It begins at about 8: 30 a.m. Aug. 16.
Stop by and chat with one of the members if you are interested in joining the Happy Hounds.
Despite an abundance of young ladies, young men are most welcome.
Support our Fire Department
The West Friendship Volunteer Fire Department will hold its annual fund-raiser from Aug. 15 through 22 at the Howard County Fair.
Department members hope to raise money for the purchase of fire and emergency medical equipment by selling raffle tickets.
The $1 tickets can get you some great prizes.