Ruth Ann Ford gently dabbed tears from Rock's eyes as the two waited to have their picture taken.
"It's probably from stress," Ford said of Rock - short for Forever Rock Hudson, her 8-month-old papillon that had just won the Best of Winners ribbon for 6- to 9-month-old pups in the Toy Division at the Maryland Kennel Club All Breed Dog Show.
"He's doing pretty cool," said Ford, of Osceola Mills, Pa., as she held the tiny white, brown and black puppy in the palms of her hands.
Organizers estimated that about 1,000 people ventured out yesterday to the 5th Regiment Armory, where 1,681 dogs, in 142 breeds or varieties, were entered.
Maria Gallo came to the show with her children Elizabeth, 8, and Matthew, 5. They watched intensely as the Toy entries took to one of the many show rings.
"We don't have a dog," said Gallo, of nearby Bolton Hill. "I think we'll buy one in the summertime."
The dogs came with entourages that included handlers, owners, groomers and fans.
Ford, who is Rock's owner and handler, said her dog doesn't require much preparation.
"Just bathe and brush," she said.
Other dogs were more complicated - needing hair clippers, blow dryers, oils and sprays to perfect their looks.
"Some people think they are their children," said Ben Dale, president of the Maryland Kennel Club. "Especially some of the older ladies."
Why are people so in love with dogs?
"It's their devotion to their owners," said Dale, who got involved with dog shows as an obedience trainer 30 years ago. "They will be whatever you want them to be. If you want them to be a guard dog, no matter how small, they will do it."
Lisa Miller, a handler from Mechanicsville, brought 15 dogs and piled up the awards. Three of her dogs won their breed division and several others took subdivision titles.
"Sometimes it gets a little hairy," Miller said, explaining that she sometimes has to get other handlers to show the dogs under her charge because of scheduling conflicts. "A lot of owners are understanding."
Competitions can be stressful. In dog shows, dressing rooms are out in the open.
"The public can walk right through the dressing room," Miller said. "It's hard, especially when you are tense and nervous. But this is the only way they [the fans] can see these dogs."
At last week's Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York City - the grande dame of dog shows - one of Miller's best dogs, an American foxhound named Sunny, won Best in Breed. Yesterday, he placed third in the hound division.
"We have a totally different panel today," Dale said. "It's a totally new experience. We have judges from all over the country."
Yesterday's Best of Show winner was a German shepherd named Champion Kismet Last Call, from Bethesda.
Lisa Warren, a judge with 20 years experience from Fogelsville, Pa., said she looks for structural integrity, good temperament and breed type in comparing dogs.
"The parts need to fit together so that dog can move well," she said, adding that a barking dog isn't necessarily a bad thing. "If the dog attempts to bite the judge, that's bad."