Kelly Rackley and Lex, her purebred Dalmatian show dog, are no strangers to Kennel Club shows. They've traveled all over the country, where Lex has competed since he was less than a year old.
Like many other Dalmatian owners at Saturday's Lompoc Valley Kennel Club all-breed dog show, Rackley, of Brentwood in Northern California, waited patiently with Lex outside the ring for the bichon frises to finish their competition.
While she waited, Rackley was greeted by other returning competitors and fellow breed owners and handlers. One woman, who has raised Dalmatians her whole life, stopped to get more information about other Dalmatian breeders who may be breeding soon.
"We return to Lompoc every year," Rackley said. "It's always fun coming back. We all become a family here. Everyone here knows almost everyone else. It's a family event because we all do it together."
Lex has the title of Select Dog at nationals, along with a placement in the Top 20 People's Choice Award.
"I started showing him when he was about 10 months old. He loves being at shows, being out in the rings and he's placed in the Top 20 Dalmatians across the country for the past several years," Rackley said. "He's in third place right now."
The show dog, now 6, whose registered show name is Hallmark Turbo Charged Lexus, has several nicknames -- Lex Luthor or Lucifer "when he goes crazy," his owner confided as she fed him a piece of chicken.
Rackley has been around dog shows since she was 4 years old. She also trains and shows beagles of her own. Her full-time job is as an administrative clerk/bookkeeper, "but training show dogs is my full-time passion."
"There truly is a huge difference," she said. "The relationships you build with them is so important. You adapt to every distinct personality, spend time with them and every breed is different."
Saturday marked the 42nd year Ryon Park has hosted the competition, said Pete De Soto, show chairman of the Lompoc Valley Kennel Club. A second competition will take place Sunday.
"They're both hosted by the LVKC but they're completely different. Some entrants may return, some may not because they may want different judges' opinions and viewpoints," he said.
The dogs entered for Saturday's agenda were split into seven groups. Each winner from that group then competes for Best in Show and Reserve Best in Show.
"Every year we have about 1,500 dogs entered," De Soto said. "Some years we've had about 2,000 to 3,000. It brings great revenue for local businesses in Lompoc."
A few years ago, the Chamber of Commerce did an economic study on how much revenue the dog show brings for the weekend, "and we pulled in over $1 million for those two days," he said.
All entrants and judges are out-of-towners, which means local restaurants, hotels, bars, etc. benefit from from the influx of visitors.
"Lompoc is well-known to the rest of the world, but not in Lompoc," De Soto joked. "It's really ironic. If you go downtown, meet someone who's lived here for 30 years, they probably won't even know Ryon Park hosts a dog show every year."
For Lompoc Valley Kennel Club President Terry Bearman, his favorite part of the dog show every year is seeing "the camaraderie among everyone."
"You also get to see Ryon Park just transform and evolve completely."
He added, "It's really like meeting up with old friends again."