“An Irish Setter, hurry, run…run!” These excited remarks are common to hear as you walk across the lawns and grounds of Sampson State Park during the annual Wine Country Circuit Dog Show, one of the country’s largest American Kennel Club (AKC)-licensed shows.
The Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM) has become a key participant in the event, with a team from the Cornell University Hospital for Animals serving as the show’s official veterinary care providers for the third year. The presence of the college was broader this year, including a team of researchers, clinicians and staff from the Cornell Richard P. Riney Canine Health Center, with the goal of connecting with breeders and dog lovers alike, and engaging in discussions about the most pressing issues in canine health.
“For us, this is a great opportunity to learn about the different breeds, and also to introduce our researchers to different breeders, trainers and breed associations,” said David Lee ’88, D.V.M. ’94, M.B.A. ’99, associate dean for external programs. “Their research really benefits from the relationship they have with various breeds, especially when it comes to looking at genetically-linked diseases in certain breeds and trying to identify markers so that we can find and detect causes of disease even before dogs are born, to some degree.”
Dr. Jacquelyn Evans, assistant professor at the Baker Institute for Animal Health and the first CVM faculty member supported by the Riney Canine Health Center, attended the show this year to collect cheek swab DNA samples from specific breeds for three of her lab’s research projects.
“My lab studies canine genetics and we're looking for mutations that increase a dog's risk for a variety of diseases,” Evans said. “We want to collect samples from affected dogs, but we also want healthy dogs that don't have the disease. We can compare their genetics and then find the specific differences between the two groups. That will allow us to create a genetic test that could be used to breed away from the disease.”
In one day at the show, Evans and postdoctoral student Dr. Shawna Cook collected 16 samples towards their gastric cancer genetic study and connected with numerous individuals who will potentially participate in support of her studies post-show.
In addition to the primped and proper pups visiting the Riney Canine Health Center booth for a quick cheek swab, the veterinary tent saw a small number of mostly non-emergent cases throughout the weekend, ranging from a limp to a possible fever to a tearing eye.
Hospital residents Karolyn Ellis '18, D.V.M .'22, Drs. Jay Harris, Kelly McMullin and Sarah Slaughter provided veterinary care for the event, assisted by veterinary students Sophia Lesko, Ivanka Juran and Lucia Younger '21, all Class of 2024. McMullin also offered patella exams and gave a presentation on conditioning the canine athlete. Dr. N. Sydney Moise, M.S. '85, CV Starr Emerita Professor of Cardiology, provided cardiac exams, and Dr. Kelly Knickelbein, assistant clinical professor, provided eye exams.
The three-club circuit also runs a Cornell D.V.M. student mentoring program. Susan Hamlin, retired administrative manager at the Baker Institute for Animal Health, organizes this educational component each year with Dr. Thomas Kern, retired associate professor of ophthalmology. The program gave 25 students the opportunity to shadow judges, breeders and kennel club members to learn about the breeds that one may encounter in the dog show world, an important experience in the training of the next generation of veterinarians.
Meghan Van Althuis, D.V.M. ’27, a first-year veterinary student who participated in the mentoring program, said this was her first time attending a dog show. “I learned so much during my time at the Wine Country Circuit Dog Show,” Van Althuis said. “We had an excellent discussion during the AKC presentation at lunch about misconceptions about purebred dog breeders, and how important it is for veterinarians and breeders to work together to ensure the best care for their dogs.”
Margaret (Marg) Pough, retired CVM staff member in developmental serology at Cornell’s Animal Health Diagnostic Center, has competed in dog shows since her first border terrier in 1963. As a member of the Finger Lakes Kennel Club since 1970, she judges border terriers, otterhounds and junior showmanship and earthdog competitions. Pough was Van Althuis’ mentor this year.
“I have mentored students over the years in various ways, inviting students to attend shows, giving talks to Canine Clubs about AKC, responsible breeding and the various sports that can be done with dogs,” Pough said. “Discussing how dog shows run is just one part of mentoring at the show, but answering student questions and teaching about the practices that are important to the responsible breeders you encounter at these shows is a big part of it.”
Heather Hughes is assistant director for communications & marketing for the animal health centers at the College of Veterinary Medicine.