The Lake Minnetonka Kennel Club (LMKC) has existed for 59 years, and Susan Krook has been involved for nearly 50 of those. And she’s not even the club’s longest-standing member.
“The club prides itself on several lifetime members and even a few individuals who have been with us since the beginning, or close to it,” she says.
The beginning was 1955, when the club was founded by a small group of dog fanciers who had three goals: to promote purebred dogs in the area, to host a quality dog show and to enjoy each other’s company. It’s the third goal that really sets LMKC apart. “The club was formed differently than others,” says Krook. “It’s social. You have to get along with the other members.”
To foster relationships, in the early years club members had to live nearby, a certain number of miles from a point in Minnetonka. Although the group has since branched out, close-knit friendships are still its hallmark. Club meetings are always held in one of the 39 members’ homes, and include a cocktail hour, dinner and agenda.
On the agenda might be a presentation on canine cancer or a discussion on donating to a worthy dog-related cause. But often it involves planning for the club’s annual AKC All-Breed Dog Show, a tradition since the club hosted about 200 dogs in its first show in 1955. Early shows were held at Wayzata Junior High School; later the group moved to Edina’s Braemar Arena and the Carver County Fairgrounds in Waconia.
Shows are now held at the Scott County Fairgrounds in Jordan, where expansive grounds offer space for more than 1,300 dogs entered in conformation, obedience and special event categories. LMKC members plan, promote, hire judges, set up, clean up and everything in between. But they say the effort is worth it.
“I get a great deal of satisfaction from working at the show,” says Jill Bowman–Cashman, a club member since 2003, who raises and shows champion Labradors. “It’s a great opportunity to educate the public about your breed. We get compliments from judges and owners, and we get feedback from people who really enjoy watching.”
Bowman–Cashman is a Wayzata High School grad who retired from an education career that included 34 years teaching music, many of those years at Wayzata West Middle School. Retirement gives her extra time to indulge her passion for her four Labradors, including a 5-year-old male named GCH Tande Grand Finale—or Fynn, for short.
Fynn has competed at the Westminster Dog Show in New York City and the AKC/Eukanuba National Championship in Orlando, Fla., and was been ranked No. 1 and No. 3 All-Breed Labrador in the country in 2013. Fynn’s sister, GCH Tande First Lady of Song, Ella Fitzgerald, also owned by Bowman–Cashman, has been ranked No. 6. The shows are always fun to attend, says Bowman–Cashman, and “always fun to win, although in the beginning there wasn’t a lot of winning.”
Show participants help better their breed through selective breeding, and competitions—whether national or local—offer the chance to see and appreciate the beauty of every entrant. “I love to watch any beautiful dog in the ring, not just my own dog,” says Bowman–Cashman.
Today’s LMKC continues with its original traditions and mission—to hold quality dog shows and promote purebred dogs, while maintaining lasting friendships. And those friendships remain, with or without the dogs. “Some members have dogs; some are looking to get one,” explains Bowman–Cashman. “Some longtime members’ dogs have died but the owners remain active in the club.”
Interested in joining? Bowman–Cashman offers some advice. First, attend a dog show (LMKC’s show is held annually in June). Talk to the club members working there, especially the show chairman. Second, connect with members who have an interest in the same breed you do. Third, visit the club’s website for information, and fourth, attend a club meeting.
If you feel the club’s a good fit, begin to get involved and volunteer at events. Before you know it, you could have a whole pack of new friends—both human and canine.
2015 Lake Minnetonka Kennel Club All Breed Dog Show June 5-7, 2015
Scott County Fairgrounds