Rowley added that qualifying is easier now, not that it's much of a comfort. The association that lowered the standards to allow more dogs in also increased the number of dogs that could compete.
George will be competing in best of breed, which is basically a beauty contest. Judges use a stringent system of qualifications that includes physical characteristics, how the animal moves (its gait) and even the perceived temperament of the dog.
The dogs are not so much rated against each other, but rather against what the kennel club has determined is the ideal specimen of a particular breed.
Rowley said it's more complicated than it sounds. What is considered ideal for one breed of dog might not be considered ideal for another, and trainers have to raise their dogs to conform to the judging guidelines.
Rowley wasn't sure about George's chances at winning, but winning isn't necessarily the point. Just getting to the show is something of an honor, though she acknowledges it's not the kind of thing everyone will get.
"Being part of this is on my bucket list," she said. "I've wanted this since I was a little girl."
Still, if George were to take the top prize over the other eight dogs in his category, Rowley would get possession of a nice trophy, which she could keep if George won two more times.
Rowley said there's not much money in showing dogs, though dog breeders do quite well selling them to people who want to get into showing animals.
She said she knew dog breeders who sold toy fox terrier pups with the potential to become winning show dogs for as much as $2,500 each.
"And that's just for a dog with the potential to be a show dog," she said. "Sometimes the dog you get turns out not to be pretty enough, and you're out the money."
Rowley said she lucked out. George was given to her by a breeder in Kentucky, which only sounds like a bargain. Rowley explained that she spends a lot of money showing her dogs.
"It's nothing for me to spend three or four hundred dollars in a weekend at a show," she said. "And that's just on food and lodging. The trip to New York is going to cost me $500 just for a place to stay."
In fact, Rowley felt pretty lucky that she could swing the trip this year. She said she's come close to going to the show before, but she couldn't work out where to stay.
But she doesn't regret it much. Rowley knows she loses money with her dogs, but justified it by saying raising, training and showing dogs is one of her life's passions.
"The way I see it, I don't smoke, I don't go to bars, do drugs or do crafts. Raising shows dogs is my craft."
Reach Bill Lynch at ly...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5195.