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Chance for a champ

The definition of cute could easily be a cavalier King Charles spaniel.

When you go to Edward and Diane Harris’ house near Nevada City, cute is everywhere in the form of the dogs that resemble toy cocker spaniels.

On Monday, the Harrises will be in New York City at the prestigious Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show with their champion cavalier, “Lymrey Christmas Bell at Brigadune” – or Bell, for short.



“We’re looking forward to New York,” Diane said Thursday. “We went with Bell last year, and we didn’t get a ribbon.”

But this year, they just might. Bell took best of breed at the recent Golden Gate Kennel Club Show at San Francisco’s Cow Palace.




Dog lovers all their lives, the Harrises started breeding cavaliers several years ago. They sell them with discrimination and travel to various events to show off their best.

“Last year we were in New York, Arizona, the Cow Palace, England and Scotland. We were on the road for almost six weeks,” Diane Harris said of their hobby.

“We’re thinking about an RV eventually so we can save money on motel rooms,” Edward Harris said. “It’s expensive.”

So why cavaliers?

“I was a professional dog walker in New York City and I used to walk a pair of these,” said Diane, who fell in love with them. After she married Edward and they decided to get a dog, she remembered those same cavaliers.

They went to a show in Pleasanton, and after walking through rooms of yelping dogs, “we walked into a room and it was quiet, and it was full of cavaliers,” Edward Harris said.

“They’re comfort dogs; they were for the ladies,” Edward Harris said of the dogs first bred in 14th-, 15th- and 16th-century England. “They are not an outdoor dog. They go out and play, but only a short time.”

“They get attached to people,” Diane Harris said, “but they’re very fickle. They will go with anybody.”

“They’re therapy dogs, used in nursing homes,” said Edward, because of their loving, calm demeanor and small stature.

To get dogs ready for shows, “they exercise every day,” Diane Harris said. “These dogs need to be in top physical shape” to catch a judge’s eye. “We feed them a special diet to keep their coats shiny.”

However, “there is no cutting on these dogs, it’s not allowed,” Diane Harris said. “All you can do is trim the hair that grows between the toes on their feet so they don’t slip.

“These dogs are good with older people and families,” Diane Harris said. “They travel well, and you can carry them on a plane with you. When the suitcases come out, they know they’re going somewhere.”

The Harrises will use a professional handler at the show, who will use bait to make Bell follow on command. “We’ll use a high-quality, New York pastrami,” Diane said. “People use chicken breasts, Oreos, everything.”

“We like the shows, to travel and to compete,” Edward Harris said.

The Harrises also enjoy finding homes for their cavaliers, but not with just anybody.

“We don’t sell our dogs to people who work full time,” Diane said. “It’s like taking care of infants.”

“We don’t place them with younger children because they’re too fragile,” Edward Harris said. “It’s to protect the breed.”

The Harrises will first show Bell at Madison Square Garden for best of breed, “and if she wins, you go to the toy group,” Diane said. If Bell wins there, “the next stop is Tuesday for best in show.”

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DOG SHOW ON TV

“The Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show” will be on television Monday and Tuesday nights from 8 to 11 p.m. local time on the USA Network. The shows repeats Tuesday and Wednesday at noon.


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