As the Marshall County Fair kicked off Thursday, two events wiggled and wagged their way into the hearts of onlookers: the Pet Parade and 4-H Dog Show.
As the 4-H Dog Show began, anxious parents watched from the sidelines of the area with their cameras ready. The dog handlers, ages 6-19, were all eager to take home first place in at least one of the categories. For Chancey Pearson, who is now a senior at Madill High School, this competition is near the end of her time in the 4-H group.
Pearson got involved in the Marshall County 4-H Dog Club four years ago when she wanted to show her dog, she said. During Thursday’s competition she and her Border Collie, Bandit, won first place in showmanship.
“I started the club with my Bichon Frise, but when I wanted to compete in more than showmanship, I started using Bandit because he’s better at it,” Pearson said. “He’s good at showmanship and obedience.”
The dogs and their handlers competed in three categories: showmanship, obedience, and best trick.
During the showmanship category the pets are judged on their overall appearance, the straitness of their back and bone structure of their back, and their ability to stay “stacked”— a stance that requires the dog to stay standing up with their two back feet and front feet squared up while their handler has a loose leash.  Judges inspect the backs of the dogs to ensure that there are no deformities and that the dog is properly fed.
“This is the second year of the dog show,” said Kelly Hunt, a mother whose three children were competing in the show. “They’ve been practicing as a group twice a month (because) the next show they will show at is the Oklahoma City State Fair.”
Hunt was coaching her children, Samantha, Hagen and Colton, from a side area. She was also in charge of making sure her kids were stocked up on treats, so that the dogs were motivated into obeying.
4-H is a community program delivered through cooperative extensions across the nation where young people learn by doing. In the case of the 4-H Dog Club, youth are taught how to feed, care for and keep a dog healthy, groom and train their dog, and to be an overall responsible pet owner.
“We train every month and learn about vaccinations, care, and equipment that’s needed to care for and compete with your dog,” Pearson said.
Linda French, the woman responsible for bringing the dog curriculum to Marshall County’s 4-H chapter, said it all started four years ago when her grandkids wanted to show dogs.
“I raise Australian Shepherds,” she said. “My grandkids wanted to show in 4-H so we did dogs. The kids and their dogs learn general obedience like sit, down, stay, come and heel, and it’s completely free.”
The obedience portion of the competition focused on handlers having their dog stay at their heels while walking at a variety of speeds, sitting down when their handlers halt and staying right by their handler’s side when making sharp unexpected turns. Hagen Hunt, 6, took home first place in the obedience category with her French Bulldog.
During the best trick portion of the competition, dogs flaunted their skills doing actions like: sit, stay, high five, jumping over obstacles and running through tunnels. Chance Whitman couldn’t get his dog to go through the tunnel, but when he crawled in himself his dog gained the confidence to follow. The two tangled themselves in the obstacle and the crowd couldn’t help but laugh. All of the participants in the best trick category took home first place ribbons.
Before the dog show, the crowd was warmed up with a variety of pets in costumes. Parade Pets of all types walked, or were carried, around the area show floor strutting their stuff in hopes of being recognized as best in their class, as best trained and best dressed. While most of the pets were dogs that later competed in the dog show, some kids flaunted different types of animals. A turtle, miniature horse, kitten, a goat and a pet chicken were all given their chance to shine.
The Marshall County Fair, at the Madill Community Building in William Ray Park, will run until Saturday— and still has many more events to offer. Friday will bring an antique tractor display, judging of poultry and rabbits, and chicken penning. While the livestock show and livestock showmanship contest will happen at 8 a.m. on Saturday.