The Western Washington 2018 Winter Cluster of Dog Shows is coming to the Washington State Fairgrounds.

Share story

Puyallup resident Marie Markovich’s love for collie dogs stemmed from the 1954 television show “Lassie,” which featured a rough collie named Lassie.

Markovich, now 73, watched the show when she was younger.

“That’s where I fell in love with collies,” she said.

Now, Markovich is a member of the Puyallup Valley Dog Fanciers, one of Washington’s oldest and largest American Kennel Club (AKC) dog clubs.

The club, along with the Gig Harbor Kennel Club and the Tacoma Kennel Club, make up the Western Washington 2018 Winter Cluster of Dog Shows, which is coming this weekend to the Washington State Fairgrounds.

For the past three years, Markovich has been on the board of directors for the Puyallup Valley Dog Fanciers, but she’s been involved in dog shows since 1975, when she first attended a San Diego Collie Club show.

“I saw all the fabulous trophies that were given out at the time and I thought … I could do this,” Markovich remembered. “So I sat and watched dog shows for a year and a half before I attempted to get my first dog.”

Since then, Markovich said she’s bred and finished the AKC championships of more than 125 collies.

“Collies are one of the best family dogs there is,” Markovich said. “They’re good with children because they watch over them. They’re nonaggressive, but they will, in danger, protect you.”

Puyallup resident Fran Stephens is show chairman for the Puyallup Valley Dog Fanciers.

She’s been involved with dog shows for about 50 years, and over the course of that time, estimates she’s owned just about as many St. Bernards.

“Getting involved in dogs, a lot of times you get bit by the bug,” Stephens said. “I got hooked on all the things you could do just by training your dog.”

Through dog shows, Stephens has traveled to places like Australia and New Zealand and has made friends around the world — all of whom love dogs, just like she does.

“Every dog is different — different personalities and different physical characteristics,” Stephens said. “That’s what dog shows are all about — finding the dog that most closely represents what that particular breed was created to do.”

The Puyallup Valley Dog Fanciers started in the 1970s, at the “peak” of dog-show events, Stephens said. Ever since, they’ve been hosting dog shows in the area.

This year, about 2,200 dogs will be shown daily over three days, representing more than 160 breeds.

Shows are open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., starting with the Puyallup Valley Dog Fanciers on Saturday, the Gig Harbor Kennel Club on Sunday and the Tacoma Kennel Club on Monday. Competition events include AKC all breed conformation, obedience trials, junior showmanship and rally.

The dog shows are also an opportunity for families or individuals to get educated on specific dog breeds.

“Everybody that has a dog or wants a dog or wants to know about that specific breed to see if it fits them, they should go to the show and talk to the breeders about that specific dog so they can educate themselves on that type of breed before they get them,” Markovich said.

“We welcome the public to come out and look what we do with our dogs,” Stephens added.