It's a gypsy's life for dog handlers like Art Sinclair of Penngrove, who travel most weekends to present purebreds at competitions across the country.

But Sinclair was close to home Sunday as he led a stately German shepherd named Mickey around the ring at the Redwood Empire Kennel Club's 100th show, held at the Sonoma-Marin Fairgrounds in Petaluma.

"It was a strong group, a big feather in his cap," said Sinclair of Mickey, who won Best in Breed during a morning competition.

"He was born in my home," said Mickey's proud owner, Petaluma resident Susan Sisemore, a second-generation German shepherd breeder on her own time and a nurse at the Redwood Regional Oncology Center in Santa Rosa during the week.

Yet Mickey was passed up during a round of judging of herding dogs. A field spaniel named Promenade's Pay It Forward from Port Costa, near Martinez, nabbed Best in Show.

Judges evaluated the stature, balance, movement and other qualities of more than 817 dogs that competed Saturday during the club's 99th show and 795 dogs that participated in Sunday's 100th show.

The group began holding back-to-back shows about 20 years ago to meet the great appetite for dog owners wanting to show their animals, President Hobie Brown, 87, of Novato said.

"People get so excited about their dogs. They are proud of their dogs," Brown said.

The Redwood Empire Kennel Club held its first show two weeks before the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor in 1941.

Saturday and Sunday, the events drew animals -- and the people who care for them -- from Florida to Hawaii and included about 130 breeds. The breeds included iconic and familiar kinds, like retrievers and terriers, as well as more obscure such as the lagotti Romagnoli, an Italian breed.

Under the shade of a tent, an Irish wolfhound named Fargo panted during a break next to his caretaker, Jenny Clark, a veterinary technician from Oroville.

Petaluma resident Amy Tiller and her mother-in-law, Debbie Sabino, who was visiting from Los Angeles, stopped by to gaze at the shaggy 170-pound, 37-inch-tall animal. The women were nearby getting coffee and were drawn to the show when they saw a sign.

"How fantastic!" Sabino said.

"You see breeds you only see in books," Tiller said.

In the judge's quarters, official portrait photographer Warren Cook squeaked a toy to get the attention of 4-year-old Shorty, a Rottweiler that took the top obedience award.

Cook, an Oregon photographer who has been taking pictures of the winners at the Petaluma Fairgrounds since 1977, squeaked the toy again and threw it in the air, snapping photos just as Shorty closed his mouth in rapt attention as the toy rose and fell to the ground.

"You have to get into the dog's head. . . . Then you better shoot the picture before the toy lands," Cook said.

You can reach Staff Writer Julie Johnson at 521-5220 or On Twitter @jjpressdem.

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