Dean Tagatac spent three hours Friday night bathing, then blow drying and ironing the hair of his 15-month-old Khloe. That was followed by 30 minutes Saturday morning, when he sprayed her with moisturizer, powdered her face whiskers, and combed her long, tan hair.
“This is actually nothing,” he said, as he tied the shih tzu’s hair into a top knot.
Such were the devotions of Tagatac and hundreds of other dog owners and breeders who braved the rain and cold Saturday morning to compete in the second day of the annual Gold Coast Cluster dog show at the Planting Fields Arboretum in Oyster Bay.
Through trials of obedience, agility and “canine good citizenship,” among others, the contestants sought recognition for their wet-nosed companions.
“It’s different than just having a pet,” said Tagatac, a 34-year-old finance manager from Manhattan. “You have a purpose.”
The three-day show, which continues Sunday, enables contestants to measure their dogs against the ideal standards established for their breed, said Viola Burgos, chairwoman of the show, which was organized by the Ladies’ Kennel Association of America and the Long Island Kennel Club.
The rain mostly kept away spectators Saturday morning, but it did little to discourage the contestants, who crowded under tents with grooming tables, cages, generators for blow driers, and panting, shivering, barking, tail-wagging dogs.
Some didn’t seem to mind the showers, including Zhazzy, an 85-pound cane corso who lunged repeatedly into a diving pool, clearing 17 feet of water, in the chase after a chew toy flung by her owner, Tina Biello.
“It’s 80 percent toy drive and 20 percent swimming,” Biello, 50, of Bristol, Connecticut, said of what makes dogs excel in the event.
The weather created unique challenges for judging the events, already no easy task, said Michael Canalizo, 64, of Mill Neck.
“It requires tremendous concentration and a lot of memory,” Canalizo said shortly before presiding over a conformation contest of German shorthair pointers.
Canalizo was well-qualified for the assignment, having judged, exhibited or attended dog events in 50 states and 29 countries, he said. His Afghan hound, named Tryst Of Grandeur, won 161 best in shows, and inspired the vanity license plate on Canalizo’s Mercedes B300, which reads “TOPHOUND.”
“Dogs have been good to me,” Canalizo said, a half-eaten cannoli on the table in front of him.
Before stepping out of a tent into the rain, he said, “Doing your craft in the elements isn’t always pleasant. But we do it for the love of the sport.”