San Luis Obispo teen Kallia Linsteadt makes sure to brush the long, tricolored fur on Bear, her 18-month-old Australian shepherd, at least three times on the morning of the California Mid-State Fairs 4-H Dog Show.
The 19-year-old was looking forward to showing but felt sad because it will be her last time now that shes off to college, she said in a phone interview a few days before the event.
Its like a little family here (at 4-H). Ive known them all so long; its a home away from home, she said.
Linsteadt is one of nearly 40 local youths who participated in the annual event, which showcases the family dogs of 4-H members involved in showmanship and obedience training with various 4-H clubs countywide.
The dog show is a fair-time tradition related to other 4-H showmanship projects such as showing lambs, pigs and goats.
Its all about the kids, dog show coordinator JoAnn Overbey said. The kids are all so wonderful and stay your friends when they go on to college, and the families just stay part of your lives.
Thats also true for one of the shows judges, San Luis Obispos Cyndy Later. Shes Linsteadts mother, but she wasnt judging her daughters class. Being part of the 4-H dog project has been rewarding, she said.
The experience teaches responsibility and definitely for Kallia persistence, Later said. I think thats something a lot of kids dont learn these days that its OK to lose and keep trying.
Linsteadt, part of the Canyon Country 4-H club, also shows little Fiver, her 11-year-old black-and-tan miniature dachshund.
Fiver has been quite the project, Later said. The pup went from being an ornery little dog who didnt want to cooperate at all to one who received top honors for her off-leash skills at a show in June.
Linsteadt said taking the time to practice with the short-haired pooch and understanding her personality has helped.
Its harder to show the smaller dogs shes really stubborn, she added. But (now) I show her off-leash, and the judges say shes one of the few small dogs who are shown off-leash and do well.
Linsteadt plans to attend Cal State Northridge in the fall and study to be a sign language instructor and a biology teacher.
Helping to mentor some of the younger members through 4-H helped shape her career goals, she said.
The younger kids look up to us, she said. Ive always liked to help people and teach people things.
GALLERY: More photos from the 4-H Dog Show »