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First breed makes big splash at annual dog show
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Martin Cabral, a professional dog handler from San Diego, prepares Grace, a Portuguese water dog, for the Golden Valley Kennel Clubs annual show on Friday. - photo by JONATHAN MCCORKELL / The Journal

Upon first glance it is easy to confuse a Portuguese water dog with a poodle — but thanks to the President Barack Obama and his family pet —the first dog’s breed is growing in popularity.

The Portuguese water dog was one of the more unique breeds of the 137 on display Friday at the Golden Valley Kennel Club’s annual dog show, held at the Stanislaus County Fairgrounds.

Martin Cabral, a professional dog handler from San Diego, was in Turlock to show “Grace,” a Portuguese water dog from Lopez Island in Washington. He said the breed were originally messenger dogs that would swim from boat to boat, hence their distinct haircuts with shaved back ends — what breeders call a “lion cut.”

“The hair would keep their organs like heart and lungs warm and they would shave their back end so their legs could kick freely in the water,” he explained.

Amy Rutherford, a Portuguese handler said the breed is no longer victims of mistaken identity.

“People now at least know what they are. Before the Obamas got one most people thought they were poodles,” she said.  “They are great dogs, outgoing, athletic, good natured and great with kids. With proper exercise they can settle down when you need them to.”

Margaret O’Hare, a Portuguese water dog owner from Rocklin, attended the dog show and it was her first time ever showing “Sailor.”

“It is hard to compete against professionals, but we’ve gone to 13 dog shows to socialize and to walk around and pretend like we look like we know what we are doing,” she joked.

Portuguese water dogs are known to be hypo-allergenic, which is why the Obamas chose the breed. Malia Obama, the eldest daughter, is allergic to dogs.

To contact Jonathan McCorkell, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2015.