ROCK SPRINGS — The Sweetwater County Fair may have changed in 2020, but the dedication of local youth competing in 4-H events is still the same.
This was evident during the annual 4-H dog show on Thursday evening. The competition kicked off with the rally and agility categories. In rally, dogs and their handlers work together to perform specific tasks as they make their way as quickly as possible through the course. Those who best complete their commands in the shortest amount of time come out on top.
Simeon Stotts of Farson and his dog Mac are in a class all their own as far as rally and obedience. Mac, a Pomeranian/Pekinese/dachshund mix, has scored so well in previous rally contests that he has advanced to a class with no other competitors. The pair have also won every obedience competition they’ve entered at the county fair for the past five years, going on to win top honors at the Wyoming State Fair in 2019.
The secret to their success is a lot of work and a dog that likes to listen and obey, Simeon said. Every day, rain or snow or shine, the two spend time practicing together. During the summer, they practice outside in the cool of the mornings. The work moves indoors once winter hits. The only time they don’t train together is during family vacations.
Simeon will be a sophomore when school starts, so he and Mac have several more years to compete together. The two are inseparable, according to his family.
“I like everything about him,” Simeon said of Mac. “He’s my little buddy.” They even sleep together.
Mac isn’t Simeon’s only canine companion and teammate, though. He also competes with Dixie the family corgi in the 4-H dog show. Poultry, cat and static exhibits round out Simeon’s 4-H pursuits.
Both 4-H and competing with dogs run in the family. Simeon’s mom and three older siblings have all done 4-H dog events, so Simeon’s education in dog training methods started early. The family even included Mac’s parents. When Mac was born at home between five and six years ago, Simeon claimed the puppy as his own.
Besides rally and obedience, Simeon and other members of the Hotdoggers 4-H dog club compete in agility, showmanship and conformation at the annual dog show. Agility demonstrates each dog’s ability to navigate obstacles while showmanship tests the handler’s abilities and conformation rates each dog’s physical characteristics according to breed standards.
Sophie Spicer was at the Sweetwater Events Complex on Thursday evening overseeing the dog show competition in her second year as superintendent. A former 4-H member, Sophie took over the 4-H dog program when she turned 19. She has been working hard to help rebuild the program and get more people involved, and she hopes to start her own 4-H dog club.
The 2020 Sweetwater County Fair is a scaled-down version with a focus solely on youth 4-H and FFA due to the coronavirus pandemic.
This year’s fair started Monday and has featured 4-H and FFA shows including static exhibits, dogs, poultry, rabbits, horses and livestock. Admission is free and community members have come out to support participants. The fair will conclude with the annual youth livestock auction at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 1, in the indoor arena. A 4-H and FFA awards presentation will begin at 1 p.m. Saturday in the indoor arena.