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Lisa Unleashed: Newtown Kennel Club’s Community Roots 
At K-9 Challenge, October 8

Published: October 7, 2016

The genesis of this weekend’s Western CT K-9 Challenge started three years ago when Newtown Police Officer Felicia Figol’s new K-9 partner Saint Michael had just been donated to the department. Newtown Kennel Club (NKC) board member and town resident Pam Pearl came up with the idea of holding an event at the Second Company Governor’s Horse Guard (2GHG) to introduce the new K-9 team to the community as a fundraiser for the 2GHG.

With dozens of donated pizzas about 100 people came out on a Thursday evening in early October to watch a police K-9 demo and learn about Saint. He had recently been donated with the help of many local kennel clubs, including NKC, and grants from the AKC. The event was so much fun, the club, the Newtown Police Department, and the Friends of the 2GHG grew the event into the inaugural Western CT K-9 Challenge in 2015. Teams of K-9 units came out to tackle the obstacles and show off their skills.

This weekend, the second annual event has grown in scope to include fun, family events for kids, such as free tractor hay rides, pumpkin decorating, and a treasure hunt. There will also be stuffed Saint Michael dogs for sale by the Newtown Cadets and stuffed Chester the Cavalry horse as prizes for the treasure hunt. Also, the inaugural Cars & Colts Concours, with an emphasis on V-12 engines, will be held. There will be an exciting mix of Ferraris, Aston Martins, Lamborghinis, Pagani and the LaFerrari — the fastest and most expensive Ferrari ever built.

With major support from The Hometown Foundation, Inc, and presenting sponsor the Sferruzzo Family, and Newtown Veterinary Services, Turnpike Motors Autobody, and the Long Island Exotics Club, this expanded event promises not to disappoint. And there will be hot dogs, chips, water, and apple crisp for when you get hungry!


A Long History In The Community

But why this weekend for a NKC event? Traditionally, the club, founded in 1947, held a match dog show, one for practice for young puppies, novice handlers, and aspiring judges, this weekend. In the past, these matches were held at the Newtown High School field, the field at Reed School, and the 4-H grounds in Bethel. For many decades in the 20th Century, there were weekly Thursday night matches held in the gymnasium basement of Edmond Town Hall. Today, the club still hosts weekly dog show training classes on Tuesday nights in the same location from Labor Day to Memorial Day.

If you look further back into NKC’s history, you find a history of volunteerism. I remember days when we used to bring dogs to Fairfield Hills to visit with the patients. This was before the term “therapy dog” was widely known. Seeing the joy of the patients as they stroked soft coats, got puppy kisses, and talked with the owners about the different breeds of purebred dogs was one of the most memorable moments of my volunteerism with the club. That was back in 1987. Being able to give back to the community while involving the dogs was what attracted me to joining the club.

Before my time as a club member, the club held famous exhibitions at the Danbury Fair until 1981. After the Danbury Fair Mall opened, the club, for several years, hosted Dog Day weekends. The mall would empty the old fountain in the middle of the concourse and we would put on a mock dog show with a famous dog person to explain to the crowds about what the different dog breeds were used for throughout their history with man.

And of course, each year the club has held at least one and sometimes two annual all-breed dog shows in the community. For many years it was held at the Elephant’s Truck Flea Market in New Milford on Route 7. But as the years passed, and dog show venues became scare in the area, NKC and many other Connecticut kennel clubs had to move out of state to hold their dog shows. And because our annual fundraising event was so far away from our community, we lost some of our connection to our own community.

And so, three years ago, when Saint Michael was purchased and we all watched Officer Figol do her demo, while we munched on pizza, local Newtown residents came out to a large club event in our hometown. It felt good to be back in Newtown. I’m proud to volunteer with a club that continues its support of the Newtown Police Department K-9 Unit, and fundraises to preserve cavalry horses with a fun family event that educates about the importance of police K-9s and also the history and tradition of the 2GHG.

Lisa Peterson — lifelong equestrian, dog show judge and award-winning podcaster, communications professional and journalist — writes about horses, hounds and history at Reach her at


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