BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - The Coast Convention Center bustled with thousands of canine companions during the weekend.
The annual Gulf Coast Classic Dog Show took up residence in several of the halls for a few days of serious competition.
For some, like Janet Atkins, all it takes is that first competition. Twenty-five years ago Atkins got a bearded collie, entered it in a show and never turned back.
"I was hooked," said Atkins.
Now, Atkins and her award-winning pups Mickey and Mee Mie travel the circuit. The dog shows not only promise Atkins quality time with her furry pals, but they also offer a different type of companionship.
"You get to meet a lot of friends, you get to travel a lot of places," said Atkins.
But the traveling and showing don't come without their share of commitment. Brandt Moore and his girlfriend, Michelle Kurts, both come from dog showing families.
"It takes a lot of work and dedication to animals," said Moore.
While noting that it becomes a way of life, Kurts says that you can't forget that the dog your showing is also a pet.
"They've got to be loved, you can't just keep them in a cage all day. So you'd take them out, play with them, train them, lots of training," Kurts said.
Kathie Short, who has been in the dog show rounds for nearly 30 years, organizes the multi-day show. Short says the experience is worth the time.
"You fall in love with the dogs, you fall in love with the people. It's a lot of work to put on a dog show," said Short.
That work brings thousands to the coast every year, an economic impact Short says can't be overlooked.
"So we fill up the hotel rooms, restaurants, gas stations, Walmart," said Short.
And it's not just dog handlers and competitors that frequent the shows. Arnie & his wife Kerry from Ocean Springs come just to watch. They have dogs of their own, but are more interested in observing the competition.
"Good way to spend a couple of hours with your kids, quality time, free of charge, educational, what more could you ask for," said Kerry.
According to Short, the 2015 turnout was an improvement from the previous year. The Gulf Coast Classic even saw the top AKC dog in the nation competing for a title.