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Lake Erie’s Hidden Gem (And Do You Believe in Miracles?)

On the shores of Lake Erie, approximately 100 miles east of Cleveland, Ohio, and 100 miles west of Buffalo, New York, sits a hidden “gem” of a city in the Northwest Corner of Pennsylvania.

Erie, Pennsylvania, is the fifth largest city in the state, with a population of just under 100,000 residents. It is one of the more historic port cities on the shores of Lake Erie. Because of its status as the home port city of Oliver Hazard Perry’s flagship, the USS Niagara, it is also known as a “Flagship City” and has also been called “The Gem City” because of Lake Erie’s sparkling appearance in the daylight.

Erie is a diversified city of industry, education, arts and entertainment, and tourism. In 1972, it won the “All-America City” award. Also, 40 years later in 2012, Erie hosted the “Perry 200,” a commemorative event celebrating 200 years of peace between Britain, America, and Canada following the war of 1812 and the Battle of Lake Erie.

The city is also home to semi-professional and professional sports teams in baseball, ice hockey, football, and soccer, as well as numerous sporting opportunities throughout the various seasons, including “ice fishing” in the winter months.

While growing up in Northeast Ohio, I had several relatives who lived in Erie and our families would get together on occasion. One of our favorite places to visit was the Waldameer Amusement Park, opened in 1896 and still in operation today as the tenth oldest amusement park in the country. I have many fond memories from visits to the park with my cousins.

Another special area to visit on our trips to Erie was the Presque Isle State Park, a National Natural Landmark that surrounds downtown Erie.

In 2007, the Bayfront Convention Center, which is surrounded on three sides by Presque Island Bay, opened to the public. The center, which was constructed in the shape of the front end of a sailing vessel, is a huge, modern, and well-lit facility that won the 2008 Build America Award from the Associated General Contractors of America.

 

The Erie Kennel Club

The only all-breed kennel club in the city is the Erie Kennel Club, which was incorporated in 1906. It is the 10th oldest all-breed member club of the AKC and one of the oldest kennel clubs in the state. Throughout its history, the Erie club has had numerous sites and dates on which it held its shows.

When the opportunity arose for the Erie Kennel Club to relocate its shows to the Bayfront location with new dates in late January, they took a leap of faith, hoping the winter dates would not be a hindrance to success.

January in Erie can be very unpredictable, with average high temperatures of 35 degrees and lows in the low 20s, with as much as 30-plus inches of snow during the month.

The date change and relocation to the Bayfront proved to be a wise move for the club. Even though the shows are a two-day, stand-alone weekend, they can boast many great things about their shows.

The Show Chairman is Jeanne Stiner, with Janet Agresti-Norman serving as the Assistant Chair along with heading up Obedience and Rally. These two ladies do a fantastic job in every sense of the word. First, they had an amazing vendor corridor with over 30 separate vendors. They also offered a great and busy “meet the breeds” area for the spectators to attend. Spectators were in abundance and the rings were often 5-10 deep with people watching and learning.

Erie Kennel Club
Walter Sommerfelt and Jeanne Stiner at the Erie Kennel Club Show

The Saturday show had an entry of 1,140 while Sunday boasted 1,170, with both days also having 46 entries in the 4-6 Month Beginner Puppy competition.

Many breeds had major entries and the quality was evident throughout the Breed and Group rings.

Another added benefit is that the Bayfront Convention Center sits between the Marriott and Sheraton hotels, which are connected so that attendees do not have to go outdoors to get to the center. Both hotels allowed dogs, and this sure added to the convenience for the exhibitors.

This club went the extra mile to provide the judges and exhibitors with comfort. The show is also becoming well known as the “Chocolate Show” as most of the prizes are various baskets and other types of chocolate from the local chocolatier, Romolo Chocolates.

The NOHS classes were strong and the Groups were also very competitive. There is no doubt that the Erie Kennel Club shows are proof that well-run, two-day events can be successful. I have been fortunate to be on the panel there several times through the years, and they just keep getting better. Hats off to Jeanne Stiner and her crew!

Gallery

 


 

Do You Believe in Miracles?

You may recall a couple of months ago that I informed the fancy that multiple Group Judge David Anthony was entering the hospital for a stem cell/bone marrow transplant to treat his rare form of cancer myelofibrosis.

Going into the hospital, David was told that at the very best his chances for recovery were less than 50 percent and that the treatment would take about three months, and at times, would be so painful and agonizing that he would be suffering greatly. Undeterred and with the love and support of his wife Deb, son Seth, and many friends, he decided to undergo the treatment.

Having stayed in contact with both Dave and Deb, I can attest that the treatment was no “walk in the park.” However, I recently received the following message from Dave for which I am happy he has given me permission to share with everyone:

My son Seth posted this today:

Over the last couple of years, I’ve shared less and less on social media, becoming a much more private person. But, today truly deserves some sharing.

In 2021, my father was diagnosed with myelofibrosis, a serious and rare form of blood cancer. His prognosis was extremely poor. After a year of drug trials, the doctors decided that the only chance for survival would be for him to undergo an allogeneic stem cell transplant. Essentially, they would replace the cancerous stem cells in his system with non-cancerous ones. The procedure is incredibly risky and requires a close genetic match for a donor. Essentially, I was the only option.

Of course, his health had deteriorated from the cancer over the ensuing year as well.

Throughout November of 2022, I traveled back and forth to Pittsburgh for testing. In early December, I spent a day at the hospital and donated stem cells in hopes of saving my father’s life. A week later, my father received the transplant.

The only way to describe the enduring days is a personal hell. While I understand what my father went through, I cannot imagine experiencing it myself. He spent the holiday season in the hospital, each day bringing more challenges and a little less hope. I continued to travel back and forth to Pittsburgh as I was able, to see him. During this time, my mother remained in Erie taking care of the dogs, and making similar journeys to be with him as we could. He spent many a lonely night confined to a hospital bed, without his family and his beloved Corgis.

Shortly after the New Year, things started to look up. He was discharged after 37 days in the hospital. We thought we were through the worst of it. Then, due to his decimated immune system, he picked up an infection that put him back in the hospital only 72 hours after he had left. The doctors weren’t sure what was happening, and fear again consumed us. Five days later, he reemerged, weakened but recovering.

He and my mother have been staying at the Family House across the street from the hospital while follow-up testing is completed. They will likely be residents there for another 90 days or so.

Thirty days following the transplant, the doctors took a detailed biopsy of my father’s bone structure. The results finally came back today.

Friends, my father is cancer-free.

It is truly a miracle of modern medicine. He no longer has any stem cells of his own. They have been entirely replaced by my stem cells. Most importantly, they have started reproducing and reinvigorating his body. He still has a long recovery ahead as his immune system recovers. But, he stared down the devil and said, “Not today.”

For most, today is just another Thursday.

For me, it’ll forever be the day that my father received a second chance at life.

In the words of my friend Tom Miller—“Make it a good day.”

What a fantastic tribute to his dad and the miracle of modern medicine. During a time when it seems we have lost so many friends, it is truly refreshing to know his sacrifices, the doctors’ knowledge, and all of our many prayers will keep Dave among us for hopefully many years to come.

As we all know, there is no guarantee of tomorrow. Be sure to let those close to you know just how much you love and care about them.