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    Grovetown resident Barbara Dubois sits with Katira (left) and Cocoa, two of her four Peruvian Inca Orchid dogs. Fewer than 800 of the breed are registered by the American Kennel Club, putting Orchids among the world's rarest dogs.

    Barbara Dubois’ holiday plans are going to the dogs, and she couldn't be happier. 

    The Grovetown resident, who co-owns one of the world’s rarest dogs, recently traveled to Philadelphia to see the canine compete in the National Dog Show.  

    A two-hour taped TV broadcast of the show will appear on NBC on Thanksgiving Day immediately after the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. 

    The dog is a Peruvian Inca Orchid, known outside America as a Peruvian hairless because of its characteristic lack of fur. The earliest historical references to this ancient breed have been seen in decorated pottery samples dating to the Inca Empire. 

    Professional dog handler Bekka Pina poses Grovetown dog Calypso's Castaway, CM2, DCAT – Kitts for short – on the winner's platform at the Kentuckiana Cluster Dog Show in April 2023. Kitts is a Peruvian Inca Orchid, one of the rarest dog breeds in the world.

    The competing dog’s official pedigree name is Calypso Castaway, CM2 DCAT. The acronyms indicate that she’s earned two American Kennel Club certificates of merit and at least 500 points in AKC speed trials. 

    Around the house, everyone just calls her Kitts.  

    “We just have a good time going out showing them,” she said. Show judges "look to make sure the dog moves well. Does it have the right structure? Can they do what they’re bred to do? So it’s a lot more than just going around the ring and looking pretty. It’s not a beauty pageant.” 

    How rare is this dog? Rarer than yours. Only 768 are officially recorded by the AKC, and even that number might be inflated because there’s no simple way of knowing which of those registered purebreds have died.  

    Dubois became immediately intrigued by the breed several years ago during a church mission trip to Peru’s coffee region, where she saw a few of the unusual-looking animals roaming the streets. One of the indigenous names for the breed translates literally as “naked dog.” 

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    On a similar trip two years later, visits to Incan cultural sites got her completely hooked on Peruvian Orchids. Peru’s government passed a law requiring select national heritage sites to keep at least one pair of the dogs onsite. That decision often is credited with helping pull the breed from the brink of extinction. 

    “We were in Cuzco and they were everywhere. They just roam the streets there, but they’re people’s dogs. They had little sweaters on,” Dubois said. “I said, ‘That’s it.’” 

    Dubois imported her first Orchid, a 5-month-old female, in 2014. Orchids can be wary of strangers, but in a family setting, once the dogs bond with the humans in their new homes, “They are yours – and you are theirs,” she said. 

    “I just wanted a pet, a family dog. Then as I got more involved. I talked to the breeder and she said, 'You know, you could show her,’” Dubois said. 

    Dog shows in other cities and states soon became family outings. Even her children would participate in junior categories showing the small Orchid variety that can be half the size of a large Orchid, which typically measures 20-26 inches high from the ground to the highest point of the dog’s shoulder blade.  

    Dubois got the smaller male to give her children a dog of a more manageable size. Orchids possess a regal but taciturn bearing that makes them naturals for dog shows. However, you have to know what you’re doing – Orchids also are intelligent and protective. 

    One of Barbara Dubois' daughters cuddles with Cocoa, one of the family's four Peruvian Inca Orchid dogs. A tattoo of Cocoa appears on the girl's right arm. The breed bonds strongly with members of their home family.

    “They’re just a fun breed but they’re challenging,” she said. “You really have to have dog experience because they’re stubborn and they’re sensitive at the same time. They’re amazing family dogs but we don’t recommend them to everybody.” 

    A breed’s rarity often comes at a steep price for families in the market for a dog. Dubois’ puppies can cost between $1,000 and $3,000, but she said it’s less about profit and primarily about helping properly preserve an unusual breed’s genetic integrity. 

    For the price a customer pays, “you’re getting parents that are health-tested for genetics, hips, elbows, that kind of stuff, and you know they’re coming from champion bloodlines,” Dubois said.  

    Dubois’ schedule hardly slows down after the National Dog Show. She only owns females, and one of them is expecting a litter of pups on Dec. 16.

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