Your Pets & Mine: Tales from the Westminster Dog Show
You’ve seen those fancy dog shows on TV. The biggest one is the Westminster Dog Show held at Madison Square Gardens in New York City. For dog fanciers, it is the pinnacle of dog show experiences. I have had an entry at “the Garden” for about 25 years but this is the first year I managed to get there myself.
Okay, so we did tour Times Square and I did shop at Macy’s, but who cares, when I had dogs entered at Westminster? Even the Empire State Building was decked out in purple and gold lights to celebrate this premier dog show event.
Many people ask me what we do at dog shows. “Do the dogs do tricks or are they judged on looks?” There are many types of dog events. Agility is the fast-paced sport where the handler directs the dog over jumps and through tunnels and other obstacles. Obedience is the strict sport based on military training such as precision heeling, sit, stay and recalls, sometimes over jumps. Rally obedience is a new, more casual, fun sport in which the dogs do certain actions at each station throughout a course. Hunt tests, herding tests, ratting tests all exist to test whether dogs have the instinct to do the work they were originally developed to do.
The dog shows I compete in with my dogs are strictly "beauty contests" but there are more to them than just looks — the dogs are being evaluated to see if they are of sufficient quality to be breeding dogs.
And they win! This year at Westminister we had three Tollers and a Finnish Spitz entered. The Finnish Spitz, Am/Can Champion Pikkinokka’s Bdgr Sir Barksalot was once again declared Best Finnish Spitz.
The Tollers were the nail-biters though. We had three of the 13 entries and placed with two of them. I did not show but watched the dogs being handled by others — two professional dog handlers and one proud new owner. That was the highlight of the show for me. In the capable hands of my new friend Lara Birgisdottir from Iceland, Am/Can Ch Pikkinokka’s Nice Try Avatar was shown to a Judge’s Award of Merit win, which is the same as second runner-up in the breed. It was Lara’s dream to show a dog at Westminster so it was even more exciting to see her accept the judge’s ribbon.
Try who is a son of Paint, the Toller who lives with Jason and Susan Rogers of Nakusp, went on from this win in New York City to become the first Toller to live in Iceland. Lara is now waiting for us to send her a Toller female to establish the breed in this remote island country.
Promoting our dogs is another reason for going to such a prestigious show. We talked to many prospective puppy buyers — we even found a great home for one of our puppies with a teacher looking for a therapy dog to work in schools in New York City.
And I was excited to be interviewed by the Wall Street Journal digital news and The Five, a Fox network news show.
Whenever I go to a show I also try to coordinate puppy deliveries. This time, when I flew across the continent, I took a female Duck Toller to a buyer in Virginia who was looking for a performance puppy for agility, hunting and obedience.
As well, I met a new puppy buyer who flew all the way from Spain to pick up my pick of the litter male, an absolutely gorgeous, chunky Toller boy who will do a ton of winning at dog shows in Europe. The buyer knew next to no English and I know less Spanish, so we did rely on New York’s famous front desk clerks to help us with communication. While I was writing out the sales contract and recording the address of the new buyer, he pointed to his address and in halted English he said, “This address, this is now your home in Spain.”
In the end, that is why I do this. I do this to breed awesome dogs which are my ticket to the world, my link to friends who speak “dog” all over the world.