February is a very special month for several reasons!
Not only do we celebrate Valentine’s Day, but also it’s time for the annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, the nation’s second-longest continuously running sporting event.
Only the prestigious Kentucky Derby has been staged longer – but just by one year.
This year’s event, the club’s 142nd dog show, will be held Feb. 12-13 in New York City. Daytime judging will be held at the Piers on Monday and Tuesday, with evening judging held at Madison Square Garden.
Internationally respected judge Betty Anne Stenmark, a Dandie Dinmont breeder and terrier expert, will select Best in Show from a field of 2,882 entries as the show ends on Tuesday night.
On Saturday, Feb. 10, the 5th Masters Agility Championship and Meet the Breeds will be held at Piers 92-94, while the Masters Obedience Championship is scheduled for Monday morning, also at the Piers.
Great Dane fancier Rachel Wilson, a Rhode Island resident who trains at the Wampanoag Kennel Club in Acushnet, is excited to be exhibiting her first champion, Ch. Davisdane Ducktor Drakken I Presume BN, RN, at the prestigious event in New York.
Wilson, the president of Great Dane Rescue of New England, owner-handled the three-year old black and white canine to the dog’s championship in limited showing.
“I had to travel far to finish him,” Wilson said, adding that it’s often difficult to find competition in the large breed. She adds that Drakken is halfway to earning a Grand Champion title.
According to Wilson, a dog must have earned its championship or earned a major (a block of three of more points at the same show) to compete at “the Garden.”
She explained that the five top ranked dogs in each of the 192 registered breeds are eligible to compete.
“Most of the dogs entered in the show are handled professionally,” Wilson said, adding that she’s thrilled to be exhibiting at the show and plans to enjoy all the sights, scents and sounds associated with the spectacular event.
The dog fancier says that although she’s been exhibiting in obedience for a decade, Drakken is her first show dog and conformation champion.
“It’s not as easy as people think,” she admits. “It takes a lot of work.”
Wilson says that a dog’s conformation — his overall appearance and structure — is an indication of the dog’s ability to produce quality purebred puppies, and that is what is being judged in the ring.
That’s why mixed-breeds and spayed or neutered purebreds are not eligible to compete.
Many times a new exhibitor will get started in dog shows by finding a mentor, usually the breeder they acquired their puppy from. Many AKC clubs, such as the Wampanoag Kennel Club, also offer handling classes to teach owners how to present their purebred dog to a judge at a dog show.
Since prestige comes at a high price, Wilson expects the Westminster event to be an expensive adventure. A show entry costs $100, and a hotel costs $300 per night, not to mention the cost of parking, gasoline, food and other expenses.
“It’s a privilege to be there,” she said. “This is the best of the best. People come from all over the world to be at Westminster.”
Wilson says that while she’s enjoying the dog show, her husband Jeffrey will be at home caring for nine Great Danes.
“I hope to do it again in 2019, too,” Wilson says, adding that she’d like to keep entering Westminster and hopefully will someday will a Best of Breed rosette.
For more information about the Westminster Kennel Club, visit the web site: www.westminsterkennelclub.org.