Tails of Seattle: A pets blog
Inside Westminster: A Q&A with Billy Wheeler, Part 2
Jelly, GCH CH Alpine's Highway Man, is pictured after winning a best in show in July 2011 with co-owner, breeder and handler Ed Thomason of Rochester, Thurston County. Jelly is 2011's No. 1 American Staffordshire terrier in breed points. Photo by Cook PhoDOGraphy / MyDogPhoto.com
Billy Wheeler is fast becoming a dog-show phenomenon. The Memphis, Tenn., blogger crafts his respected blog Dog Show Poop and writes a column for the new dog-show website Best in Show Daily. He talks with The Seattle Times in the first of a two-part Q&A before heading off to Madison Square Garden in New York for the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show on Monday and Tuesday. The evening competition will be televised each night beginning at 8 p.m. (PST). Wheeler will host an online chat room during the broadcasts.
Question: Aside from the standard-poodle competition, which you talked about extensively in your earlier post, which breed races are likely to be the most competitive and interesting to watch?
Answer: The whippet ring will feature two beautiful bitches with a rivalry spread over the past three seasons. GCH CH Starline Chanel is the winningest whippet in AKC history and finished last year as the No. 1 hound. Last year GCH CH Sporting Fields Bahama Sands was the No. 2 whippet, No. 3 hound, and the No. 20 dog all breeds, even though she competed in far fewer shows than the top two hounds.
Breeder-judge Geir Flyckt-Pedersen has never had the two in the same ring.
The previously mentioned American Staffordshire terriers, GCH CH Alpine's Highway Man, 2011's No. 1 AmStaff in breed points, pictured above, and GCH CH Castle Rock's Sbigstaff Mad About You, call name "Maddy," the No. 1 AmStaff in all-breed points, also have been going head-to-head for the past two seasons.
Here we have a powerful, imposing dog that exudes masculine breed type and a feminine, pretty dog that is equally typey.
Terrier legend Peter Green will sort it all out for you.
Question: Which group races are likely to be the most competitive and interesting to watch?
Answer: Each year I do a series of pre-Westminster posts, Whom to Watch at Westminster (WWW). This year I expect the Sporting Group to be the most competitive. I limited myself to just four dogs in the WWW posts, but I could have gone to six or seven in the Sporting Group.
Obviously, the 2011 No. 1 dog all breeds, the black cocker spaniel, GCH CH Casablanca's Thrilling Seduction, is a leading contender, but I also have the English springer spaniel, GCH CH Wynmoor Champagne Supernova, the German wirehaired pointer, GCH CH Mt View's Ripsnorter Sivler Charm, and the English setter, GCH CH Oakley's B'Dazzled, on my shortlist.
The black cocker spaniel Beckham is pictured above; photo courtesy of Westminster Kennel Club.
Question: Some of the dogs will be presented by their owners or breeders, many others by professional handlers. Often, it is the dog at the end of a professional handler's lead who wins the big prize. What does a handler bring to the ring that an owner or breeder can't, especially one who feels passionately about his/her own dog?
Answer: Professional handlers are just that, professionals. They condition, train, groom and present the dogs full time. Most of them started when they were children. Even the most experienced owner/handlers haven't put in the hours that the professionals have.
However, an experienced handler has two advantages: They often know their breed better than a professional handler who handles several breeds and they usually know their individual dog better. However, some of the top dogs being shown now are with their handlers 24/7, 365 days a year.
Question: Being selected to judge the groups and the BIS in the Garden is an honor. Cindy Vogels, of Greenwood Village, Colo., who made her mark with soft coated wheaten terriers, will be judging BIS this year. What does she bring to the ring?
Answer: Cindy has been "in dogs" since birth and is one of the most respected and liked judges in AKC. She is chairwoman of the AKC Canine Health Foundation and on the board of trustees of Take the Lead, a nonprofit that helps people in the sport of purebred dogs with life-threatening or terminal illnesses.
She only judged BIS three times in 2011, but one of our top contenders, 2011 WWKC Terrier Group winner, the Smooth Fox Terrier, GCH CH Slyfox Sneaks a Peek, pictured right, was one of her three BIS winners. I wouldn't put too much into that.
Question: Most of the judges in the rings have seen/judged some or all of the dogs they will be judging in New York. Knowing which dogs judges have selected or "put up" in the past should give us some idea how certain dogs may do in this year's competition. Does this keep some dogs home? Are these prior encounters likely to give you an inkling of how some races will go?
Answer: I have a couple of analogies here. One, dog shows are like figure-skating competitions. Talent always stands out, but it helps to have won a lesser title before. In figure skating you have American and European rivalries. In dogs, there is an East Coast/West Coast rivalry.
Two, all dog shows, like politics, are local. Even at the Garden, local dogs have a home-field advantage. It isn't as pronounced as it is at other shows, but it does play a role in some breed competitions.
Question: But lines can become blurred. Ally, the standard poodle, for example, is owned/sponsored by a New York couple, bred by Renton and Florida women, shown by a well-known Mill Creek poodle handler and has been shown mostly on the West Coast. Would she be considered an East Coast or West Coast dog?
Answer: And the answer is, that depends on how active the breeders or owners are in the sport. I think there is a reason we often refer to those behind the dog as Team Ally or Team London.
Question: Given the players in 2011 and so far in 2012, what is your fantasy BIS lineup and why?
Answer: I would like to see the dogs that have set records for their individual breeds this year: the black cocker spaniel, Beckham; the whippet, GCH CH Starline's Chanel; the Kuvasz, GCH CH Szumeria's Wildwood Silver Six Pence; and the bearded collie, GCH CH Tolkien Raintree Mister Baggins.
I finish it out with the Kerry blue terrier, GCH CH Perrisblu Kennislain's Chelsey; the Affenpinscher, GCH CH Banana Joe V Tani Kazari; and either of the two standard poodles.
In addition to paying homage to the breed record holders, I have been impressed with the Kerry blue every time I have seen her (It doesn't hurt that she is paired with handler Bill McFadden, who handled the greatest Kerry ever shown.)
The Affenpinscher, pictured below, has been a stand out on two continents and shows like a much larger dog. I don't think the beardie is entered, and would be happy to see the terrific German shepherd dog from Mexico, GCH CH Babheim's Captain Crunch, handled by the legendary Jimmie Moses, who is retiring soon.