Top Dog: Local canines vie for the title at Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show
These furry contestants will be vying for the title of top dog at the 142nd annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, which starts Feb. 10 in New York City.
The Westminster Kennel Club, established in 1877, is America's oldest organization dedicated to the sport of purebred dogs, and the show is the country's second-longest continuously held sporting event, behind only the Kentucky Derby. The first telecast was in 1948.
Watching the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show on TV
The compeition is from Feb. 10-13, mostly at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Here's where and what you can see on television:
• 2-4:30 p.m., Masters Agility Championship, Fox
• 8-10 p.m.,The Road to Westminster, Nat Geo World
• 8:30-5 p.m., Breed Judging, Junior Showmanship Preliminaries and Masters Obedience Championship, Fox Sports Go
• 1-4 p.m., selective coverage Breed Judging and Masters Obedience Championship, Nat Geo World
• 8-11 p.m., Group Competitions, FS1
• 8 a.m.-4 p.m., Breed Judging and Junior Showmanship Preliminaries, Nat Geo Wild
• 8-11 p.m., Best in Show, FS1
LOCAL CANINES COMPETING
Eastwood will get a lot of attention at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show as a participant in the meet the breed event on Feb. 10.
Hollee Russell, of Harrison City, with her Rottweiler Eastwood, at Bushy Run Battlefield in Penn Township last year. Eastwood is a grand champion, and is headed to the Westminster Dog Show in New York City.
Photo by Dan Speicher
The 3-year-old Rottweiler has been invited to mix and mingle with guests at the annual event. This will be her third year attending the show. Owned by Hollee Russell of Harrison City and handled by Jaime Scott, Eastwood and Scott have an amazing relationship.
"Eastwood will do anything for Jaime," Russell says. "Eastwood loves this show. She is very showy. And Westminster is the premier show, so I am always pretty excited about going there. There will be thousands of people there petting and touching her, and she will love that. She has the right temperament for that kind of attention."
Rottweilers are strong and protective and they also can be goofy and funny as well as kind and compassionate, Russell says.
"They are versatile," Russell says. "They want to please people."
Sally O'Neill remembers having an Irish setter as a child.
That's when her love for the breed began, and it continues to this day. The Lower Burrell resident will have two dogs — 6-year-old sisters Kennedy and Rooney — competing at Westminster on Feb. 13.
Kennedy (above) showed last year and made the final cut in the breed. This will be Rooney's first time competing as a champion at Westminster. O'Neill says this show is elite and being televised allows many people an opportunity to see what a high caliber event it is. She has been attending Westminster for eight years.
"I really enjoy time with the dogs," O'Neill says. "And you get to meet really nice people who share your love of animals, and who understand what goes into showing dogs."
Rooney, a 6-year-old Irish setter, is owned by Sally O'Neill of Lower Burrell, and will compete at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York City.
Rooney didn't like the show circuit at first, but she does now. If there is a time when O'Neill believes a dog isn't having fun she will stop showing the canine. She says showing dogs is good for children to learn about the care of an animal as well as responsibility.
A breeder, O'Neill says one of the keys is finding the right handlers. Haley Hesskew of New Castle is Rooney's handler and Brendan Coleman of West Virginia is Kennedy's handler.
"Haley and Brendan are wonderful," O'Neill says.
"Irish setters are energetic and loving and can also be couch potatoes," she says. "They are fun, cuddly dogs."
Striker, a 6-year old cocker spaniel, will receive an award at this year's show as the No. 1 sport dog. Owned by Regina Beinhauer of Peters (shown with Striker below) and Carolee Douglas, Striker will be competing for a second time at Westminster. He won his breed last year.
"Westminster is the place to be because there is a lot of electricity in the air, a lot of excitement," says Beinhauer, who will attend the show with her husband, Richard. "It is an honor to show your dog there."
Beinhauer, who has been breeder for over 30 years and has worked with rescues, credits handlers Mike and Linda Pitts, who will be with Striker at the competition on Feb. 13.
"There is a lot involved in showing dogs," Regina Beinhauer says. "I love it."
This will most likely be the last appearance for 7-year-old Zack, a bearded collie.
"We hope he goes out with a bang," says Ray Harrington of Peters, who co-owns the champion with wife Val and Scott Shafer. "We want him to defend his title."
This will be his fourth time at Westminster — he won the breed last year. His half-brother Willy, who turns 5 in March, will be competing this year too. Bearded collies are good with kids and they have great personalities and are good show dogs.
"Zack has the best attitude," Ray Harrington says. "He likes the competition, and he has formed a bond with his handlers."
He lives with his handlers, Katie and Adam Bernardin in Connecticut.
"Westminster has the history and is a most prestigious show of the year," Ray Harrington says. "It's professionally run and a place to meet amazing dogs and their owners, all who appreciate the dedication showing dogs takes."
Dog owner Ron Luster says attending Westminster should be on all dog lover's bucket list.
Cotton, a rough Collie, is owned by Ron Luster and his stepmother Heather Luster. Cotton, 16 months will be competing on Feb. 12 at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York City.
"The pure atmosphere of it and the excitement when you get there is worth making the trip," says Luster, of Jackson Township, who with his stepmother Heather Luster, co-own rough collies Lavender, 2½, and Cotton, 16 months, who will be competing on Feb. 12. "It is the best of the best. It is a once-in-a-lifetime experience."
The Lusters, who are the dogs' handlers, also groom and board dogs at L and L Kennels. Lavender (below) is Cotton's aunt.
"The better of a handler you are, the easier it looks," Ron Luster says. "But really it's not that easy. It takes a lot of time before you and the dog become comfortable with each other in that setting. It's our passion. But we get so much in return because the dogs give us unconditional love."
It is not uncommon for the owners to be packing up the car days in advance making sure they have everything from grooming tools to food.
"The dogs are used to being on the road," says Ron Luster. "But they can pick up if you are stressed so you have to stay calm and in control of your emotions. Happy dogs show better than concerned dogs."
One city. Three days of canine competition. Watch the #WKCDogShow beginning with the Masters #Agility Championship February 11th at 2pm EST on @Fox . Then, continue watching the Best in Group February 12th and Best in Show February 13th on @FS1 . pic.twitter.com/W3u6t0joOU— Westminster Dog Show (@WKCDOGS) January 26, 2018
JoAnne Klimovich Harrop is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-853-5062 or firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @Jharrop_Trib.