Best paw forward: Area canines at Westminster Dog Show

The Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, which kicks off Sunday at New York’s Madison Square Garden, will feature several entries from north-central Connecticut.

Heather Stimson of Windsor, Margaret Boisture of Windsor, and Joe McLaughlin of Somers are among those taking part in the show, second only to the Kentucky Derby among America’s oldest animal events.

The most senior of the bunch is one of McLaughlin’s English setters, an 8-year-old named Rhett Butler.

“He likes to have everyone look at him,” McLaughlin said this week. Not surprising for a dog who has won over 30 Best of Breed titles in his showing career.

McLaughlin began looking for his first show dog when he was 9 years old. He’s had five English setters, and he describes the breed as the gentlemen of the dog world.

Boisture’s dog is a Portugese Podengo Pequeno, a rare breed for the United States. His name is Tahtitaivaan, which means “Sky” in Icelandic, but she just calls him David. David has never placed at Westminster, but has done extremely well in other competitions, especially considering how rare his breed is.

Rare dog breeds have a harder time achieving high rankings in shows, Boisture explained, but David finished first in 2017 in the American Kennel Club’s owner-handler series.

Stinson’s dogs are the youngest of the bunch. Malna, a Hungarian Pumi, and Max, a Spanish water dog, are both 2½ years old.

Stinson says her mother used to enter dogs in show competitions. When she got older and one of her friends got into the competition, she figured she would join in the fun.

“I really just intended this to be a fun, part-time thing, and it snowballed,” she said.

While this will be Max and Malna’s first trip to Westminster, Stinson has been there four times with other dogs.

At least two other owners from north-central Connecticut will have dogs entered this weekend, according to the public relations firm hired by the show’s organizers. They are Angela McCalla of East Windsor, whose Belgian Malinois, named Russia, is taking part; and Carol Perkins of Manchester, entering her Shetland sheepdog named Lila.

About 3,200 dogs are expected to participate at this year’s edition of Westminster. Judging begins on Monday and will run through Tuesday.

As it happens, this year’s Best in Show winner will hold the title during the Chinese zodiac’s Year of the Dog, which begins a few days later.

The televised show centers on picking the top purebred dog from as many as 202 breeds and varieties at Madison Square Garden.

The Westminster show will be televised on various 21st Century Fox-owned channels. Some early rounds already have been streamed on the club’s website. Best in Show judging will be on FS1 Tuesday night.

Westminster has often drawn protests from animal-rights activists who oppose dog breeding, and show organizers this year are seeking to emphasize purebred fanciers’ commitment to dogs. A new award recognizes breed clubs for rescuing their breed’s dogs when needed: The first winners are clubs supporting the bearded collie, English cocker spaniel, and great Pyrenees.

Staff writer Anthony Branciforte contributed to this article, which also includes Associated Press reporting.

Originally published by the Journal Inquirer


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