Canadian com­peti­tors strut­ting their stuff at West­min­ster

Ottawa Citizen - - YOU - CAS­SAN­DRA SZKLARSKI

Con­sider them the four­legged ver­sion of Team Canada.

More than 100 Canadian dogs com­pete this week at the ven­er­a­ble West­min­ster Ken­nel Club Dog Show in New York, where care­fully groomed pooches and pedi­gree ca­nines will strut their stuff in a bid to be named best in show.

The home­grown com­peti­tors in­clude record-hold­ing cham­pion Inuk, a snow-white 10-year-old from Cale­don, Ont., who heads into the com­pe­ti­tion as the top Amer­i­can Eskimo in Canada.

“When he walks in the ring he kind of (com­mu­ni­cates): I’m here, so all eyes on me,” his owner, Sharon Robert­son said of Inuk’s knack for per­for­mance.

This will be Inuk’s 10th ap­pear­ance at West­min­ster, where he’s pre­vi­ously won eight best in breed ti­tles and was awarded the ti­tle of “se­lect dog ” last year, for a sec­ond­place show­ing.

Robert­son, who’s been show­ing Amer­i­can Eski­mos for al­most 20 years, says she knew he was a cham­pion since she first saw him as a puppy.

“He was just one of those dogs that you spot an at­ti­tude, you spot — and it sounds dumb — but I call it ‘it.’ It’s just a quality that ev­ery time you look in the box and see six pup­pies that’s the only dog you see. And that was Inuk,” said Robert­son.

Cana­di­ans have had a solid track record at West­min­ster, the sec­on­dold­est con­tin­u­ous sporting event in the United States, af­ter the Ken­tucky Derby.

Canuck dogs have won best in show at Madi­son Square Garden six times, most re­cently Miss P the bea­gle in 2015.

Miss P’s handler, Will Alexan­der, re­turns this year to show eight pooches from the United States and Canada.

“Your whole year, this is what you strive for, mak­ing your dogs look good for this show,” Alexan­der said as he pre­pared for the trip from his home in Mil­ton, Ont.

“West­min­ster is sort of the Olympics of dog shows, right?”

The judg­ing pan­els, too, fea­ture a healthy Canuck con­tin­gent, with Van­cou­ver-na­tive Betty-Anne Sten­mark pre­sid­ing over the al­limpor­tant fi­nale.

Sten­mark, who moved to Cal­i­for­nia in 1975 af­ter meet­ing her hus­band at a dog show in Michi­gan, will be the fourth Canadian to judge the cat­e­gory, and the sec­ond Canadian woman.

She spent many years as an ex­hibitor and breeder, cul­ti­vat­ing a spe­cialty in Dandie Din­mont ter­ri­ers, but dis­cov­ered an eye for judg­ing in the 1970s.

“I was watch­ing this judge do a ter­ri­ble job with the breeds and I can re­mem­ber say­ing to my­self, ‘I can do as good a job as that,’” said Sten­mark with a chuckle.

But it’s not easy to be a judge. Qual­i­fi­ca­tions re­quire ap­pli­cants to have bred dogs, pro­duced cham­pi­ons, judged ap­pren­tice shows, and com­pleted ex­ams on anatomy and spe­cific breed stan­dards.

Sten­mark, who now lives in the Sierra Foothills, says she’s li­censed to judge about 130 breeds, in­clud­ing all breeds in the sporting, hound and ter­rier groups.

Gen­er­ally speak­ing, she’ll be on the look­out at West­min­ster for good breed­ing stock.

“When you’re faced with two lovely dogs be­fore you, you think to your­self, ‘I would be happy to have that dog at my house’ and that’s the one you choose. It’s sim­ply judg­ing the quality of the dog and its abil­i­ties to re­pro­duce and improve the breed with ev­ery lit­ter,” she said.

Other Canadian judges in­clude Pamela Bruce of Toronto; Stephen Dainard of Ni­a­gara Falls, Ont.; John Reeve-New­son of Toronto; and Canadian-born El­liott More, now of New Hamp­shire.

Then there’s hus­band-and­wife judg­ing team Michael and Rose­mary Shore­man, who head to West­min­ster for the first time, al­though they’ve judged all over the world.

“It’s a great show, it re­ally is,” said 73-year-old Michael Shore­man, who will be judg­ing 170 dogs over two days in the ter­rier, toy and non-sporting groups.

“Very of­ten Canadian dogs do very well. The Canadian breed­ers, in a lot of breeds are very strong,” he said.

Whit­tling some 2,800 dogs down to a sin­gle best in show win­ner is no easy task.

Sten­mark has judged at West­min­ster 10 times, but ad­mits the best in show cat­e­gory can come down to “a real lot­tery.

“The com­pe­ti­tion at that point is phe­nom­e­nal, and as a judge when you get to those seven dogs you can’t make a mis­take — they’re all good dogs,” she said.

“It be­comes more: Who’s re­ally on that day? Who’s out there seem­ingly want­ing it? And we’ll see what hap­pens.”

The West­min­ster Ken­nel Club dog show con­tin­ues Tues­day in New York City, with the best in show prize to be an­nounced Tues­day evening.


An Amer­i­can Eskimo dog named Inuk from Cale­don, Ont., has that elu­sive “it” fac­tor. Inuk has used it to good ef­fect in the world of ca­nine show­ing and breed­ing, where he’s emerged as a con­sis­tent top dog at the West­min­ster Ken­nel Club Dog Show over a decade of com­pet­ing.

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