The Roaring Fork Valley may treasure its dogs, but it’s not every day a local canine is invited to the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.One Woody Creek terrier and his owner, Pamela Levy, have left for New York, where Monday and Tuesday they’ll seek awards on a national scale. Westminster is highly regarded as the largest and most prestigious dog show in the United States.Tucker is an Australian terrier who is two-and-a-half years old and whose show name is Benayr Nessun Dorma. Already in 2005 he has traveled around the country with various dog shows and handling classes.In those shows he has beaten more Australian terriers than any other dog, which means he currently enjoys being the No. 1 dog of his breed in the country.
Levy actually got into dog shows by way of cats. She bred cats for many years before deciding she might like to own a dog.”I wanted something not so fragile, something small that I could put on an airplane with me and something stocky and sturdy enough to hike with my husband and I,” she said. Her list of requirements also included a dog that doesn’t shed, a small dog with a “big-dog personality that didn’t yap at every little tiny thing and its shadow.”After doing a lot of research, she came across Australian terriers, which came from England and were taken to Australia, where they were used to help clear land by killing snakes. But they were also known to be friendly around children.Levy found a breeder in Washington, Susan Bentley at Kennel Benayr, where she got her first Australian terrier, Emme. On a whim, Levy took Emme to a dog show in Denver, where her new dog picked up multiple blue ribbons.”I was bitten – I thought, ‘wow, this is really fun,'” Levy said. “Before I knew it I was learning more and taking handling classes.”
But Emme was the sort of local dog who enjoyed climbing fourteeners more than being in the show ring. Levy kept her eye out for the “next great dog,” and bought Tucker when he was 12 weeks old from the same breeder in Washington.And sure enough, Tucker was tucking away the championships by the time he was 9 months old. Just this year Levy and Tucker have been to Palm Springs, Fla., Tampa, Fla., Portland and Alabama with various dog shows and handling classes.Because he is considered No. 1 in his breed, he was invited to the Westminster Dog Show. The show is at Madison Square Garden in New York City on Monday and Tuesday.Tucker first will be up against other Australian terriers. If he wins best in breed, he must compete with all of the dogs from the terrier group, and if he wins that, he can move on to the best in show competition.Dogs are judged on very specific characteristics based on their breed – everything from where their ears and eyes are to the dimensions of their muzzle to the tops of their head.
“Tucker is really fun at home, but he’s also kind of aloof,” Levy said. “He’s an observer, not a participant.”Levy says she capitalizes on that by making sure Tucker watches as she trains one of her three other Australian terriers, Emme, Ryder or Tory, because she knows he’ll pay attention.Tucker’s handler is Gabriel Rangel – Levy said he’s one of the best handlers in the world. The Westminster Dog Show will be aired live on the USA network Monday and Tuesday. For more information, visit http://www.westminsterkennelclub.org.Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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