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26 NH dogs hunting for a win at annual Westminster show

New Hampshire Sunday News

February 10. 2018 7:55PM
Kaboom the border collie, handled by Amber McCune of Bedford, was defending his championship title at the Masters Agility Championship at Westminster on Saturday, Feb. 10. (Courtesy)
Westminster on TV
The finals of the Masters Agility Championship at Westminster are televised Sunday from 2 to 4:30 p.m. on FOX.

Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show group and Best in Show judging is on live from Madison Square Garden on FS1 Monday and Tuesday, 8 to 11 p.m.

Doc the Saint Bernard from Barrington is "a big baby" who has starred in a beer commercial. Rose the Brittany from Manchester is a "country girl" who excels as a bird dog. And Cash the cairn terrier from Swanzey knows just when to "shine."

The three are among the 26 New Hampshire canines competing this year in the prestigious Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, which takes over Manhattan on Monday and Tuesday. The Big Apple truly goes to the dogs for the big event; hotels and even city buses cater to the canine crowd.

There are 2,882 dogs from all 50 states and 16 other countries competing for the chance to take home the coveted Best in Show trophy, which will be awarded live on TV on Tuesday night.

The competition is already underway. The fifth annual Masters Agility Championship at Westminster was held Saturday, with seven teams from the Granite State set to run.

Judging of the 201 breeds represented this year begins Monday. Dogs who win Best of Breed go on to compete in seven groups (hounds, toys, nonsporting, herding, working, sporting and terrier), and the group winners compete for Best in Show.

Doc Holliday, a 175-pound Saint Bernard, shown with his handler Michelle Cole of Barrington, was awarded Select Dog at last year's Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. This year they're back in the Big Apple and hope to do even better. (Courtesy)

It's the second trip to Westminster for Doc Holliday, whose show name is GCH Granite's I'm Your Huckleberry. The 3-year-old, 175-pound Saint Bernard was the only puppy in his litter, owner Michelle Cole of Barrington said, which means "he has been spoiled from the day he was born."

"He's a big baby," she said. "Just silly and goofy."

She knows they'll have stiff competition; they're going up against the No. 1 Saint Bernard in the country. But Doc is no slouch himself. Last year, the Westminster judge chose Doc as Select Dog, akin to a runner-up award.

Doc also has acting experience. He starred in a commercial for Tsingtao beer, playing a dog named Linda; he even has a bathtub scene.

Cole said being in Manhattan is a big change for Doc, who's used to running free on their six acres. But, she said, "He really does great with the excitement of the city. People literally swarmed him (last year) and wanted pictures with him when we were out and about."

At first, Doc wasn't so sure about riding the bus to the show, she said, but "he was a pro for the ride back to the hotel."

Dayle Reynolds of Swanzey is no stranger to Westminster; she's been there several times with her veteran show dog Chuck the cairn terrier. Chuck is retired now, so this year Reynolds is bringing Cash, a 2-year-old female cairn - GCH Stonebridge Race the Wind.

"Cash is sort of the feminine version of Chuck," Reynolds said. "She knows when to shine."

Reynolds said she's as excited this year as she was the very first time. "I don't think seeing your dog on the green carpet at Westminster ever gets old," she said.

Rose the Brittany and her owner/handler Donna Howe of Manchester are competing at Westminster for the first time. (Beth Adams/Candid Canine Photography)

It's the first trip to Westminster for Donna Howe of Manchester and her 2-year-old Brittany, GCH Omega's Yankee Sweetheart Rose. "Rose is 31 pounds of energy, intensity and speed," Howe said.

Rose "is a country girl" at heart and has never been to the big city, "so it will be interesting," she said.

The product of six generations of field and show champions, Rose is a talented bird dog and accomplished show dog. "She's the whole package," Howe said proudly. "And she lives up to her name. She's a total sweetheart."

The young dog "has gone beyond my expectations," Howe said. "I've bred some beautiful dogs over the years and just was never able to make it to the big show. To finally do this, it's kind of like a bucket list thing."

Rose isn't the only Brittany from the Granite State going to the big show. It's the third trip to Westminster for Maverick - GCHB Maple Brook's Great Balls Of Fire - and his owner, Peggy Aguiar of Bedford, is hoping this time's the charm.

Maverick the Brittany, owned by Peggy Aguiar of Bedford, is competing at Westminster for the third time. (Beth Adams/Candid Canine Photography)

The 6-year-old dog already has plenty of bragging rights. His titles include Bronze Grand Champion, Junior Hunter Advanced and Canine Good Citizen. He's also training to compete in agility, Aguiar said.

Among the New Hampshire dogs competing in Saturday's agility championship was Pink the cocker spaniel (MACH K-Line's Parti Like A Rock Star).

Her owner, Carolyn Hess of Nashua, said Pink is 12 inches tall and weighs just 15 pounds, but she's "very athletic, biddable and smart." Pink's favorite obstacle is the tunnel: "She's never met one she didn't like," Hess said.

When Pink is not competing, Hess said, she loves "hiking in the snow, daily walks with her dog friend Sammie, retrieving balls ... and patrolling the yard for squirrels."

Another agility competitor this year is Teddy the German shepherd from Newington. He's been training for four years, owner/handler Joyce TenHaagen said, and his favorite part of a competition is "knowing when the finish line is coming."

Teddy has titles in obedience and rally and is also training in scent work and tracking. "He is a huggable teddy bear who loves to swim and fetch balls," TenHaagen said.

Bedford border collies Notch and Kaboom are veterans of the Westminster agility competition; it's their third trip there in a row.

Last year, Kaboom won the event in his height category (24 inches). This year, owner Amber McCune said, "Kaboom is going to defend his winning title, and Notch is gunning for it!"

McCune has to request hotel rooms with two beds when she travels to competitions with "the boys."

"Kaboom likes a bed all to himself," she said.

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