In my last blog, I mentioned that Prescott Valley has its own Westminster Kennel Club Best of Breed winner, and that as soon as I could reach the owners, I would introduce to you the award winner! She is Grand Champion Michaleen's Song O'Morning Star, a Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier.
Soft Coated Wheatens are an Irish breed, sharing ancestry with Kerry Blue and Irish Terriers. The American Kennel Club website refers to them as "...an all-purpose farm dog, given to patrolling the borders of small farms, ridding them of vermin, herding sheep and hunting with his master."
AKC states that Wheatens tend to be less scrappy than other terriers, but they are active, adaptable, and do well with children and varied living situations.
You'll see by the attached photos that they are also pretty doggone cute, kind of like a big "Benji."
Pat Weir bred "Candy" in Illinois, and co-owns her with Doreen Gordon, who splits her time between Prescott Valley and Phoenix. Candy will now retire with Gordon, who has planned a litter of pups with a male she owns that was also a top-winning Wheaten in his show career.
Gordon, who is an AKC dog show judge herself, describes what it takes to get a dog to Westminster. "A lot of work, and a lot of money!" Handler Alison Sunderman showed Candy at Westminster.
Gordon said she might continue to show Candy occasionally, but not in an extensive campaign.
"She's done what she can do as far as winning. We're extremely proud of her," Gordon said.
Gordon had planned to attend Westminster, but her husband wasn't feeling well, and she knew that there was stiff competition in the breed ring, so she didn't necessarily feel that Candy would win.
"The top three Wheatens in the country were there. I thought any one of them could win," she said. "One of the dogs was one that I put up in Palm Springs!"
Early on Valentines Day, the first day of Westminster 2011, Gordon's phone kept ringing. She didn't answer because she had another dog that wasn't feeling well, and she was focused on the animal's condition. She wasn't thinking about the show in New York.
"But the phone kept ringing," Gordon said. "I finally answered it, and the handler said, 'Don't you answer your phone? Your dog just won Best of Breed at Westminster!' I was so excited, jumping around the house. This is one of the most prestigious shows there is."
The Westminster Dog Show website carries video of the judging of every breed, and Gordon was able to watch it online and see Candy.
"They showed a lot of her, it was very fun," she said.
Then, she and her husband settled in for the group judging on television that night.
"I hoped she would do something but I know the judge, and he kind of goes for the smaller terriers. But (Candy) looked gorgeous. She couldn't have shown any better. It was fun to watch her on a large TV - it was almost like she was here."
Gordon, who shares her home with five dogs, and has shown top winning poodles and Bouviers as well as Wheatens, said she was extremely proud watching Candy in the group. "Seeing her, it's almost like an extension of yourself," she said.
She stressed that many people have misconceptions about show dogs, but the truth is that most show enthusiasts treat their dogs like part of their families.
"Our dogs are like our children. People don't understand why we put them in crates at shows and when we travel. It's the safe way to travel and contain them at the shows. I have two daughters, and I love them and my dogs just as well. They are part of my life," she said.
If that's the case, then after Westminster 2011, Gordon is one very proud Mom.