A Seymour woman and her dog accepted for Westminster
Susie Rohr and her Barbet, Harper, have participated in dog shows in Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Florida and South Carolina.
After this weekend, they can add New York to their list.
Woman Seymour and her 4 year old French water dog will take part in what is often referred to as the World Series or Super Bowl of dog shows, the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.
Founded in 1877, the Westminster Kennel Club is the oldest American organization dedicated to dog sport and hosts the iconic dog show for all breeds. The show is the second longest continuously staged sporting event in the United States and, since 1948, has been the longest nationally televised live-action dog show, according to westminsterkennelclub.org.
The annual dog show – a conformation competition for purebred dogs – and the Masters Agility Championship and Masters Obedience Championship – where dogs from all walks of life are eligible to compete – make Westminster Week with its nearly 3,000 dogs a USA and around the world a top dog lover experience.
Normally, the show takes place inside New York’s Market Square Arena. However, due to state COVID-19 regulations impacting the allowed number of event attendees, the 2021 Westminster events will be held outdoors at the Lyndhurst Mansion in Tarrytown, New York, and it won’t. there will be no spectators or vendors.
The show will still be on TV, and parts of it will be live. Judging for the junior show, race and group will take place Sunday on Fox Sports, and the final Best in Show competition kicks off at 8 p.m. Sunday on Fox.
Rohr is thrilled because Harper is entering the show as # 1 in her breed and run by owner based on points earned in American Kennel Club shows this year. She travels there with Harper’s breeder, Stacy Able of Indianapolis, who also had a trained dog.
“I hope to meet more people. There are a lot of people who are nice to dogs. We all get a little crazy when you start talking about dogs. At least there they speak my language, ”Rohr said with a laugh.
Rohr said the top five dogs of each breed receive automatic entry to Westminster and that Harper was No.7 last year. This year, however, she is the best Barbet among the six who will be at the show.
If Harper wins the Best of Breed award, she will compete in the Best of Opposite Sex against other sport dogs. Once the winning sport dog is chosen, it will go into the Best of Show against work, breeding, toy and other categories of dogs.
All breeds will be broadcast live online at westminsterkennelclub.org (Harper will air at 10:30 a.m. Sunday) and the sports ring will be televised on Fox Sports.
“I’m not holding my breath, but everyone has a chance,” Rohr said of Harper advancing in the competition.
Although Rohr did not compete with Harper in shows until 2018, Barbet was not a breed fully recognized by the AKC until 2020, she said. Before that, they were in a miscellaneous category as there were not many in the country.
“We haven’t had a lot of shows, and you get what you call a certificate of achievement. You are not a champion when you are a diverse dog, ”Rohr said.
In 2020, however, Barbet became a member of the sports division. It is a sport dog that is bred to hunt and retrieve game in swamps, which is why Barbets have a lot of hair.
“It’s an ancient breed, from the 16th century,” Rohr said. “Like many dogs in Europe, most of them almost died after WWII, and people worked to bring them back.”
Rohr hasn’t worked with Harper for too long, but she took a long hiatus from dog training before getting back to it.
“I’ve always loved dogs and horses, but I lived in town and wasn’t going to have a horse,” she said of her youth. “I was in seventh grade, and a farmer friend of my dad’s, you know how they just have farm dogs, he had a litter of cockers, and he gave me a blond cocker spaniel, and that was my dog. and I joined 4 -H and started to train.
She continued through most of her high school education, attending the Jackson County Fair each year and attending the Indiana State Fair one year.
Then she took some time until her children, Alec and Libby, joined the Waggin ‘Pals 4-H Club. In 2006, she became a club leader and began helping children train dogs.
“Ever since I’ve been in 4-H all these years, it stuck with me, and it was something that I really liked,” she said.
Libby started training a second dog, and when the first one died, Susie wanted another purebred dog to train herself. She initially wanted a Portuguese Water Dog, but as she continued her research she came across Barbet, learned that there were only 600 in the United States, and found a breeder in Indianapolis.
“I went to meet the breeder and I interviewed him and I thought, ‘I don’t even know if I will have one, because they are not cheap,” Rohr said. “Then she called me and brought a family back, and she said, ‘I need a home for a companion puppy to be shown. I was like, ‘OK, I think I can do this.’ “
Rohr passed the test and became the owner of Harper. At first, she asked a family friend, Izzy Smith of Seymour, to show the dog. At 9 months old, Harper won her first show.
By the time Harper was 2 years old, Rohr felt ready to train her in obedience.
Harper went on to win conformation, which is like showmanship in 4-H where the judge also judges the handler. The handler makes sure the dog is stacked correctly and obedient as it trots around a rectangular ring.
“I’ve been doing it since, and I caught the virus, as they say,” Rohr said with a smile.
The dog is also judged on accepted standards for its breed.
“When you’re in the ring at a dog show, you’re a bit of a competition with other people, but you’re really competing with a piece of paper. That’s what I always say, ”Rohr said. “They want to choose who best represents the standard of this breed.”
It helped that Rohr started working with Harper at a young age and the dog was a natural in the ring.
“I’m lucky it’s natural,” Rohr said. “She’s sassy. She loves to show off. I saw other dogs and they tell me “No, I’m not doing this today”. She loves it, which makes it easier for me.
In mid-March 2020, Rohr and Harper were participating in a large four-day dog show in Louisville, Ky. When the COVID-19 pandemic ended.
“On Friday she got her last point to become champion and then the show stopped, so she got her championship just in time,” Rohr said.
Then there were no shows until the fall and winter, and most were in the southern United States because those are the first states to reopen.
Recently, Rohr and Harper competed in Indiana at Kokomo and Crown Point as well as Ohio.
“We’re starting to open them again,” she said of the shows. “At least I don’t have to drive that far.
Driving in New York for Westminster, however, will be an exception. It doesn’t bother her since it’s such a prestigious show.
Over a month ago, she received an email informing her that her application had been approved, but then she had to go through an AKC audit. Eventually, she received a confirmation email and her tickets in the mail.
“It’s so wild because he’s my first show dog,” she said of Harper. “It helps that she’s a rare breed. … It’s in my favor, but for this to be my first show dog and never done (Westminster) before, it’s like, ‘Wow!’ ”
On the Web
For more information, visit westminsterkennelclub.org or americanbarbet.org.
Dog breed: Barbet
Age: 4 years
Weight: 49 lbs
AKC name: GCH CH Ginkgo de Ellis Lexington CM2 BN RI TKN CGC
Owner / manager / trainer: Susie Rohr de Seymour
Breeder: Stacy Able from Indianapolis
Groomer: Izzy Smith from Seymour