A Chilliwack dog is in the Big Apple this weekend vying for top spot in one of the most prestigious dog shows in North America.
Bella, a German shepherd, and her handler Courtney Penner landed in New York City today (Saturday) ready to compete in the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.
“Westminster is the Super Bowl of dog shows,” said Jody Duin, one of Bella’s owners. “In order to be able to go to Westminster, you have to be a champion.”
The year 2019 was a “banner” year for Bella.
“She far exceeded our highest expectations,” Duin said.
The young three-year-old dog had been shown countless times throughout 2018 and 2019 and during that time she won 18 best in show titles in B.C. and Alberta.
Each time she won best in show, Bella would receive points – the larger the entry of dogs in a competition, the greater the number of points a dog can earn. Bella garnered enough points and show wins to be given the title “Canadian grand champion” and “American champion,” pointing her in the direction of the 144th annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show this weekend.
Approximately 2,800 dogs from around the world will be competing this year. Bella is the only German shepherd from B.C.
She will start by competing Sunday morning in her breed along with 12 other German shepherds. If Bella wins, she will continue on to compete Monday in the herding group. If she’s successful there, she moves on to Tuesday night’s best in show competition.
It’s not an agility competition, but rather conformation where dogs are judged by how closely they are to the breed standard with evaluations on movement, structure and more.
Bella is owned by Duin, her daughter Parker, and Cortnie Partner of the U.S. She was bred by Woodside German Shepherds in Langley.
In New York, Bella is joined by Cortnie Partner, Courtney Penner, and the breeder. The Duins were unable to join Bella and will be tuning in from their home in Chilliwack throughout the weekend either by Westminster Kennel Club’s live streaming of the competition or via Facebook live video.
Despite all her success, Duin said Bella is as much a typical family pet as she is a show dog.
“For a dog that has done so much winning and is such a cool dog in terms of the show world, she’s also a regular dog,” Duin said. “She’s just like any other pet dog except she’s an athlete.”
Bella has a “village” of people who train her including her owners, breeder, handlers and fill-in or assistant handlers.
Duin’s seven-year-old daughter, Parker, showed an interest and ability to help train and condition Bella at an early age. The family has an active lifestyle and they enjoy biking and swimming with Bella to ensure she stays in prime condition.
“She’s wild and fun but also knows when to turn it on,” Duin said. “It’s very evident that she really does love [competing].”
So what’s next for this young German shepherd if she wins best in show at Westminster? Duin admits there’s not really anywhere else to go.
“In our sport, I think when a dog wins Westminster you probably retire on a high note,” she said.