| OUR WESTMINSTER DOG SHOW EXPERIENCE
The year was 1978 - a long, long time ago - but oh, what a year it was! All of the top dogs in the country were
preparing to go to "The Garden" - the Kentucky Derby of the dog show world - Westminster Kennel Club show at
Madison Square Garden in New York City.
It was a mere dream to even think about entering such a famous dog show and competing against the Nation's top
dogs, breeders, and professional handlers. But enter we did - the first and ONLY time Northgate has made the
decision to compete at Madison Square Garden - and it was truly a dream come true!
There were a total of 34 English Springer Spaniels entered in Best of Breed competition (compared to the total of
only 9 competitors after absentees for 2006). All of the biggest names in the English Springer Spaniel world were
there - Ch. Salilyn's Classic, Ch. Salilyn's Hallmark, Ch. Salilyn's Continental, Ch. Telltale Author, Ch. Felicia's
Bequest, Ch. Bordalyn's Behold, Ch. Somerset-Saga's Sirius - all of whom were Best in Show winners.
My foundation dog, my beloved Toby - American and Canadian Ch. Linbrook's Pound Sterling, was also there
proudly representing Northgate. Toby was to have been handled by the late Bobby Barlow, a professional handler
who was showing him at the time. But where was he? Back in the benching area I prepped Toby and got him ready
to enter the ring......judging time was rapidly approaching but Bobby was nowhere to be found. I was frantic!
Apparently Bobby was tied up with another dog in another ring and would not make it back to the springer ring in
time to show Toby. I would have to take him in and show him myself. I was completely unprepared for this! I came
dressed to spectate, not show - I had to quickly borrow a pair of shoes that were more conducive to running around
the ring than the heels I had on!
As I walked to the ring with Toby on the end of my lead, I was swept away with emotion as I looked around at all the
great, historically famous and important springers that were present in competition that day. Look in any springer
book and you'll see many of these names as the Great Ones - Ch. Salilyn's Classic,
Ch. Salilyn's Hallmark, Ch. Salilyn's Continental, Ch. Telltale Author......I was awestruck!
The time had come to enter the ring. Toby and I took our place in line - I purposely moved him near the back of the
line to give Bobby more time to make it to the ring before Toby was judged. Finally, it was our turn, still no Bobby
in sight. My heart was pounding! I moved Toby into position for the judge to examine - as I had done hundreds of
times before. We got through the examination, and then we had to gait. Whew, Toby performed beautifully! Still no
When the judge, Joseph Faigel, had completed his examination he stepped back and looked at his large group of
competitors. He began to make a cut - he narrowed his group by pulling some dogs to the center of the ring. Toby
and I were pulled - but I wondered - was this the good group or the losing group? I looked around, saw all the top
names in the center along with me, and breathed a sigh of relief - we made the cut!
Before Judge Faigel did anything further, Bobby arrived at ringside and politely asked the ring steward if he could
enter and take his place with Toby. The steward asked the judge for permission, it was granted. I felt as if the
calvary had arrived! I handed Toby to Bobby and quickly exited the ring.
The judge continued on with his decision making process. My heart was pounding as I stood alone at ringside - my
group of friends were sitting in their seats where I had planned to be before learning that I would have to show Toby
myself. The judge made a second cut and excused more dogs from the ring, Toby was still in contention. Finally
Judge Faigel had everyone remaining gait around the ring - he had made up his mind........I couldn't look.......a gasp
and a cheer went up from the crowd - Judge Faigel had pointed at Toby and Bobby! We won! We won Best of
Breed at Westminster KC!! I cheered, I cried, I jumped up and down in my borrowed sneakers!!
But the excitement wasn't over yet......now we had to wait until that evening to compete in the Sporting Group. But
there was a problem - Bobby had also won the Breed with his Vizsla, who he had been showing longer than Toby.
That meant he could not show Toby in the Group and would actually be competing against Toby with the Vizsla. We
had to find another handler. Bobby asked the well respected handler (and now AKC judge) Damara Bolte to handle
Toby in the Sporing Group that night. She agreed.
Evening came, judging time arrived, and this time I was in my seat with my friends watching the glorious sporting
dogs compete in the group. The judge was Mrs. Augustus Riggs IV. Her entry of Best of Breed dogs represented a
whopping 541 sporting dogs that had been entered that day. She could pick only four to win a group placement.
And pick she did! She placed a top winning Irish Setter first, another top winning Labrador Retriever second, then
she pointed to a beautiful black and white English Springel Spaniel proudly gaiting around the ring with his brand
new handler for third!! Bobby ultimately placed fourth with his Vizsla. Words cannot describe the range of pride,
love and emotions I felt when Toby took his position in third place to receive his Westminster Sporting Group
Toby - American & Canadian Ch. Linbrook's Pound Sterling - the founding sire of Northgate English Springer
Spaniels - he is behind every dog that we have bred - won Best of Breed and a Sporting Group 3 at the prestigious
Westminster Kennel Club dog show at Madison Square Garden! Toby became the first black and white English
Springer Spaniel in 17 years to win at The Garden. I was, and continue to be, so proud of him!
|Toby - Amer. & Can. Ch. Linbrook's Pound
|Toby in his Best of Breed photo at
Westminster KC dog show.
|Toby being shown in the
Sporting Group at The Garden.
|Toby pictured winning a Sporting Group 3
at Westminster KC show at Madison