Concord Township dog to appear in Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show
May 6—A 4-year-old dog from a Concord Township farm will travel to New York City this month for her second consecutive appearance at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, in what her owner expects to be her final entry before she retires from conformation events.
Female Greater Swiss Mountain Dog Sage will be competing on May 9, said owner Lisa Van Driest-Gable. Sage has received national recognition in her nearly-four year career, including the recent title of Gold Grand Champion from the American Kennel Club.
"We're excited to go again this year," Van Driest-Gable said, noting that Sage did not place at last year's show.
She said that during the conformation event in which Sage will be competing, the dogs will be judged by how well they meet the AKC's standard for their breeds.
"Their height, their weight, their neck length, their head, everything is very specific," she said. "And when you go into the conformation ring, the judge's responsibility is to interpret what he sees as the best dog in the ring to the breed standard."
Van Driest-Gable noted that she had no experience with dog shows prior to purchasing Sage.
"We have a farm, and one of the main interests I had in the Greater Swiss breed was that their origin is farm-related," she said. "I wanted a majestic dog that would be the guardian to our farm but still is very much a family companion, and she fits that perfectly."
Though she started taking Sage to local shows "just for fun," the canine "started winning and just kept winning." She eventually began to compete in AKC shows, which her owner said "was a huge learning process."
In order to receive Gold Grand Champion status from the AKC, Sage had to receive 400 points at various shows.
"We have traveled, the last three years, from Florida to Massachusetts multiple times, back and forth, to achieve the 400 points for her Gold Grand Championship," she said, later adding, "We bought a new vehicle, and within a year we had, like, 50,000 miles on it."
Van Driest-Gable estimated that she "invested two to three hours a day" walking and training the 100-pound dog. The canine also underwent obedience training.
"We have handlers, professional handlers that present her in the classes, and I spend a lot of time conditioning her," she said.
In addition to receiving the Gold Grand Champion status, Sage also finished as the second-ranked female in her breed for the 2022 AKC National Championship.
This year's Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show is set to include 19 Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs, noted a March 21 news release from the club, among more than 3,000 entries from 210 breeds.
"It would be an honor to have Sage recognized as one of the ribbon-participating entries to finish her career," Van Driest-Gable said. "It's really an absolute honor to be recognized by the judging and the breeds at Westminster."
The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog falls under the AKC's group of working breeds, and Sage's owner intends to put her to work around the family farm after she is retired from conformation shows. This includes pulling carts, both around the property and potentially in competitions.
"They're an incredibly strong-bred dog," she said, noting that Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs were historically used to pull carts in the Swiss Alps.
She is also considering breeding Sage for puppies.
"Just because I say she's retiring as a Gold Grand Champion, by no means does that mean that she's going to live a boring life," she said. "She has lots of things planned."
Van Driest-Gable intends to continue training future dogs for shows.
"I'm looking forward to starting over with our next puppy," she said.
She noted that she co-owns Sage with the dog's breeder, Janelle Kaiser of Seneca Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs in Lafayette, Indiana. Sage competes in the AKC under the name Seneca's Slopestyle, with Slopestyle reflecting her litter theme.
"Just excited that she gets to participate," Van Driest-Gable said. "It's very special and you always hope for the best, and to have your animal recognized is quite an honor. I'm very honored that she has made her Gold Grand Champion title; that meant a lot to me."
The 147th annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show will take place on May 8-9 at the United States Tennis Association Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, which is located in Queens, New York. The news release noted that the competition serves as "a conformation competition for purpose-bred dogs."
Live coverage of the show will be available at westminsterkennelclub.org, on television on Fox Sports 1 and Fox Sports 2 and on the Fox Sports app. More information on the show's schedule and viewing options can be found under the Media tab on the kennel club's website.