A Millarville area pet is definitely earning her keep.
Sevenoaks Lady Penelope — “Penny” — received an award of merit at the famed Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York City on Feb. 13 in the English setter division.
“It’s great to place at Westminster, there was a lot of nice dogs that didn’t get any ribbons,” said Sabrina Oakes of Sevenoaks English Setters near Millarville.
Westminster is the Stanley Cup of dog shows, the most prestigious dog show in North America, if not the world. It was the first time the four-year-old Penny has shown in Westminster.
Penny was the no. 4 of all breeds in Canada and no. 1 for sporting dogs in 2017. She qualified for Westminster by winning a championship in Seattle.
It’s also the first time Oakes, a 2006 grad of Foothills Composite High School, has shown a dog in the famous show.
“We were doing so well with her and I had never been to Westminster and we thought it would be a good year to take her,” said Oakes, who now lives in Calgary but works at Sevenoaks with her family.
“I was excited to go — it’s like the Super Bowl.”
It takes Belichick-like focus to be at Westminster.
“We were on about 9 a.m. and it takes about an hour-and-half to get her to show,” she said. “We got on the shuttle about six and got to The Piers (where they were showing) and started setting up to get ready.”
She tried to treat it like any other show.
“You go through the normal routines — bathe her, dry her get her ready for the competition,” she said. “I get my bait ready — I give her treats the whole time I am in the ring.
“Penny is excited after the bath, and gets more excited when we get to the ring and she knows it’s actually happening.”
Penny only has about two minutes in front of the judge.
It’s a lot of work for two minutes, but the dog and her handler nailed it.
“The judge checked out the head, the neck and the shoulders — the conformation of the dog — and then we walked down and back so she (the judge) can see the movement of Penny going away and coming back.”
Penny was also judged on her side movement.
The Millarville English setter was able to make the cut — short-listed to get another chance at showing for the judge.
While Penny received an award of merit, it wasn’t good enough to advance to the big stage at Madison Square Gardens.
But, no complaints from Oakes.
“I was very happy,” Oakes said of her and Penny’s first trip to Westminster.
“We had about five shows before that in New York and she placed in every single one of them.”
Penny has more than the looks, she’s got the attitude.
“She enjoys showing and that is a big part of being a show dog,” Oakes said. “They have to like it or else they won’t perform.
“She goes out there and has fun.”
But, not just any dog can have fun at Westminster.
“When I look at the breed standard for an English setter, she would almost by my ideal English setter,” Oakes said. “She has great bones, a beautiful front, she carries her tail very nice…”
Not only an award winning show dog, she’s also a darn good dog.
“She is kind of our shared dog — she sleeps on my sister Candace’s bed, Hilary (stepmom Hilary Oakes) grooms her and my dad takes her hunting sometimes,” Oakes said. “And, I show her.
“She is kind of the family dog. She is a fun dog, loves to play, and sleeps on the bed and the couch… She is just a very pretty pet.”
While she does go out for the hunt, she’s not bringing back any birds at this time.
“My dad takes her out to the field, mostly just to get her some exercise, it’s in her instincts,” Sabrina said.
Penny will likely show again next year and breeding is in her future.