George Westminster |

George Westminster

Kelly Rackley and George participate in a judge's examination at the Westminster Kennel Club dog show in New York.
Courtesy Oleg Voloshin |

EDITOR’S NOTE: Michelle Okashima took her regal beagle George to the Westminster Kennel Club dog show in New York, New York, for the 138th Annual Dog Show. Here is her impression of the Big Apple experience. For more about Michelle and her pet pals, click here, here, here and here.

The Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show and New York trip was a wonderful experience.

I was pleasantly surprised by the lovely people who surrounded me on the bench at Westminster. George and I were sandwiched in between a junior handler, (a junior handler is a person between the ages of 9 and 18), Mary Lee and the number-one ranked beagle in the nation handled by Marcelo Chagas.

What made this experience so wonderful was not the competition, or how amazing George performed in the ring, even though both of those things were amazing and unforgettable. For me it was what occurred in the hours of waiting while we were all benched. It was the stories no one hears.

“If you ask George what he liked about the trip he would probably tell you he liked the rolling food carts on the airplanes with nice men and women who brought him pastrami sandwiches…”

Like that of David Johntson and his dog “Tucker.” David’s last dog died suddenly, leaving him crushed. His mom, Tammy and sisters show beagles and are friends with a breeder from Spain. The breeder, Juan Estiban Calleja Noriega, saw how devastated David was and simply gave him Tucker.

Tucker went Best of Winners at Westminster he was handled by David’s mother Tammy.

The most heartening thing was David never seemed to care about the winning ribbons or accolades — to my knowledge he only ever mentioned it when directly asked.

The only thing he cared about was being with Tucker and sharing an amazing day with his best buddy. I don’t remember a moment when dog and boy weren’t touching. Even when Tucker was put into his crate, David crawled in with him. Which was a sight, because David’s upper torso barely fit in Tucker’s tiny crate: The rest of him spilled out over the bench and onto the floor.

I also met a half-uncle of George’s, Baci, owned by Kim Kesselring. Baci is a rescue, he is a very sensitive guy, but Kim was able to complete his Championship and they ended up at Westminster with us.

Baci is retiring from the conformation ring after Westminster. He and Kim will work in agility, which will make them a more cohesive team and continue to build Baci’s confidence.

There were other special moments of this trip, like being able to visit with Kevin and Erin Crouch, the actors who were so loving to Mike (the Dog), when they participated in Shakespeare at Sand Harbor in “Two Gentleman of Verona.”

We were only managed to pull off about 15 minutes in a coffee shop — due in part to busy schedules — and also to a New York City cab driver taking a “short cut” he knew with me in tow.

But since the two are not coming back this year for “As You Like It,” those few moments were precious and irreplaceable.

Another memorable moment was taking the ferry across to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis island with George. People truly adored the little North Shore Dog who could and made it all the way across the nation to Westminster.

If you ask George what he liked about the trip he would probably tell you he liked the rolling food carts on the airplanes with nice men and women who brought him pastrami sandwiches, cheese, and bottled water.

Another favorite was peeing on every corner, lamp post and vertical surface in Manhattan. He loved the new smells, especially the fuzzy lichen in between the name plaques at Ellis island.

George would probably even admit the giant, warm pretzels on the ferry weren’t too bad either.

Michelle Okashima owns and operates Hot Diggity Dog and Cat, 8675 North Lake Blvd. in Kings Beach, is an animal activist and proud pet parent of Mike the Dog, George and her cat Boudica, named after the Celtic war queen who challenged Rome. Call Hot Diggity at 530-546-2725.

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