Successful Trek to Westminster Dog Show
There are two main ways to enter the world of dog shows. One is to buy a thoroughbred; the other raises the dog himself.
Gail Fleming from Bainbridge Island struggled to buy a dog to succeed at the top level, so she decided to breed the dog herself in 2019. I have to breed him myself,” said Fleming. “I went through the process and got lucky.”
In January 2019, Fleming found herself among a new litter of Vizslas. “I can only keep one dog,” she said. “The way I live is my dogs live with me; they do not live in a kennel. So you can only have a limited number of dogs in your house.
Currently, Fleming has four Vizslas: Kizzy, Desi, Trek, and Ryder. Fleming decided that Vizslas was his choice of dogs because of his sons. “In 1997 my sons went hunting,” Fleming said. “When they came back they said they needed a hunting dog. So I went to the library and researched different hunting dogs and came across the Vizsla. The reason I I chose this one is because he is known to be a velcro dog, I wanted a dog that followed me but was very affectionate.
Vizslas came to the United States from Europe in the 1950s. In 1962, the American Kennel Club recognized them as thoroughbreds.
When Trek, now 3½, turned one year old, he started competing in hunting competitions. After a handful, Trek won a Junior Hunter title. He was able to find and report a bird to his hunter.
While he was successful at it, Fleming wanted Trek to compete in showmanship. “It’s always been an interest of mine to breed a quality dog,” Fleming said. “In the American Kennel Club, they have what they call the standard and describe the perfect dog of this breed. When he was very young, I had him evaluated by an independent person, and she saw that he had the qualities to meet the standard.
For the first year, Fleming showed her on her own. They have won a handful of competitions, including a junior championship. However, Fleming knew his age and physique would not allow Trek to reach his full potential. “I took handling classes and worked with other people to become a better handler,” Fleming said. “But at my age and the fact that I have short legs and can’t move around in a ring, I couldn’t highlight his reach.”
So she hired Andy Linton, who is tall and agile in the ring. Since Linton took over as professional handler, Fleming and Trek’s schedule hasn’t stopped. Both travel mainly out West two to three times a month. When Linton took over, Trek’s stock grew exponentially.
Before heading to the famous Westminster Dog Show recently, Trek was ranked second in the Canine Chronicle All-Breed Rankings and first in the Vizslas Breed Rankings. The Canine Chronicle is a monthly dog show magazine.
The Westminster Dog Show is usually held at Madison Square Garden in January. But it was changed for last month to Terrytown, NY, due to COVID-19. The change benefited Fleming and Trek. “Having him on grass in Terrytown, New York was a big plus for me because Vizslas shows up well on green grass,” Fleming said.
After competing for a few days, Trek beat out 28 other Vizslas, winning the best breed at the show. For Fleming, Trek’s victory meant a lot. “It was very rewarding because I raised this dog and raised him,” Fleming said. “It’s a dream come true. It’s a sport of passion.”
After winning at Westminster, Trek continues to look to dominate competitions across the United States. However, the plans are not in Fleming’s hands. “I leave that to Andy,” she said. “I know he has several shows scheduled depending on who the judges are and how many dogs he’s expecting.”