BELLVILLE — For years, Jenny Resendez has watched the prestigious Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show on television, or from the audience.
She never imagined that one day she would participate.
But on Sunday, June 13, two of her Golden Retrievers strutted their stuff in the ring at the iconic dog show, the second-longest continuously held sporting event in the country.
The two four-legged competitors were CH JR's Golden Angel's Steer In The Right Direction BN CA DS DJ CGCA CGCU TKN - otherwise known as "Helm," and CH JR's Golden Angel's Quicker Picker Upper CGCA TKN - otherwise known as "Bounty."
In a weekend Resendez described as "a flash of light," she and her best friend Paulette Merrill departed for Lyndhurst in New York at 6 a.m. on Saturday morning, competed at 9 a.m. on Sunday, and were home by 8 p.m. that night.
"Helm made the cut in the male specials, which is a pretty good success at Westminster, although he did not get into the ribbons," Resendez said. "Bounty showed well for a 2-year-old dog; someone said she was the youngest dog in the ring for the females."
At Westminster, all of the entrants are AKC champions of record and therefore compete in the Best of Breed class. Only the Best of Breed winners advance to compete in the Group competitions.
Each canine at a dog show is presented to a judge by either its owner, breeder, or a hired professional. This person is known as the exhibitor or the handler of the dog.
For Helm, that person was Leslie Racine, a professional handler from West Virginia, wearing armband #9. Bounty was shown by her co-owner Brianna Pierce, who lives in Powell, wearing armband #38. This was Pierce's sixth trip to Westminster as a handler.
Each dog is judged against a written standard describing the ideal dog. They describe things like general appearance, movement, temperament, and specific physical traits such as height and weight, coat, colors, eye color and shape, ear shape and placement, feet, tail, and more. Each judge, applying their interpretation of the standard, gives their opinion on that day on which dog best represents its breed.
Due to New York State COVID-19 regulations impacting the allowable number of attendees at events, Westminster’s 2021 events were not open to spectators or vendors. But Merrill said it didn't take away from the pomp and circumstance of the event.
"There's almost a friendship and kinship between the handlers and those who are showing; sometimes we know your dog better than we know you," Merrill said. "It's still a competition, but handlers may give one another tips or help each other with grooming."
Resendez would never describe herself as a show-dog breeder. For her, she loves showing her dogs to build their relationship and strengthen their bond.
"I feel very humbled; I myself have only been actively showing for five years, and I have three home-bred champions in my house over those five years," she said. "It's exciting in a five-year span to have that success in that venue with our guys."
The quick weekend trip to Westminster meant Resendez didn't spend too much time away from the rest of her pack. She runs The Lodge 4k9s out of her home, and currently owns 9 Golden Retrievers plus 14 puppies.
Goldens have always been a passion for Resendez; she owned her first Golden, named Kayla, when she was just shy of 13 years old. She grew up working for her parents at Cedar Creek Kennel. Now, 20 years later, there is nearly a two-year waiting list for the puppies she breeds.
"I just love them, they're such a great family pet, and such a versatile breed," Resendez said. "They love to retrieve, hunt, they're family dogs, therapy dogs. And they live in the house with us, laying at our feet or on the couch."
The next big adventure for Helm and Bounty is the Golden Retriever Club of America National Specialty in Florida this October. Plus, Resendez has high hopes to bring one or more of her dogs back to Westminster.
Whatever the future holds, she and her dogs will tackle it as a team.
"Helm has been with us from his first breath, so it's really exciting in that aspect," Resendez said. "We've reached so many goals through that, it's very rewarding."