A Chilliwack dog is bringing home a runner-up ribbon from one of the most prestigious dog shows in North America.
Bella, a German shepherd, won “Best of Opposite Sex” in her breed during the 144th annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show on the weekend. She and her handler, Courtney Penner, are in New York City for the competition which runs Feb. 8 to Feb. 11.
“We couldn’t be happier or more proud,” said Jody Duin, one of Bella’s owners. “Winning Best of Opposite Sex at Westminster among such an amazing group of German shepherds is an honour and something we are so very thrilled about.”
There were 13 German shepherds in total competing in that breed category on Sunday. A male dog named Hermes V Kenlyn placed first, and Bella was right behind him. Hermes was the number one German shepherd in all of the U.S. last year, while Bella was the number one in Canada the same year.
“They essentially met head-to-head – Canada versus the U.S.,” Duin said.
It has been a lot of work for Bella to make it to Westminster.
“Westminster is the Super Bowl of dog shows,” Duin said. “In order to be able to go to Westminster, you have to be a champion.”
The year 2019 was a “banner” year for Bella.
“She far exceeded our highest expectations.”
The young three-year-old dog had been shown countless times throughout 2018 and 2019 and during that time she won 18 best in show titles in B.C. and Alberta.
Each time she won best in show, Bella would receive points – the larger the entry of dogs in a competition, the greater the number of points a dog can earn. Bella garnered enough points and show wins to be given the title “Canadian grand champion” and “American champion,” pointing her in the direction of the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.
Approximately 2,800 dogs from around the world are competing at Westminster this year. Bella was the only German shepherd from B.C.
It’s not an agility competition, but rather conformation where dogs are judged by how closely they are to the breed standard with evaluations on movement, structure and more.
Bella is owned by Duin, her daughter Parker, and Cortnie Partner of the U.S. She was bred by Woodside German Shepherds in Langley.
In New York, Bella is joined by Cortnie Partner, Courtney Penner, and the breeder. The Duins were unable to join Bella but they were cheering them on from their home in Chilliwack.
Despite all her success, Duin said Bella is as much a typical family pet as she is a show dog.
“For a dog that has done so much winning and is such a cool dog in terms of the show world, she’s also a regular dog,” Duin said. “She’s just like any other pet dog except she’s an athlete.”
Bella has a “village” of people who train her including her owners, breeder, handlers and fill-in or assistant handlers.
Duin’s seven-year-old daughter, Parker, showed an interest and ability to help train and condition Bella at an early age. The family has an active lifestyle and they enjoy biking and swimming with Bella to ensure she stays in prime condition.
“She’s wild and fun but also knows when to turn it on,” Duin said. “It’s very evident that she really does love [competing].”