Westminster Winner Among The Dogs Who Serve To Help


            New York, NY. What can be more important than winning what is arguably the most prestigious dog show in the world?  Champion Felicity’s Diamond Jim, an English Springer Spaniel won the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show on February 13 at Madison Square Garden. However, he may even be a bigger winner for what he does at his other job, where he simply known as James. He works as an animal assisted therapy dog, helping Alzheimer’s patients in Fairfax Station, VA.

            Among the more than 2,500 Champions (Ch. Is a dog show designation earned based on previous victories) representing 165 breeds who competed at Westminster, James isn’t the only dog with a more important occupation than show dog.

            Laura Hardman’s Portuguese Water Dog, named Pickles, alerts to when she’s about to have a seizure. “Her  (Pickles) mother, Kitty, does it too.” Hardman said.

            The first time mother and daughter together alerted Hardman of an impending seizure, they sandwiched her between them. “One in front of me; one behind,” she said. “It’s quite remarkable. Without the dogs, I wouldn’t be able to travel to dog shows (Hardman is from Seattle), or for that matter enjoy much independence at all.”

            Hardman says her dogs have never been wrong. They essentially tell her that if she doesn’t take her meds, a seizure will happen. No wonder, Hardman wasn’t all too concerned that Pickles didn’t do particularly well at Westminster. “Pickles is also a therapy dog helping other people; being a show dog is icing on the cake,” she added,

            Karen Evasuik of Loveland, OH didn’t understand why her Keeshound, Tommy, was waking her in the middle of the night. “I thought maybe he wanted to go potty,” she said.

            Several years ago, Evasuik was in a serious auto accident, and ever since has suffered debilitating super migraine headaches. The onset of these headaches frequently occurs overnight, and she’s awaken pretty much unable to function. It turned out that Tommy, whose show dog name is Ch. Twin Tree Stray Cat, was trying to warn his best friend of an imminent headache.


Karen Evasuik and her headache detecting Keeshound, Tommy (with broadcaster/journalist Darlene Arden).

            Tommy alerts Evasuik during the day as well; her headaches can happen anytime, anywhere, which is why she takes Tommy everywhere. “He’s changed my life,” says Evasuik. “The funny thing is that if I never had the accident, I wouldn’t have known what Tommy can do. I’m not sure how he does it, perhaps it’s because right before a headache comes on, I smell funny. I really do think we all have dogs who are constantly trying to communicate with us – if we’d only pay attention to what they’re trying to say.”

            At 11, Tommy clearly wasn’t expected to win Best in Show at Westminster. But for Evasuik, for reasons which seem obvious, winning wasn’t the goal. “I think we’re only beginning to understand what dogs are capable of,” she adds.

 Behind-the-Scenes Tidbits:

  • Through the Westminster website, and contributions made by those at the Garden, over a million dollars was raised to benefit the American Humane Association (AHA). “We’re dumbfounded, it’s just remarkable,” cheered David Gies, president of the AHA Board of Directors. He explained the money will go towards ending needless euthanasia in shelters, an initiative called Getting to Zero.
  • It wasn’t seen on the TV broadcast, but Petite Basset Griffon Vendeen, Ch. Celestial Cj’s Jolly Fairchild, actually offered the judge a play bow (rear end up, heard lowered and tail wagging). Dog show judges aren’t known for tossing squeaky toys while judging. Akita,Ch. Redwitch Reason to Believe, also tried to ‘suck up’ to a judge, as she wouldn’t stop smiling at her. “I know, I know, this is not a typical Akita thing to do,” said handler Laurie Jordan-Fenner. “She pokes you with her nose until you play.” Who knows? Maybe the antics worked – both dogs were named the best in their respective groups (Hound and Working).
  • The oldest dog at the show was Nam, a 13 ½-year old Schipperke (Ch. Barsus Noname Rose). His owner Graham Mocklow of Bermuda offered his pal’s secret to eternal youth. “Bermuda weather, Bermuda drinks, and Bermuda girls.”
  • Although, Bill Cosby didn’t turn up to cheer his dog he co-owns, Ch. Fineus Fogg, a Dandie Dinmont terrier, his daughter Errin watched with delight as he proceeded to compete for Best in Show. Previously shut out from winning the top prize, handler Bill McPhadden said Cosby didn’t show because he didn’t want to “jinx it.”
  • Better than going to Disneyland, Best in Show Winner James has other plans, according to handler Kellie Fitzgerald, “I want to breed him.” No doubt James will have no issue with that assignment.


Nam, a 13 1/2-year old Schipperke, the oldest dog at Westminster with Graham Mocklow of Bermuda

Bill Cosby co-owns this dog, Ch. Fineus Fogg, a Dandie Dinmont Terrier.


What Judges Told Steve:

Best in Show Judge, Dr. Robert Indeglia, “You hear the crowd (judging Best in Show at Madison Square Garden), it’s something like that of a crowd in a baseball game – you can hear it in the background – but you don’t pay much attention.”  Indeglia once played minor league baseball.

Working Group Judge, Jean Fournier. “I’m a working lady from day one. This was a very, very special time, pretty darn close. Maybe my best judging assignment. No – the best judging assignment is always the next one.”

Sporting Group Judge Jeanette McGinnis. “He’s a dog who really likes to show. He thinks he’s just great.” (speaking about Champion Felicity’s Diamond Jim), the dog she named Best in Group who ultimately went on to win Best In Show)

Hound Group Judge Michael Dougherty “How can you not love the Hound Group? There’s every man’s dog in there, starting with the Afghan all the way down to the Whippet. People love these dogs more than all the others, the people have to.”