5Q :: Duluth poodle books a flight to the Big AppleDawn Strumbel’s poodle Kaili will be competing in the world-famous Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show next week at Madison Square Garden. The Budgeteer has the scoop.
Like Jay-Z before her, Duluth poodle Kaili will soon feel the overwhelming sensation of being under Madison Square Garden’s bright lights. The dog, a silver miniature, will be competing in the world-famous Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show on Monday and Tuesday. (Tune in to the USA Network at 7 p.m. both days to see if you can spot her.)
To celebrate this immense honor, we talked to Kaili’s owner, Dawn Strumbel, to find out what the world of dog competitions is all about:
Budgeteer: What made you jump into the competitive dog world? Have you been doing this for awhile?
Strumbel: I got into dog shows by accident. I went to work for Anne (Seppo) in 1992 as a kennel assistant. She bred poodles — good poodles with solid temperaments. After meeting her herd, I fell in love with the breed. Anne started taking me to Canadian dog shows and a couple of American ones and I became hooked. I have been competitively showing dogs — not just my own, and not just poodles — since about 1995. I now have my own kennel, Horizon Poodles, and Kaili will be the start of my own line of poodles.
Before a big event like the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, how much time are you dedicating to your dog and getting her ready?
Prep work is constant for poodles — not just for a big show like Westminster. They have to be bathed on a regular basis to prevent matting. As we say, dirty hair doesn’t grow. They are in maintenance bands between shows, so weekly they need to be bathed, dried and put back in new bands. This takes about two to three hours.
The true prep work for Westminster is already done. She has done her big winning, she is well trained and well advertised. The most work will be in the 72 hours before the show. She hasn’t been shaved or scissored in two months because she was taking a break after the end of the 2009 show year. She has to be shaved, bathed, dried, re-banded and scissored. The process for a show takes about four to five hours.
Without further ado, what can you tell us about Kaili? What makes her special to you and Anne?
Kaili is a three-and-a-half-year-old miniature poodle. She is silver, which makes her an unusual color in the ring, and she has a fabulous temperament. She was the No. 1 miniature poodle for the breed and for the all-breed in 2009 in the United States. She is also the first silver miniature poodle in the history of the breed to be No. 1.
… Kaili was born to be a show dog. From the time she was 8 weeks old, she structurally met the standard of the breed that the parent club sets. She not only has the looks but the drive and attitude as well.
At 4 months of age, I put a lead on her for the first time. Now, most puppies you have to lead break (teach to walk on a lead); however, she looked at me like, “OK, now what?” And that was all it took. She loves to do this. As a matter of fact, if she knows I am packing the van for a weekend and she is in her kennel, she will start screaming so there would be no way to forget her.
She absolutely loves being in the ring, and I have to say she wouldn’t be shown anymore if she didn’t truly enjoy it. I would say if she could give up one thing it would be the grooming. She is a total tomboy at heart. She would like nothing better than to go in to the ring unshaved, covered in mud from puddle jumping and with a gutted toy in her mouth!
There are dogs that are shown, and then there are show dogs. Show dogs are born with the It factor; they can’t be made. Kaili is a true show dog.
I don’t know if you’ve seen Christopher Guest’s mockumentary “Best in Show” or not but, within every specialized hobby like a dog show, there’s bound to be some interesting characters — have you ever run into any notable dog owners who really stood out? Perhaps because they took the competition a little too seriously?
The movie “Best in Show” did depict a lot of humorous characters and, suffice it to say, you see all of those personalities at the show. No matter what anyone says, we all have a competitive edge to us and, deep down, we all want to win. Some of us just keep that competitive spirit really close to the surface.
Finally, many small-dog owners seem to struggle with getting their pets exercise during the long winter season — how do you work around cold paws? Or do you just wear out Kaili inside?
Conditioning is a very important part of a show dog. Keeping good muscle in the winter time is definitely not easy in our area with a small dog. Most people can just have them out in runs for hours at a time, but, unfortunately, that is just not possible in our climate. She goes out four to five times a day — more on weekends — usually for 10 to 15 minutes. If the weather is nice out, then she can stay out longer unless she has recently had her feet shaved.
I do tend to work her more in the house in the winter. We play a lot of fetch and do a lot of stairs. When at a show, sometimes in the evenings while we are potting dogs we will let them run loose in a ring if the show committee doesn’t mind.
NEWS TO USE
The 134th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show will air at 7 p.m. Monday and Tuesday on the USA Network. Keep your eyes out for Kaili, a Duluth pooch owned by Dawn Strumbel of Horizon Poodles.