New Castle border terrier (and owner) head to top dog show |

New Castle border terrier (and owner) head to top dog show

It’s been less than two years since New Castle resident Laura Wright-Smith adopted her border terrier Gucci after the dog’s owner passed away, but already the pair is making a name for itself.

By the end of the week the two will not only represent their hometown but the breed as a whole at the American Kennel Club National Championship in Orlando, Florida. The top 10 dogs in each breed will compete in showmanship in what is one of the most prestigious owner-handler dog shows in the country. Gucci is No. 10 in the nation among border terriers.

“We’re going in No. 10, and who wouldn’t want to pick the underdog?” Wright-Smith said of her chances.

Underdog is right as the two only just started competing for 2016 in April after an injury sidelined Wright-Smith for several months. Since then the pair has skyrocketed in rankings for the breed.

Wright-Smith is no stranger to dog shows. She’s competed with her Rottweilers in various shows for over 30 years, including the Westminster Dog Show in 2005. However, this will be her first national competition with a border terrier.

“I initially bought her as a companion, but she’s so much more,” Wright-Smith said of Gucci. “She’s more than just a beauty queen, she’s a real working dog.”

Over the years Gucci participated in a variety of competitions, including ones measuring agility and jumping, but with Wright-Smith she’s found her calling as a show dog. Gucci’s owner died in June 2015 around the time Wright-Smith was looking for a smaller dog to match with her Rottweilers. She immediately found it in Gucci.

“Gucci lives with me and the Rottweilers and just rules them,” she added.

While the Westminster is among the most publicized dog shows of the year, the National Championship series is for only owner-handlers, meaning that the dogs competing must be shown by their actual owner.

“The owner-handler is a harder competition in many ways because the owners aren’t professionals,” said Mary Porter, who helps to train dogs at her ranch in New Castle. “This is their passion, not profession. I hope she wins.”

Porter is the one who put Gucci and Wright-Smith together and has seen the pair train and grow over the past year and a half. She hopes to turn her ranch one day into a dog camp where she can bring good dogs into the world and have people come to play with and adopt them.

All told, 721 dogs will be competing in the National Championship this year in seven groups. Gucci will be competing in the terrier group. The first part of the competition will be the Best in Breed where Gucci will be up against nine other border terriers. The other competitors have had a full year of shows to train and build their resume, so Gucci will have her paws full having missed the first three months of the year.

If she advances, she will compete in the next group stage against the winners of the other terrier breeds. After the group winners are decided, one dog of the handful left will be crowned Best in Show, which includes a $50,000 prize to the breeder of the dog. The competition is set to begin Dec. 17, and the winner will be crowned Dec. 18.

Wright-Smith’s family plans to cheer her on all weekend and will have the live feed on her Facebook page for anyone who wants to watch the New Castle resident represent Garfield County at the national competition.

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