WAYNESBURG – Greene County has produced some great champions in various sports, from wrestling, to track and field to girls’ softball, to name a few. Now there’s a chance to add a show dog to that list.
Zale, a 5-year-old female German shepherd, is ready to follow in her father’s footsteps Monday when she and her owner/handler Christi Halliday of Bedillion Road, Waynesburg, compete in the Best of Breed category at the prestigious Westminster Dog Show in New York.
Zale, better known in dog circles as Champion Imp-Cen Diamonds Are Forever, is still a “diamond in the rough,” Halliday admits. Although Zale has won some coveted competitions, including Best of Breed at a show this year in Fredericksburg, Va., she has yet to experience a show of the stature of Westminster, where 2,720 dogs representing 213 potential breeds in seven specific groups, are expected to compete for the top prize of Best in Show.
Zale will be up against 23 other German shepherds in the Best of Breed category and shepherds fall into the herding group that is comprised of 25 other breeds.
Zale’s father, Zane, also owned and handled by Halliday, competed at Westminster in 2004, 2005 and 2007, winning “Best Of Opposite Sex” each time in the German shepherd breed category.
“She is a champion of record and I am taking her to Westminster because I wanted to see how she will do,” Halliday said. “Zale is not an accomplished dog yet. She is a big underdog, so to speak, but she could win Best of Breed.”
Halliday stressed that Zale will become a better show dog as she matures and her muscle tone develops.
To become an AKC champion, which Zale is, a dog must win 15 championship points at AKC-member or licensed shows, under three different judges. These points must include at least two majors won under two different judges. (A major consists of three, four or five points won at a single show by virtue of the size of the entry.)
While the process of earning championship status is confusing, the road to Best of Show is simpler.
Dog shows are a process of elimination. First, a dog must win Best of Breed – in Zale’s case, German shepherd. Only the Best of Breed winners advance to compete in group competitions. Each AKC-recognized breed falls into one of seven classifications: sporting, hound, working, terrier, toy, non-sporting and herding.
Four placements are awarded in each group, but only first-place winners advance to the Best of Show competition.
With the numbers of breeds and different categories, how is a judge able to distinguish one champion from another?
“They start with the standard of perfection,” Halliday said, “and are judged against that.”
Zale’s father, Zane, achieved remarkable success. He has a Best of Show – a dog-show equivalent to a Super Bowl win; 64 ribbons for Best of Breed; and 34 placements or wins in the herding group.
“He finished 2003 as the No. 3 German shepherd in the country and was the No. 1 male,” Halliday said. “But first and foremost, Zane and Zale are family members, pets and companions.”