Aiken woman hopes to win big at Westminster dog show
Leslee Peth can vividly recall the first time she went to the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York City.
“It was just overwhelming,” Peth said. “There are dogs everywhere. New York and Manhattan open their doors to dogs… It’s a lot of fun and you see a lot of people you don’t get to see very often. It’s a real camaraderie.”
That was 25 years ago. Today, Peth, who owns Citroen Hall Farm Salukis, is a veteran competitor in the world of dog shows. In February, she will be taking three of her champion Salukis to Westminster to compete against the highest-ranking dogs in the breed.
Peth grew up in Toronto, where her family showed boxers. A newcomer to Aiken, she recently moved permanently from Florida.
“I’ve just always loved South Carolina,” Peth said. ”…When I arrived in Aiken, that was it. The search was over.”
For Peth, showing dogs is a beloved hobby. While working in Texas 12 years ago, she decided she wanted to own and show a new breed.
“I’d always admired Salukis from several rings away,” Peth said.
After about two years of searching, Peth found a breeder she trusted and imported her first Saluki from Portugal.
Salukis are an Arabic breed, one of the oldest in the world. Tall and slender, with soft, feathered ears and long legs, they make excellent hunting dogs.
“The horse connection with Salukis is the Bedouin Tribe in Saudi Arabia, in the desert,” Peth said. “They still hunt on horseback, and the Salukis are their hunting dog. These guys hunt down gazelle. They run 45 miles per hour.”
Salukis are sight-hounds that use their keen vision to hunt. Instinct drives them to find high vantage points so they can see far away – which, in Peth’s case, usually means her dining room table.
Peth now owns six Salukis, imported from all over the world. The three competing in Westminster are Versace (whose show name is Morasha Versace), Ziggy Stardust (Celestian Zagreb Stardust) and Guerlain (Al Zubeyda Majhabin).
Guerlain came from France. At 2 years old, she is the No. 2 owner-handled Saluki in the country. Versace, from Brazil, is just over a year old, and Ziggy Stardust, from Croatia, has been shown at Westminster before.
All three dogs have competed in shows across the country. Guerlain and Ziggy Stardust are Bronze Grand Champions, and Versace has won a Champion title. They have to be the best of the best to participate in Westminster.
The Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show is one of the most prestigious shows in the world, and has taken place annually since 1877.
Peth said she is looking forward to a great time at the show and the dogs always enjoy themselves. She is hoping for a Best of Breed Award, but receiving even an Award of Merit would be a “huge honor.”
Peth’s Salukis will show in the Hound Group at 1 p.m. Monday, Feb. 11. Peth will be in the ring showing Guerlain, while friends will show Ziggy Stardust and Versace. The event is televised and can also be live streamed from Westminster Kennel Club ’s website. Additional information for the event’s television schedule can be found at westminsterkennelclub.org.
Those seeking additional information about the Citroen Hall Farm Salukis (or dog show enthusiasts in general) can reach out to Peth at Leepeth@yahoo.com.