Limestone woman honored at Westminster show
Recently named one of three Top Breeders of the Year by Purina Pro Plan and Dog News Magazine, Karen Fitzpatrick, of Limestone, is back after another successful year at the Westminster Dog Show, where she’s been a regular competitor since the 1990s.
Fitzpatrick’s Border Terrier Meadowlake Dark Side of the Moon — known as “Leonard” or “Leo” for short — came out of retirement to take home a Westminster sixth “best of breed” prize for Fitzpatrick at the Feb. 12-13 competition.
Owner and operator of Meadowlake Border Terriers, Fitzpatrick also bred or co-bred all of the top five dogs in the Border Terrier category. Fitzpatrick spoke with the Daily Journal about her trip to New York City, and the future of the dog show industry.
How do you prepare a dog for a big show such as the Westminster?
I was surprised because he had no practice. Usually when you’re getting ready for something, you get the dogs out early and refresh their little brains, but he pulled it off. He rallied and was special, and I’m so proud of him. He went out there like he never forgot.
He was hilarious. He was playing and he thought it was just great. He loved it. He’s quite a show dog. One of the big reasons I retired him is after a month or two of being on the circuit, he’s like “Oh, not this again.” But, like anything, if you’ve been away from it for a while, it’s fun again. Some dogs just love it and they have to love it to be good. Some dogs are natural born show dogs, and they walk out and say, “I’m here. Let’s go.” Leo was never like that. He could take it or leave it. He’s happy to just run and chase a mailman.
What makes Border Terriers such a great breed?
I love their minds. They’re very adaptable and extremely assertive. They can adapt to different families, different homes, but they’re also content if you want to go kayaking. I’ve got a few that live in Florida and I have pictures of them with their life vests on, sticking their necks out on the front of the boat, and then I have one that is a handicapped girl’s best friend and lives with a girl with Down Syndrome.
They’re terriers, so they can be tenacious and they can be little stinkers and dislike other dogs and be fickle. They’re not always social butterflies with other dogs, but it’s just a great breed. They’re fearless. Not much bothers them. They’re just truly cool, a cool breed, and a big dog in a little package. You get a lot of people, especially guys, who don’t want a little dog until they get one of these.
What’s it like being in New York City and attending the show?
To go to Madison Square Garden and be in the ring is incredible. Everyone’s dream is to go there. It was always mine. You have to like New York City, though, and a lot of people don’t. It’s a hard place to be.
We always stay in the New Yorker hotel, which is across the street from MSG, and it’s so much fun. Everyone and their dogs are put on the first floor and they take a whole room and make it into pottyland. They put plastic over the whole thing, they put a fire hydrant up for the boys, and the whole place is filled with wood shavings. They have someone vacuuming and they keep it impeccable. That way you don’t have to walk out into the street and try to walk 2,500 dogs in the city.
How have dog shows changed during the time you’ve been participating?
We’re losing a lot of people. There are more shows and I think that’s probably not good, only because when you have so many to choose from, the numbers drop. I’d like to see less shows. Performance events have tripled, which I think is fantastic. That gives anyone who doesn’t want a show dog the opportunity to go somewhere and participate with your dog. More and more classes are popping up that will teach you those things. We don’t have enough classes here. I keep saying once I retire, I’ll open a facility. We need one, but I have to retire first.
You’ve won quite a few awards for your work as a breeder. What are some misconceptions people have about the industry?
A lot of people, they misunderstand the industry. We push rescue, which is always great, but people get the message that purebred dogs and breeders are a bad thing. People stay away from purebred dogs because every time you turn on the TV, someone is singing about the dogs in a shelter. What people don’t understand is there are a lot of top breeders who go above and beyond. Just because they’re bred to be show dogs doesn’t mean these dogs aren’t great pets. You might just have one show dog in a litter.
Anybody that gets a pet from me basically gets a top show dog, because what goes into that litter for me, it’s got to be the next Westminster winner. The dog that goes and lives with a family and a bunch of kids and a backyard? They’re the same quality ... I wish more people would come to the dog shows. I want to encourage people to get into it.