UPDATE: As a professional dog show handler, Greg Wessel wrapped up his final performance at a historic Westminster.
Over the weekend, Wessel showed his Belgian Tervuren 'Jury' at Lyndhurst in Tarrytown, New York - the new, outdoor location for the show's 145th event, allowing for COVID-19 precautions.
For his breed, Jury was awarded the judge's Select Male.
Wessel says he was proud of his pure bred pet, and is excited for Jury's future.
“He showed like a million bucks. He never let down. He gave me that expression, he gave me everything I asked of him," he told us, "so, this year we’re working hard to keep him in the top five Belgian Tervuren’s in the country, and get an invitation to Westminster in January. That’s our goal for now... and maybe a 'Best in Show' along the way.”
At just three-and-a-half years old, Jury is a young dog - which Wessel says proved to be a disadvantage this year.
"The dog that won is about 6 years old. Hands on, Jury feels like a teenager," he said, "the other dog that beat him felt much more mature... we accept that. She [the judge] felt he was a lovely dog and would like to see him in a year when he matures more."
The Westminster dog show is traditional held in January or February.
It went off last year without a hitch, but because the pandemic hit, organizers postponed 2021's show until June, also moving it from Madison Square Garden.
2022's show is already scheduled for January, giving competitors only a few months to prepare for the next one.
Wessel tells us this was his last show as a handler.
Next year, he'll enjoy it as a fan, and dog owner.
Besides running the Northeast Indiana Kennel Club, he says he will become a dog show judge in the near future.
See the original story here:
FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WPTA21) - Saturday, the 145th Annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show begins.
Like most years, Greg Wessel of Fort Wayne, and president of the Northeast Indiana Kennel Club, will compete.
COVID-19 didn’t impact the “sport of dogs” last year, at least for this top tiered event.
It took place in February before the pandemic hit the U.S.
But competitors will see changes this year, besides the dog show being postponed several months.
“You see your friends from all over the world… but that all ended,” Wessel told us, “this year is much different. We’re going to be outdoors at the beautiful Lyndhurst estate. No spectators, no visitors… just go and show you dog, and hope you win.”
Wessel is often hired by other owners across the country, to show pure bred pets at various dog shows.
“Not every owner could show their dog. It’s not just a relationship they have, so they hire me for my experience, my skill, my availability to travel across the country, when they might not be able to,” he said.
However in 2021, Wessel will be showing off ‘Jury’, his Belgian Tervuren he co-owns with three other people.
What does sharing a dog look like? Apparently Jury has a pretty good life, living part time in Michigan, Indiana, and even Florida.
But as the expert, Wessel jokes that he as a special relationship with Jury.
“I like to say, I get the final ‘say’. I’m a good guy and I like to listen to everyone,” he laughed, “I always like to tease he likes me best.”
Professional dog show handling only started out as a hobby for Wessel.
His career was much different earlier in his life.
“Initially, I was a social worker and showing dogs was a hobby on the weekends… kind of a weekend warrior type of thing,” he explained, “but the love of the dog and the thrill of the sport kind of took over my life and I retired early, and started showing dogs full time.”
One of the biggest change to Westminster this year, is that it is being held outside, at Lyndhurst Mansion in Tarrytown, New York.
It will look drastically different from the usual venue at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
Wessel hopes it will be an advantage, though he’s never been to a competition outside.
“This year’s judge is a breeder judge. So she breeds Belgian Tervurens and has had them for 50+ years,” he said, “so she’s very critical of the breed. But I think Jury will look beautiful outside on the grass, with the wind blowing and his coat shining. I think he’ll be stunning.”
It’s not just ‘look’ that’s in Jury’s favor, but also his DNA.
Jury’s father ‘Judge’ has won awards at Westminster.
And though show dogs know how to work during the competition, they’re usually very pampered pets.
“I want him to be a dog first, and then a show dog. This dog can retrieve better than most hunting dogs, swims amazing… he’s up for any game we throw at him. He wants to play nonstop,” Wessel described, “they’re not really a water dog. The majority of this breed doesn’t even like to swim - he’s an exception.”
Jury’s talents also have him excelling in competitive dock diving.
“He started out dock diving competitively as a young dog,” his handler told us, “he just goes insane when we get to the dock and he sees the retrieving dummy and just flies off the dock.”
But for now, the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show remains on Wessel’s mind, as it fast approaches this weekend.
“I think I’m always excited and nervous,” he said, “this year is different because it’s not the normal. It’s not Madison Square Garden. It’s not New York City. But it is a beautiful outdoor venue that a lot of us are excited about. I know the judges are excited that they’re judging at a historic Westminster that everyone will remember.”
Greg Wessel tells us his time as a competitive handler may soon be over.
He plans to retire, with the goal of becoming a dog show judge himself.
Wessel, with the NEIKC, helps organize a well-known dog show locally every year - the Old Fort Cluster.
That’s scheduled to take place at the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum Nov. 4-7.
He tells us special shows you can plan on seeing there are: Golden Retrievers, Boxers, Douge de Bordeaux, Chesapeake Bay Retrievers, English Springer Spaniel, and the American Kennel Club’s newest breed, the Barbet.
You can find more information about the Northeast Indiana Kennel Club on their website here.
The 2021 Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show will broadcast all events on-air (FS1, FOX, FS2) and online.