Lori and Axel will leave today for the 12-hour drive to New York, accompanied by Lori's sister, Christy McElhaney and their friend, Tammy Parker.
Then at 6 a.m. on Tuesday they will be on the show site to prepare for Axel to compete at 8:30 a.m. during the bull terriers' segment of the bench show. Viewers can watch Axel and his other bull terrier competitors on the www.WestminsterKennel Club.com website.
The show actually opens on Monday at 4 p.m. and can been seen on the USA Today channel, Lori noted.
Axel will be shown by Barbara Bishop of New Jersey. Barbara also showed Lori's Rufus, who won Best in Show at Westminster in 2006. She and her husband, Tom, are nationally known in bull terrier circles.
"Barbara is showing Axel because I would be too excited and this would be transferred to Axel and could mar his performance," Lori explained. The famed Rufus died at age 12. His sperm had been frozen to endow future offspring with his winning talents and personality traits. Rufus and all six of Lori's current bull terriers came from the prestigious Rocky Top Kennels, owned by Bill and Becky Poole.
The pursuit of rearing and showing champion bull terriers began for Lori in l998 when she entered her Claire in her first show in 2001. Claire went on to win "Best of Breed, All-Champion in 1999 in Atlanta." Lori's current four-legged bull terrier family consists of: Penney, 10; Lucy, 8; Tessa, 6; Piper, 4; Havana, 4 and Axel, 2.
Tessa is the mother of Lori's newest litter of eight puppies, now almost 2 weeks old. Four are white and four are tri-colored.
"Someone must stay with bull terrier puppies at all times, 24 hours a day, since if they are left unattended there is the huge risk of the mother accidentally lying on the puppies and smothering them. So Bill and Becky will be staying with them for me while we are at Westminster," she said.
This year 3,200 purebred dogs will be entered in the premiere competition which is often compared with England's famous Cruft show. Only two dogs have reportedly won "Best in Show" in both of these shows since their beginning well over a century ago.
Axel's training "began when he was 12 weeks old. Then from January through November I've shown him in AKC shows in Tennessee, Florida, Missouri, Texas, Michigan and Alabama. I drive everywhere rather than fly because I feel it is safer and more comfortable for the dog. Some owners show at over 100 events a year, but with my work schedule I can't do this," said Lori, a groomer at Mountainstone Veterinary Hospital.
Entering a show "is also costly. It costs around $1,000 every time with the entry fee of usually $25 to $50, the hotel and gas expenses. Then you don't win money except once in awhile there will be a prize of $25 or $50."
Lori will also be showing her Penney in “Veterans' Class” in coming months, which is open to dogs 7 years old and above. They will be traveling to such state as Texas, Alabama and Ohio since not all states offer a seniors' show.
Are bull terriers the right breed for everyone? "Oh no," was the quick response.
"They are very active, indoor dogs who need to be socialized at an early age. They love people, but they should not be in a home with young children because, for example, Axel weighs 75 lbs. and he likes to jump on my lap when I sit down on the couch, as all my dogs like to do. Bull terriers are also prone to having kidney and heart problems so anyone thinking of adopting one must be certain to go to a reputable breeder. No dog under 6 months of age can be entered in an AKC show," she added.
As for her newest litter of puppies she will see what their personalities are like, and then will keep one for her own. “I'm getting inquiries about them from all over the world, but I will only adopt to a family in this country who will be carefully screened," she said.
Looking forward to this week's momentous event Lori is pleased to know the bull terrier judge will be a “'breeder judge' who will be an expert on bull terriers, which is much better than having an 'all-breed judge.'"
Since we know that almost every year at Westminster there is one dog who captures the heart of both the judges and the crowd, many cheers will be going up in Southeast Tennessee when Axel goes before the judges and we are hoping he will be the one to break through the competition and be our Cleveland hometown winner!
Our best wishes and countless 'Paws up' go to Lori and Axel this Tuesday.
More paws up to: Animal control director Gene Smith; Kathy Kinder; Jacquie Russell; Jeanne Goins; Brenda Androtta; June Chase; and all who adopted a rescued pet with the assurance of providing a long, wonderful life.
To reach the municipal Cleveland Animal Shelter at 360 Hill St., call 479-2122.
Call me with your pet and wildlife stories or write to: P.O. Box 4864, Cleveland TN 37320.