Local springer spaniel prepares for Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show

January 29, 2013

By David Hayes

Breeder hopes springer spaniel’s last finish ranks as best

By Greg Farrar Finn, a 6-year-old springer spaniel, contentedly observes houseguests while lying next to an ottoman at the High Point neighborhood home of owner Bobbie Daniel.

Finn, a 6-year-old springer spaniel, contentedly observes houseguests while lying next to an ottoman at the High Point neighborhood home of owner Bobbie Daniel. By Greg Farrar

Officially, his name is American Canadian Grand Champion Darkover Don’t Dream It’s Over. But Bobbie Daniel knows him simply as Finn.

Daniel, of High Point (just east of Issaquah), has bred nearly 30 champions since the 1980s, mostly springer spaniels. However, she sees Finn as her best chance to have a champ at the Super Bowl of dog shows, the 137th annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show on Feb. 11-12 at New York City’s Madison Square Garden.

Daniel has bred her current, successful bloodline of springers, and named each after characters from the television show “Grey’s Anatomy.” Finn was a character who briefly appeared in the first couple of seasons. Other than a fine pedigree, she said, Finn has two things going for him — at age 6, this will be his last show.

“Many of the breed champions retire at Westminster,” she said.

Second, Daniel has scouted the judges and feels the right combination has aligned this year in her favor.

“This is our first trip to Westminster, because, for whatever reason, the judges have not been right for us,” she said.

Like other sporting competitions that leave a lot of interpretation of a performance in the judges’ hands, such as gymnastics or ice skating, canine experts each have their own mental image of the perfect dog within a specific breed.

Daniel said it’s then the judges’ job to find the dog that comes closest to that ideal.

To bolster their chances, Finn has won enough competitions to rise to the No. 2 springer in the country (points are awarded for beating all of the other dogs at a show, including within breed, group and overall winners). Standing in their way, the No. 1 springer in the country also just happens to be the No. 2 overall dog when it comes to best in show.

What to know

Watch sporting dogs compete in the second night of the Westminster Kennel Club Show live from 8-11 p.m. Feb. 12 on the USA Network.

Finn’s best finish came as best in show in 2011 at a competition in Moses Lake.

As a training coordinator for the King County Library Service Center, Daniel can hardly pay the travel costs to attend all the shows Finn competes in across the country nor the expenses of campaigning for Finn to increase his exposure on the competition circuit.

Luckily, she has a co-owner/financier in California who handles all of those expenses. And, since he’s been a champion, she leaves all the handling duties to Finn’s trainer, Ellen Cottingham, a longtime friend out of Amboy, Wash.

Initially, Daniel was going to watch the Westminster show like everyone else — on TV. But she decided to throw caution to the wind and pony up for the expense of attending Finn’s competition finale. She’ll be on the red eye out of Seattle Feb. 11 and return at 6 a.m. Feb. 13. She figures the quick turnaround will be worth it.

“It’ll be fun, because I can see him one more time, strutting in the ring,” she said.

Regardless of how he places, Finn will finish his days in her home as a regular house pet, his competition days behind him (except maybe competing for her attention between the four other springers and two cats sharing her house).

But he’s already sired the next generation of springer, Tyler (another “Grey’s Anatomy” character name), which Daniel hopes to continue Finn’s winning ways.

“We show dog owners like to joke that it’s an addiction,” she said. “Some people have drugs or alcohol. We have dog shows.”

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