NH's top dog Birr taking his new-found world fame in stride
Ch Lakeside Run’s Little Bear, with his owner/handler Kris Holleran of Londonderry, after he won Best of Breed at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. (John Ashbey/courtesy)
Ch. Lakeside Run's Little Bear - Birr to his friends - won Best of Breed at the 138th annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show last week. It was the first appearance at Westminster for the Chinook, bred as a sled dog here in the 1920s and New Hampshire's official state dog since 2009.
And last Tuesday night, there was Birr and his owner/handler Kristine Holleran, a Londonderry High School science teacher, on national television.
But Birr took it all in stride from the moment they arrived in New York City.
With her husband, Chester, at the wheel, she said, "we went through Times Square and we opened the back window in the truck, and Birr was like 'little dog in the big city.' His eyes were big, his tail was going, he's looking out of every window. His nose was going a mile a minute."
"By the time we left, he was more chill - head up, tail up," she said. "I think he found the sounds and scents very, very exciting."
Westminster is a "bench" show, meaning the show dogs are on display for the public to meet when they're not competing in the ring. And that was great fun for Birr, who's used to appearing at public events in New Hampshire as a sort of ambassador for the breed, Holleran said. In fact, many Granite Staters who were in town for the big dog show stopped by to meet Birr.
Fear sets in
Tuesday night, it was show time in Madison Square Garden, where Birr competed in the Working Group, which also includes Rottweilers, akitas, Great Danes, boxers and mastiffs.
Instead, it was "either that I'm going to trip and fall flat on my face - or he's going to poop in the ring."
Neither happened. The pair trotted smartly before the cheering Madison Square Garden crowd, and the judge quietly told Holleran, "Nice job."
Once their big moment was over, Holleran said, she relaxed a bit and watched the other dogs and handlers. She never expected to make the judge's first picks, so she wasn't disappointed when he called out other breeds, and eventually the Portuguese water dog as group winner.
So what's next for New Hampshire's newest star? This weekend, Holleran said, "I think we would like to get a little sledding in."
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