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Getting to Westminster – An Honor That’s About the Love of Dogs

Bailey Crader with her Australian Shepherd at a dog show

Getting to Westminster

An Honor That’s About the Love of Dogs

The Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show is the most prestigious event that any individual involved in canine conformation can reach in the United States. This historic show allows only the most accomplished into its rings, something that can be described as nothing other than a true honor.

But the road to getting there, and the backgrounds of those who make it to “The Garden,” is more diverse than some may think. While most of the top dogs in the nation vie for Best in Show with Professional Handlers, there are also several Junior Handlers, who are the best at their craft, and Owner-Handlers, who have experienced a “dream come true,” who also make their way to the New York metropolitan area each year.

Bailey Crader

One of last year’s Juniors was Bailey Crader, who returned to the event again in 2024.

Bailey has been showing dogs since she was four years old and has been to Westminster three times. She describes it as a “nerve-wracking” but simultaneously very fulfilling experience.

“Last year the road to Westminster was quite a thrill,” Bailey said. “It was my last year as a Junior Handler and I was determined to qualify one last time.”

This year, she headed to the event with her mother and an Australian Shepherd called “Bunny” who is MBIS MRBIS MBISS GCHS Spring Fevers Wild Hare, better known as Bailey’s “sidekick.”

“Bunny has been my rock this past year and I wouldn’t have wanted to go on this journey with any other dog,” Bailey shared. “Even with her naughty tendencies she still works just as hard as I do.”

The pair hit a major milestone this year, marking one of Bailey’s favorite memories in the dog show world to date.

“My greatest experience in dogs so far has been my first Best in Show win with Bunny,” she said. “It was such a special win because it was both of our very first regular Group wins as well as Best in Show. I’ve had the privilege of having Bunny on the end of my leash for the past few years, which makes all of the hard work so much more exceptional.”

The latest Westminster show was obviously special to Bailey too, but there’s a little something more to it.

“This was Bunny and my final time at Westminster together,” she confided. “Qualifying for Westminster is always special. It takes a lot of time, hard work, dedication, and most importantly, support from my family and friends. I’m excited to see what the future holds.”

Lindsey Heins

Another unique Westminster story is that of Lindsey Heins, who is heavily involved in a newer breed to the AKC—the Mudi.

Lindsey was among the many viewers who were awestruck by the sight of Westminster on national television several years ago, having gotten her start in dogs in 4-H before getting involved in AKC Obedience and Agility Trials.

Lindsey originally started off in Conformation with an Australian Shepherd in 2016, but she fell in love with the Mudi along the way. That’s the same breed she attended her first Westminster with.

“The Mudi is a herding breed, much smaller than an Aussie, less coat, but just as athletic,” Lindsey said to describe the interesting but uncommon breed to those who may not be as familiar with it as she is. “They are a bit different in temperament than other herding breeds, not as intense; however, they’re still barky and very alert. My favorite thing about the Mudi is there is no tedious grooming, just the occasional bath, and they dry naturally.”

Showing her own dog in New York, Lindsey was excited to have had the opportunity to put a breed on display that some people may be seeing for the very first time. She hopes some will share the same appeal she has for the dogs she is so passionate about.

“Having a rare breed, you get to set the foundation of what people will come to expect from the breed,” Lindsey said. “You are likely giving someone their very first glimpse and impression of the breed. Your dog may be what the breed becomes in their mind. You can explain the purpose of the breed. In this case, this is a less popular, smaller-sized Hungarian herding/farm dog that goes back over 100 years. What you do and how you show can easily and significantly impact the interpretation of the Breed Standard.

The dog she had with her is named “Corvus,” formally known as GCH Flyaway Corvus. Lindsey and Corvus, who is the first champion dog she has owned, with several accomplishments in the ring, made the trip with Rebecca Ingersoll and her Bred-By Mudi “Ryder,” GCHG Twisted Acres Ride My Seesaw CM8, the uncle to Corvus. This was Rebecca’s third time attending Westminster with Ryder.

For someone who did not get involved in dogs on the “traditional” path, Lindsey is a testament to just how far one can make it with hard work and perseverance, coming up through the ranks of dog sports and assisting a professional hander. She has learned, “Every little thing involved in showing dogs matters, from scooping poop, holding dogs ringside, and things like that. If you want to learn, do whatever you can do to help at a dog show. Show up… if you believe your dog has what it takes, and you want to show, go learn. It really is a journey. It’s about the love of dogs—and determination.”