By Cady Kuzmich
Round Lake — Round Lake resident Linda Lehman has been training and breeding Siberian huskies for over 40 years.
And her passion for the job has rubbed off on her 38-year-old daughter, Mindy, whose dog — Grand Champion Snowfire’s Holy Moses, or simply, Eli — was named Best in Breed for Siberian huskies at the 140th annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York City on Tuesday.
Eli, 5, apparently charmed judge David W. Haddock on Tuesday and was named “Best in Breed,” outshining 34 other Siberian huskies. Mindy said judges use a set of written standards for each breed to determine the winner.
The dog that most closely meets those standards wins. The standards focus on aspects such as the dog’s height, length, coat texture, ear shape, ear size, eye shape, eye size, tail placement, carriage and movement.
Linda described Eli as a happy-go-lucky dog. She and Mindy, who own 10 dogs, share Eli, but Mindy has always trained and shown him.
The Lehmans’ road to Westminster began in 1972, when Linda and her husband bought a Siberian husky as a pet from someone who showed dogs.
“My husband and I got into showing dogs years ago through her,” Linda said.
Consequently, Mindy has been involved in the world of dog shows since she was a child.
“She’s been brought up with them,” Linda said.
Above all, their dogs are the family’s pets.
“[They’re] truly a part of the family, so it’s just like having a normal pet dog, except these dogs have a job on the weekend,” Mindy said, adding that no cash prize came with the Westminster victory.
Growing up, Mindy did normal kid things, but her weekends typically were spent traveling to New Jersey or Massachusetts for dog shows. She’s made many lifelong friends and learned the value of friendly competition and good sportsmanship through her experience at dog shows over the years, she said.
Mindy graduated from the Shenendehowa High School and works at Usher’s Machine and Tool Company in Round Lake when she’s not showing her dogs.
Linda described the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show as the culmination of decades of work. Eli handled the stress of New York City very well, Linda said, adding: “His temperament is wonderful.”
Preparing for Westminster includes lots of work before even leaving home. At the event, there’s a van full of supplies that need to be hauled into the competition area.
At Madison Square Garden, the Lehmans and Eli found themselves amid thousands of people milling around the arena looking at dogs.
“He went through it so well. He loved the crowd,” Linda said of Eli, who posed for his onlookers with his head held high.
Linda said there were so many people she couldn’t get back to Mindy and Eli after she walked away.
“It’s overwhelming,” she said. “It’s like being a rock star,” she said, laughing. “It really is.”
This afternoon, the Lehmans were still recovering from all the hubbub after making it back to Round Lake early in the morning.
Linda said the Best in Breed title was an “absolutely wonderful win and a fabulous day for all of us.”
From here, Linda said Mindy and Eli will “go about the normal business of entering more dog shows and hoping for more best-of-breed wins,” though she said: “None can compare to this one.”