Unusual Event at Welsh Springer National Brings Laughs, Helps a Good Cause

This year’s national specialty for the Welsh Springer Spaniel Club of America (WSSCA) was held in late April during the Cherry Blossom Cluster in Maryland. We enjoyed four days of competition and camaraderie, and it only rained once! (In 2011 we held our national specialty in Pennsylvania during “The Great Harrisburg Flood.”)

Welsh Springer fanciers are a welcoming group, and we always manage to have good food and good fun along with excellent competition at our specialties. Our show committee made sure that competitors had all those little “extras” such as coffee and doughnuts the first morning, a ringside luncheon during the national itself, and plenty of cold water and snacks at other times.The AKC’s Director of Government Relations, Sheila Goffe, spoke during the lunch break about legislative issues of interest to dog owners and breeders. She also presented WSSCA president Cindy Ford with a certificate of appreciation for our club’s outstanding participation in the AKC Political Action Committee (PAC).

For the first time this year, we held an event to raise money for the AKC Canine Legislative Support Fund. This fund functions differently from the PAC in that its focus is in guiding dog clubs on how to educate the public and advocate for dog breeders and owners, as well as educate clubs on the legislative process.

We wanted this event to be fun, something that would make folks laugh out loud a little and also raise some money for a good cause. And so the “Stuffed Dog Handling Contest” was born.

Judged like Junior Showmanship, people “handled” stuffed dogs they brought from home and competed in classes for different age groups. Entry fee? Five dollars, unless you chose not to reveal your age—then it was 10 dollars! If you forgot to bring your own stuffed dog, several were available for ringside pickup.

Longtime WSSCA members Susan Riese and her daughter Meghen Riese Bassel were our judge and steward, respectively. Susan took her responsibilities seriously, but she and Meghen teamed up to make it fun for everyone.

Our oldest competitor was Welsh Springer breeder Anne Legare. Anne teamed up with our oldest toy dog, a Sussex Spaniel from her childhood that she estimates is 77 years old.

Our most popular classes were for ages 41–60 and 61–80. (Further proof of the “graying” of the dog fancy? Perhaps!) We had some interesting breeds, including battery-operated dogs who did flips, and my own rare “Crooked Neck Labrador,” who stared fixedly at the ceiling.

Sheila from the AKC was the only handler to enter in the “undisclosed age” class. While Sheila fought valiantly in the final lineup, she finished out of the ribbons. Our Best in Show-winning handler was Donna Wesemann, of North Carolina, with a “home bred/homemade” Miniature Schnauzer. Reserve Best in Show was Margaret Hilliard, of Virginia, with what can only be described as one of the new “breeds” of designer spaniel.

Much laughter was heard in the ring and out. Mission accomplished!

It was an enjoyable way to raise funds for a worthy cause.

Wendy J. Jordan, Welsh Springer Spaniel Club of America

Read more breed columns from the Welsh Springer Spaniel Club of America in the AKC Gazette.