For professional football players, it’s the Super Bowl. For country music singers, it’s the Grand Ole Opry stage. For mountain climbers, it’s Mount Everest.
In nearly every human endeavor, there’s a pinnacle, an ultimate goal to attain. In the realm of human/canine endeavors, there’s also just one place to be—the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. Last week, Kathy Shorter of Gloucester, reached that summit.
Although Shorter and Louise, her year-and-a-half old Pointer, did not place, "it was an education for me," Shorter said. "Now I know what it takes to be competitive there."
Shorter, who’s been showing dogs for the better part of three decades, was still a bit reticent about competing in the show, which was held on Feb. 14-15 at New York City’s Madison Square Garden. "I didn’t sleep for the two weeks prior," she said. Westminster, she continued, has always been "that big show in the sky that kind of intimidated me.
"Now that I’ve been there, it’s just another dog show," Shorter declared.
A return trip to Westminster is a definite possibility. "When I have the dog that’s ready as far as maturity goes and the right judge, I’ll go back again," Shorter said.
Shorter began her career in the show ring in the early ’80s, while she was still in high school. An active 4-H member growing up, she inherited her passion for dog shows from her father, retired veterinarian David Birdsall. Birdsall always had coonhounds, and started getting serious about showing them competitively around 1984, when he picked up some "foundation dogs" to develop his champion bloodline.
"We’ve been very successful," Shorter said, winning nearly every UKC championship award there is for coonhounds.
A while back, she decided to switch to AKC competition, first trying a Doberman before finding that breed to be very competitive. A friend then introduced her to the Pointers.
The breed held an immediate appeal for Shorter. Coonhounds, she said, are loyal, "but yet kind of aloof … fairly laid back." The coonhounds are content to stay in their kennels, seeing people just a few times a day. Pointers, on the other hand, crave human attention. "They just want to be by your side," she said of the Pointers. "I just really like their temperament."