Granite Bay woman’s dog awarded Best of Breed

Sharpie tops toy group at Westminster Kennel Club show
By: Tinka Davi
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Mary Gale of Granite Bay has reason to be proud. Her dog, a Brussels Griffon, was awarded Best of Breed in the toy group at the prestigious Westminster Kennel Club dog show in New York in February.

Her pet paraded around the arena with pride and posed for pictures now posted on his Facebook page, the New York Times online and other websites. Several photos of the dog decorate Gale’s home.

“Westminster is hallowed ground,” Gale said. “Stars have the red carpet. Dogs have the green carpet at Westminster.”

Her dog’s registered name is a moniker typical of show dogs: GCH Para-gons Sharp Dressed Man At Greengates. Gale calls him “Sharpie.”

The Brussels Griffon breed more commonly boasts a red, rough, wiry coat, but Sharpie is the lesser-known smooth-coated variety, Gale said.

Although he’s a pet, Sharpie lives with his handling team in Santa Ynez and has a trio of owners: Gale, Felicia Ca-shin of San Luis Obispo and breeder Kathy Fleener of Tucson, Ariz.

“The handling team cares for him, loves and grooms him and he lives with them 24/7 … That’s the way it is with show dogs at this level,” Gale said.

She refers to her dog lovingly as “my little Sharpie.”

He came to her when he was 4½ months old, selected by Fleener, who told Gale he was the right dog for her. Gale went to Tucson, picked him up and brought him home. She wanted a show dog; however, it’s rare for a breeder to give one to an amateur, Gale said.

“Sharpie started out as my pet and lived with me until May of last year,” she said. “Then he had the opportunity to go to a fantastic handling team. He was always my pet first.”

He made his show debut at six months.

“As I started showing him around California, he started getting no-ticed,” Gale said. “He had the support to go further, to go with a wonderful handling team in Southern California. Now he’s 2 years old and has received a lot of honors.”

Sharpie is in the toy group. Other groups include sporting, working and herding, and there’s a Best of Breed in each group. Sharpie was in a group of eight, so he triumphed over seven other dogs. On the other end of the leash was handler Christian Rangel, who showed Sharpie at Westminster, along with Jenny Rangel.

While Westminster is the top dog show in the country, Sharpie has been shown at other events, most recently in Santa Clara and Chicago.

“Dogs are the stars,” Gale said. “They have a mega attitude and you can see them sparkle in the ring.”

Sharpie became an American Kennel Club champion of record at 13 months old and seems to enjoy attending shows.

“You can’t take an un-happy dog into a show,” Gale said.

Typically, a dog may show for two to three years and some show up to age 7.

“It depends on how successful and how well they do and what the dog wants to do. He will tell you when he wants to come home,” Gale said.

Not all dogs live with handlers. Many live at home with their owners. But at the top level in the dog show world, more than one person owns the dog.

“He began his life living with me, but he is owned by all three of us,” Gale said. “When it’s time to come home, he comes home to me. That’s the way it is with show dogs.”

Gale, who used to show horses, became acquainted with dog shows through a friend. After seeing her friend show dogs, she thought to herself, “If I can show a 1,500-pound horse, I can show a little dog.”

She said people from all walks of life show dogs, as a hobby and as a sport.

“It’s like a Cinderella story for me,” Gale said. “I eat, drink and love Sharpie. The dog is the love of my life. These dogs are always our pets first. They are not trophies.”

Her pet may live away from her, but he’ll return.

“My dog has a job,” she said.