Indian woman to judge at Westminster Kennel Club 146th Annual Dog Show
Bergit Coady-Kabel has come a long way since learning to check canine anal glands. After a lifetime of grooming and showcasing award-winning dogs, the 73-year-old Indio resident will be a judge at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show – the the oldest dog show in the USA
“It’s a show you want to go to,” Coady-Kabel said, describing it as glamorous, charming, and vibrant. She has shown many dogs at Westminster and has attended them almost every year, but this will be the first time she has attended as a judge.
She retired from a handler in 2016 following a diagnosis of multiple myeloma, a cancer of the plasma cells. However, when her cancer went into remission, she began the process to become a judge and judged her first show in 2018.
Before that, Coady-Kabel had never thought of judging. Now she judges in shows across the country about once a month.
“It keeps you involved in the dog world,” she said. “And when they called and said ‘Would you like to judge in Westminster?’ I was like ‘Ahh! Yes!’ “Coady-Kabel recalls, throwing his hands in the air and laughing.
“We always showed there… so it was fantastic,” she added.
Last year was the only time since its inception in 1877 that the Westminster Dog Show has not been held in New York, nor open to spectators due to the COVID-19 pandemic and related restrictions.. In January 2022, the show will return to its usual place at Madison Square Garden,but there are still restrictions on spectators and all participants must be vaccinated against COVID-19.
There are 31 recognized types of terriers and, according to Westminster archives, they win the “Best in Show” more often than other dog breeds. Coady-Kabel will judge nine, including:
- Australian terrier
- Border terrier
- Cairn Terrier
- Norfolk Terrier
- Norwich Terrier
- Sealyham Terrier
- Skye Terrier
- West Highland White Terrier
She will have 2.5 minutes to judge each competitor, and dogs are judged on everything from the shape of their ears to the quality of their coat and gait. Dogs are not compared to each other – they are judged by how they compare to “ideal” standards.
A total of 209 breeds and varieties are recognized by the American Kennel Club. They are divided into seven groups: Athletes, Dogs, Workers, Burrows, Toys, Non-athletes and Breeding. Each group has a winner, and then there is also an overall winner, known as the “Best in Show”.
The show will take place from January 22 to 26. All Best of Breed winners selected by Coady-Kabel will qualify for the Terrier Group competition held on the last night of the competition. Some events will be broadcast live on westminsterkennelclub.org. Most of the events will be available live on Fox Sports 2 and through the FOX NOW and FOX Sports apps.
“I’ve always been crazy about dogs”
When she was 13, Coady-Kabel and her family left southern Germany for Hamburg, a city that had been bombed during World War II. Just down the street was a grooming store.
Young Coady-Kabel knew she had to find a way into the store.
“I don’t know why, but I’ve always been crazy about dogs,” she told the Desert Sun on Monday, wearing a terrier print shirt and terrier earrings. “It doesn’t really work in my family.”
One day she heard that the owners were looking for a babysitter – Coady-Kabel had a younger brother and loved children, so she applied for the job. She was hired and after each shift she was helping with their five dogs. When she finally convinced the groomer to take her to his store, he taught her how to clean a dog’s anal glands, teeth and ears.
After some thought, she said, maybe he was trying to scare her. If so, it didn’t work.
“Maybe he wanted to get rid of me,” she laughed.
When she graduated at just 16 or 17, Coady-Kabel traveled to England with the intention of to work in a Scottish Terrier breeding for a year. She stayed two. It is an experience which will dictate the rest of his career: from then on, Coady-Kabel specializes in burrows.
“I like their temper,” she said, adding that dogs are intelligent and attentive. “Plus, when you get good at grooming, that’s it.”
Terriers and poodles are the most difficult breeds to groom, according to Coady-Kabel.
Most terrier breeds, if they ever hope to compete, cannot be shaved like other dogs. To keep their coats tough, Scotties, for example, have to go through a tedious and lengthy process called “stripping.” Practice keeps their coarse curls intact. Shaving dogs, Coady-Kabel explained, regrows soft fur, with a smoother texture.
Terriers also need to be groomed weekly for months before a show. For this reason, many competitive dogs live in kennels or with their groomers for long periods of time.
That’s how Coady-Kabel ended up with Justin, who she says is the most successful Miniature Schnauzer with a record 32 wins. Coady-Kabel had been Justin’s groomer for years, and when his owner was dying, she asked Coady-Kabel to keep him.
“The dog family is amazing,” Coady-Kabel said. “It’s like your family – the friendships are amazing.”
Justin is also retired from shows and the 12-year-old’s coat has been cut.
“He’s an absolutely gorgeous dog,” she said.
It’s clear that Coady-Kabel is still crazy about dogs. On the kitchen counter next to his copy of the LA Times were editions of “Dog News Magazine” and “Our Dogs”. Burrow statues, figurines, portraits and paintings fill her home with Justin, her four Scotties and her husband Hans’ Samoyed, Nico.
All of their dogs, now finished competing in shows, are just “pets” – a term used as an insult in competition – but they haven’t forgotten their training. None of them bark. They keep their heads up when they walk. And they enjoy all the playing time and attention they get, going for tennis balls and snuggling up with their pet parents.
“All dogs are good,” some are champions and some are great, said Coady-Kabel. “They are all pets.”
Maria Sestito covers aging issues in the Coachella Valley. She is also a member of the Report for America Corps. Follow her on Twitter @RiaSestito, on Instagram @RiaSestito_Reporter or email her at [email protected]