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Article Published January 2, 2019
For the Love of Dogs
Nathan Hughart

Nancy Salk has been showing dogs since she was five years old. Now, her dachshund Friday is going to the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, the biggest dog show of the year.

Her father got Nancy a boxer, Kris, when she was a child. She and Kris won a small local show in Rhode Island. From that start, she just never stopped showing.

“The feeling of winning and being around all these dog people and their dogs…all of that is what made me feel like I loved it,” Nancy says.

There are some breeders who are just there to breed a lot of litters, Nancy says, but most people go to dog shows because they love the dog breeds they show. Many of these breeders belong to clubs that subscribe to codes of ethics.

“Dog people are as crazy as they are in the movies,” Nancy says. “The people are…really into this. More into this than they probably should be, including myself.”

Showing dogs has been a family pastime. Nancy’s uncle showed German shepherds in agility. Her aunt showed wheaten terriers.

“If you go into these dog shows, you’re going to find a lot of people who come from dog show families,” Nancy says.

Friday came to Nancy from a breeder in Minnesota. His first owner had shown him a little, but ultimately gave him up. When Nancy took Friday in, she hired a handler to show him and, she says, his career took off.

“[Friday] thinks he’s a golden retriever. He’s very smart. He’s very nice to everybody. He’s never met anybody he didn’t like,” Nancy says.

Friday competes in the breed ring of dog shows, meaning judges are comparing his traits to other longhaired dachshunds and judging how well those traits conform to the breed standard.

“It’s also very dependent on what the judge likes,” Nancy says. “It’s very subjective. It’s like an art form.”

Friday spent a year with his handler, showing and preparing for shows, but he came home to East Haven for the holidays.

“The handler said I should take him home for Christmas and I said he’s Jewish. But he’s still home,” she says.

Friday spends most of his time with his handler, Tara, who lives in Pennsylvania with a few other dogs she handles in shows.

“You go to a lot of shows and you don’t win all of them,” Nancy said. “It’s really the judge’s opinion of the group of dogs on any given day.”

Friday took home “Select Dog” in the National Dog Show in Philadelphia broadcast on Thanksgiving. When his handler suggested registering him for Westminster, this win made Nancy more comfortable with the idea.

He also won Best in Show at the Bay State Dachshund Club.

“It’s always been a dream of mine to have a dog go to [Westminster],” she says. “The chance of winning Westminster isn’t great, but I want to do it. I don’t know why.”

Nancy had to apply for Friday’s spot in the Westminster dog show. Before he’s formally accepted, they will have to audit points he’s earned from winning other major competitions.

After Westminster, Friday may take an early retirement at four years old, but Nancy plans to continue showing dogs. She has two other dachshunds, young siblings, whom she believes may be of show quality.

“A lot of people who show dogs get the dog when it’s older because that way you can see what the dog is going to turn out like,” Nancy says.

But Nancy has had her other two dogs since they were puppies.

“I’m really a pet person who likes to show dogs…It means a lot to me. If they’re not a show dog, then I just have them as a pet,” she says.

Over the years, Nancy says she may have shown as many as 20 dogs of varying breeds. Her journey with showing dogs started at age five, but it has continued because of the joy showing dogs brings her.

“Do you ever do anything in your life where it doesn’t maybe make sense, but you go to something and you feel like whatever issues you have in your life, they all lift up and you’re having a good time?” Nancy asks. “When I go there, I just feel good…You walk around and you talk to people and their dogs and they talk to you about their dogs.”

“It’s all good,” she says. “You do it because you love the breed and you love the dogs.”