WEEKI WACHEE — Kristen O'Brien and her partner Calvin didn't end up in the winner's circle at the famous Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show at Madison Square Garden last week.
But the 13-year-old and the golden retriever she co-owns had a great time nonetheless, she said.
"It was really fine. I enjoyed it a lot,'' Kristen said, adding, "The show site was great."
Age and experience for both team members may have conspired against the teammates.
"In the preliminaries, I didn't make the cut," Kristen said, explaining that a judge singled out five or six dogs from among 15 or 16 contenders vying for junior showmanship honors.
"(The judge) said he liked how I showed my golden, but that the other (handlers) were older," up to age 18, she said.
Canine age was another factor, Kristen said. Calvin, age 9, completed his championship title in conformation evaluation at age 7. He was in show ring hiatus until last year, when Kristen's grandmother purchased a half-interest in Calvin from Morgan and Kasey Brooks of Spring Hill.
Showing dogs is a family affair, with the members including parents Dawn and Michael O'Brien traveling the circuit around Florida. Kristen's grandmother Jackie Bressler of Weeki Wachee is a dog breeder, and Kristen's twin sister Kasey also shows dogs.
Kasey competed last year in the Eukanuba show in California.
Kristen and the Brooks have lined up another golden retriever for the young but experienced handler to campaign with in the coming year. He is 5-year-old Duncan, co-owned by breeder Alicia Maxy in Illinois. Maxy is a client of the Brooks couple, who train dogs for show.
If Kristen can show Duncan to three first prize wins in the coming months, she will earn eligibility to return to Westminster with him on leash next February. She will be showing him for the first time the coming weekend at an American Kennel Club sanctioned show in Louisville, Ky.
Beth Gray can be contacted at [email protected]