Area Breeder Earns Spot at Westminster

By Will Johnson
Messenger Reporter

HOUSTON COUNTY – When you think of dog shows, one of the first names that comes to mind is Westminster. According to the organization’s website, “The Westminster Kennel Club (WKC) dog show has a rich history as the most prestigious dog event in America. Every year thousands of dedicated breeders, owners and handlers make their way to New York City in the hopes of winning this premiere event. Before they make it to Westminster however, there are countless hours of training, grooming and travel as they work to earn championship titles, qualifying wins and top rankings.”

This year’s WKC show will have an East Texas flavor as local dog handler/breeder Jessica McRae will have not just one, but two canines competing for top honors in the Big Apple.

McRae said the two dogs set for the Madison Square Garden spotlight are Treeing Walker Coonhounds.

“I’ve been involved with Treeing Walker Coonhounds for over 15 years. As a matter of fact, one of the dogs that’s going was born and raised right here at my place. The other one came from South Carolina. He was the last puppy in the litter. No one wanted him because he has color on one side and it real open spotted on the other side,” she said.

“I had liked him since he was little,” McRae explained. “He belonged to a really dear friend of mine and she said, ‘If you want him, come and get him.’ So, I went and got him.”

The Treeing Walker Coonhound is bred to track and tree raccoons, McRae said.

“We actually had one a few years ago that would tree squirrels during the day and tree coons at night. You can train them in tracking, dock diving and a number of other things,” she added.

Asked how she got into competitive dog shows, McRae said she began showing when she got her first hound.

“I started in event showing with UKC (United Kennel Club) and we did well there. We had quite a bit of success doing it and then we changed over to the conformation shows. This year all we have done is really pushed the conformation shows and we finished the year tied for number three and number six,” she said.

A conformation show, according to McRae, “… is like Westminster. You go in with your dog and you gait it. You set it up to look the best that it can look and hope the judge nods your way.”

McRae said she also has a German Shepherd at home but indicated he was still a puppy and would not be ready to show for at least a year.

“The dog that was number three will be handled by a junior handler out of Oklahoma. A junior handler is someone who is under the age of 18,” she said.

“One of them is called Squeaky and the other one I call Laya,” McRae said when asked what the dogs’ names were.

Squeaky’s registered name is: UKC Grand Champion, AKC Conformation Champion, Intercontinental Champion, Broken Road Bad Medicine.

Laya’s registered name is: UKC Champion, Three Colors, I’m a Pistol Too.

The Westminster Dog Show will be held Feb. 10 through Feb. 13, with judging beginning on Monday, Feb. 12. Treeing Walker Coonhounds will be judged as part of the hound group on that Monday.

The 2018 show will be broadcast on Fox Sports 1 with Fox Sports digital platforms providing additional coverage. Nat Geo Wild will air encore showings of each night’s programs.

Will Johnson may be contacted via e-mail at wjohnson@messenger-news.com.

COURTESY PHOTO IS REPRESENTATIVE OF THE TREEING WALKER COONHOUND AND NOT OF THE ACTUAL DOGS TRAVELING TO THE WKC DOG SHOW