Erin Doherty is still on cloud nine a week after her two-year-old St. Bernard Karma came home with nine ribbons from a recent competition. The Canadian Kennel Club All Breed Show was held in Saskatoon in August, only Karma’s fourth time in the ring.
Karma, whose pedigree name is “Whitewater’s Destined a Diva,” was entered into three conformation shows over the weekend. She was handled in each show by professional handler Katherina Dueck or junior handler Sarah McIntyre. To Doherty’s delight, Karma came away with First in Class, Winners Bitch, and Best of Breed in each show, resulting in nine ribbons being awarded. It was a notable achievement for both the young Karma and Doherty in a competition that saw 200 dogs compete.
Doherty was pleased by the way Karma, such a young dog, behaved in the show ring for McIntyre, who had only previously handled shelties and expressed her surprise at how big and heavy Karma actually was, all 140 lbs. of her.
A considerable amount of work goes into showing a dog and the first port of call before a show is the dog groomer. Doherty says she takes Karma to Teddy Matthews at Country Freedom Kennels, where she undergoes a three-hour groom consisting of a bath, blow dry and a light trim, everything down to the nails, which can be quite the process for the groomer handling a St. Bernard.
For the conformation dog show, the St. Bernard falls into the category of Working Dog and strict rules and regulations concerning the general appearance, size, condition of the coat and its colour, the head and neck, forequarters, body, hind quarters and tail are all taken into consideration. To the uninitiated, the conformation class in the dog world is not dissimilar to the Miss World Competition in the human world.
When it comes to looks, Doherty explains that people either like “smooth” short-haired St. Bernards or the traditional long-haired variety; her own preferred breed is the former. Even though Doherty treats Karma as a member of the family, diet, conditioning and conformation are still an important factor as Doherty’s aim is to breed championship St. Bernards.
The idea to breed began when Doherty purchased Holly as a family pet close to Christmas one year, hence the name. It was only when she purchased Karma from a breeder in Indiana as a companion for Holly that she realized the potential and became serious about breeding championship St. Bernards.
In order to breed champions, Karma must first achieve championship status and will have to go up against other St. Bernards to earn points or place well in a group ring of other working dogs, says Doherty. It is difficult to achieve when there are so few to compete against.
Karma’s newly found fame has not changed her outlook on life. Doherty says Karma still has a penchant for fruit and vegetables, and lettuce is her favourite food. She never says no to a bowl of salad and has been known to get her head stuck in a jar of peanut butter.
A St. Bernard’s origin and purpose is rescue work, most famously connected to the Great Saint Bernard Pass in the Swiss Alps. These dogs are still bred in the famous hospice founded by St. Bernard of Menthon.
By Andy Labdon