Phoebe, an eight-month-old Leonberger, not only serves seniors at the Senior Center in Austintown, but also shows her qualities by competing in dog shows. Her recent trip to the Canfield Fairgrounds proved that point.
Over the weekend, Phoebe along with handler/owner Jim Henshaw, competed at the Steel Valley Cluster Dog Show at the fairgrounds. They did well, earning several ribbons and almost defeating the present No. 1 dog in the country.
Henshaw also serves as director of the Austintown Senior Center. He started bringing Phoebe to work and she was highly accepted by the center's membership. When they found out she was going to compete in various shows, they made up T-shirts to show support.
Photo special to the Town Crier
Phoebe and her owner Jim Henshaw are joined by Austintown Senior Center members Carol Ricker, Charlene Lytell, Helen Walker, Kay Lavelle, Eleanor Ziobet, Sally Zaborsky, Audrey Foust, Bruce Ricker, Gloria Habib, Judy Jones, Roger Mattock, and Ron Walker. The center members are all wearing special T-shirts designed to show support of their canine friend.
Leonbergers are a new breed that was accepted by the AKC in 2010. They are considered members of the working group in the show ring. They were actually bred for farm work and companionship and are named after the city of Leonberger in Germany.
Leonbergers are best known for their dark face and beautiful coats, often resembling a lion's mane. They are great herding dogs as well as being known as a great companion with a friendly nature.
Because the breed is fairly new to the show circuit, there are not a large number competing. Phoebe competed on Saturday and Sunday against three other Leonbergers who were already big winners.
"She beat out one national winner and a grand national winning bitch," Henshaw said. "She did bring home three major awards."
That triumph put Phoebe's name on the map as a show winner. For Henshaw, that is not bad considering she just entered the show circuit last month.
Unlike some show dog owners who hire handlers, Henshaw prefers to handle Phoebe himself. That means knowing how the dog should behave in the ring and ensuring she has the right stance for judging. It also requires proper dress, which was tough on Saturday.
"Saturday was really hot," Henshaw said. "I had to wear a sports coat in the ring at 95 degrees. That was really hard."
Phoebe took Monday off at the Senior Center, but returned on Tuesday with her awards for all her senior friends to see. The center's members will know they have a real champion among them.