Heather Luster of Heatherfield Collies and L&L Kennels on Hartzell Road in Jackson Township greets Hart, Liberty and Renah — three rough collies from the same litter — that will compete in the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show this week.
JACKSON TWP — If Hart, Liberty and Renah were nervous about competing at this week’s Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York City, they certainly weren’t showing it. The three litter mates were sprawled out on their owner’s home just days before the big event. The “Lassie” dogs will be heading to the big show in the Big Apple this weekend. Heather Luster of Heatherfield Collies and L&L Kennels on Hartzell Road will be traveling to New York with her three champion rough collies to show them at the most prestigious dog show in the nation. “I’m really excited to be in the show. I’m not too nervous. My biggest fear is the New York City traffic,” said Luster of her trip. The Westminster Kennel Club was established in 1877, making it America’s oldest organization dedicated to the sport of purebred dogs. The club’s dog show is America’s second-longest continuously held sporting event, behind only the Kentucky Derby. It is in its 137th year. Westminster predates the invention of the light bulb and the automobile, the building of the Brooklyn Bridge and the Washington Monument, the invention of basketball and the establishment of the World Series. The opening night will be televised live from 8 to 11 p.m. Monday on the CNBC network where the Best of Group judging for the hound, toy, nonsporting and herding groups take place. Luster’s collies will compete in the herding group. The closing night will be televised live from 8 to 11 p.m. Tuesday on the USA Network and will include Best of Group judging for sporting, working and terrier groups and conclude the show with the Best in Show judging. Luster will be staying in Hotel Pennsylvania in New York City, where she said they really cater to those participating in the show. Not only is it a lot of work for breeders to get their dogs trained to participate in show and skill test events, getting them ready to travel, especially for three dogs, takes a lot of effort. Because of the snowstorm that was expected to hit the East Coast and dump up to 14 inches in the New York City area, Luster planned to travel Saturday to Harrisburg, staying overnight there to wait out the storm. Luster plans to drive into New York City on today. There are three crates that need to be packed and readied, three water containers, all the food, and taking time for water and feeding breaks on the trip. Then there is getting them ready for the show and heading to the venue at 5 a.m. Monday for their group’s judging, which is scheduled for 10 a.m. Then, they will spend the rest of the day there until all of the judging is completed before heading back to their hotel room. What is rare and unique about Luster’s 2½-year-old collies competing in the Westminster show is that they are all litter mates, one brother and two sisters that will be competing first in Best of Breed. Their official AKC registered names are: Ch. Heatherfield Heart to Hart “Hart,” Ch. Heatherfield Marilyn Monroe “Renah,” and Ch. Heatherfield Liberty Belle “Liberty.” Luster’s collies have won shows and herding titles from numerous states including Pennsylvania, New York, Mississippi and Georgia just to name a few. They also have been featured in national dog magazines. Luster had begun working with animals as a teenager at a stable where she owned, trained and groomed race horses. From there she also began to train dogs, both for hunting and for house training. The scores of ribbons and titles are hung in the office area of their boarding kennel marking the achievements of the three litter mates and from some of the other collies and hounds she shows. “Collies have a wonderful temperament. They’re people dogs. They’re easy to train and make a great watchdog,” said Luster, who has a total of nine collies in her kennel. There are two types of collies, rough and smooth coat, and they come in four colors, sable and white, tri-color, white and blue merle. If one of Luster’s collies, Hart, Liberty or Renah, is chosen winner in Best of Breed, it would move on to the Best of Class. If chosen a winner there, the dog will go onto the Best of Show category. “Whether they win or lose, they get a plain hamburger from McDonald’s after the show. They actually know the yellow arches when we pull into the lot,” Luster said.