First in Breed: Middle Granville’s couple Labrador Retriever take tops honors at Westminster Show

B y Jaime Thomas

At the most renowned dog show in the world, in the second most popular category, the winning canine came from Middle Granville.

Catherine ‘Kaki’ Fisher and her husband, Robert, won two out of four top spots available for Labrador Retriever champions with their dogs Kiefer and Kitsy at the Westminster Kennel Club’s Annual All-Breed Dog Show last week.

And Keifer made a name for himself when he was named the best of his breed out of 53 Labradors in the competition, in which people and dogs from all over the world were entered.

Kaki Fisher said it was very exciting to have won in such a prestigious show, which she described as the Super Bowl of dog shows.

“It felt like we had two very good quality animals in very good condition, and we were hopeful,” Fisher said.

The show is the oldest continuous sporting event in the United States after the Kentucky Derby, and Robert said it has developed a lot of hype.

“It’s hugely popular. People like dogs, and they like watching dogs even if they don’t have one,” Robert said. He estimated that 50,000 spectators came to the event between the two days it took place.

Fisher, who also co-owns Pets Etc. in Manchester, Vt., has been around dogs her entire life. Her mother bred and showed dogs, and Fisher has followed in her footsteps.

Her first experience around Westminster-winning dogs was at Seaward Kennels in North Rupert, Vt., where she had a summer job before college. She was reoffered this job working with Newfoundlands after high school and got her Bachelor’s Degree at Castleton State College, while completing husbandry and showing dogs at the same time.

Several years down the line, she and a friend opened the pet store in Manchester. In the meantime, she had her first litter of Labs born and continued to be involved with the breed.

“They’re big, robust dogs that are sweet and good with other dogs and children, and they’re minimal in care,” Fisher said.

She said she and her husband go to dog shows almost every weekend of the year, and her husband gets paid to show other people’s dogs. The Labs, though, are theirs and the Fishers show them as a hobby.

In previous years, the Westminster show was only open to champion dogs. This year, however, anyone with a “major win” could enter. Fisher said the dogs each undergo an individual examination, and then the judge does a continuous process of elimination.

She thought it was amazing to win and said rather than feeling nervous during judging, she felt exhilaration and anticipation. She said owning a pet store and showing dogs is a great combination for a lifestyle.

“I love this — it’s what I do,” she said.

The Fishers said running Frakari Kennels in Middle Granville and breeding and preparing the dogs for shows is a lot of hard work mixed with guess work.

“We’re always trying to best the generation before,” Fisher said, adding that Labrador Retrievers are the most popular breed in America. This also means there are usually large numbers of them for her dogs to compete against.

The practice the dogs undertake starts with “kindergarten” puppy classes at eight weeks old and goes on to more classes and eventually show training until they are seasoned enough to compete.

What the couple stresses is that they breed and show the dogs for their enjoyment and as a hobby.

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