Dog takes top honors for Douglas couple

| By Karen Larsen |

A four-year-old Weimaraner named Schwinn has brought home high honors for Douglas owners Walt and Marilyn Gearhart, as well as for her co-owners and handlers Alan and Pamela Sage of Battle Ground.

Schwinn won first for her breed at the 137th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show at Madison Square Garden in New York City in February.

The show is the second-longest continuously running sporting event in the United States after the Kentucky Derby, and the most prestigious dog show in the nation. In the dog show world, it is a conformation show, testing how well dogs meet the established standard for their breed.

The Gearharts have been involved in showing dogs at different local and national events for over 20 years. They started with Golden Retrievers, and moved on to a variety of other breeds, included the Weimaraner, a hunting dog.

Schwinn won Best of Opposite in 2011. She had seven puppies in 2012, and the Gearharts had thought that they wouldn’t show her much after that. However, the Sages continued to take her to local competitions, and she kept winning. The Gearharts and Sages decided to take her to Westminster again this year, and were surprised that she did even better than two years ago.

Schwinn stays full-time with the Sages, but the Gearharts still have seven dogs at home — six Golden Retrievers, including a puppy, and a Havanese. Marilyn said that on a good day, they get each of the dogs out to practice on their home obstacle course. Even those that are older and have retired from dog shows have the chance to maintain skills and to earn special treats and affirmation at the end of the course.

For this couple, the hobby of showing dogs combines a love for the animal with the challenge of competing. “It really is exciting when you get in a ring and your dog is really doing well,” Walt said.
They also like to get together with dog show friends that they have met over the years. “We know the same people we met when we started in 1991-1992,” Marilyn said.

Like proud parents, Walt and Marilyn are very pleased with Schwinn’s accomplishments and have plenty of photos to show. “There’s nothing like it,” Walt said of the feeling he had after Schwinn won first place.