Gilbert dog competes for Westminster title - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Local News

Gilbert dog competes for Westminster title

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Posted: Saturday, January 31, 2009 8:18 pm | Updated: 1:17 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

Jewel, a 6-year-old dog from Gilbert, is rated the number-one Saluki in the country after competing in dozens of shows across the United States.

The 47-pound, sleek, golden dog with the long, hairy ears has graced the cover of “Sight and Scent: The Magazine of the Hound Group.”

And on Feb. 9-10, the dog whose registered name is Fortune Teller Secret will compete for the first time in the 133rd annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

Jewel will be one of 27 Arizona dogs competing in the biggest and most prestigious dog show which features 2,500 dogs from the United States and seven other countries. The show will be televised live on the USA Network and CNBC.

Jewel’s owner, Lyndell Ackerman, is making her sixth trip to the Westminster show with her beloved, award-winning Salukis. The show is America’s first and only champions-only dog show.

“It’s hard to get into because of the limited number of dogs accepted,” said the 57-year-old Ackerman. “Jewel was invited to be an early entry because she’s in the top five of her breed in the rankings.”

Ackerman has been showing dogs, mainly Salukis, for about 30 years. She used to be the handler of her own dogs in shows until she had brain surgery due to a tumor 10 years ago.

“I like the people. It’s a whole different kind of community,” Ackerman said. “It’s just fun. (The dog show mockumentary movie) 'Best in Show’ is very true.”

Jewel’s litter of six puppies has already produced three champions. Jewel’s grandmother, Driving Miss Daisy, won the first hound show ever in the United States 12 years ago, Ackerman said.

“They’re very clean and have hardly any odor,” said Ackerman, treasurer of the Central Arizona Saluki Association. “I like their temperaments, especially the females.”

Besides being an award winner, Jewel is known as a “first-class thief.”

“If there’s food on the counter, she’ll find it,” Ackerman said. “She also considers herself a princess.”

Jewel is currently vacationing and getting conditioned in Washington state with her handler, Donald Rodgers. She’s getting groomed, playing with huge African geese and building up her coat in the colder weather to prepare for the Westminster show, Ackerman said.

Besides Jewel, Ackerman has five other Salukis at her acre-lot Gilbert home.

Jewel and her 2 1/2 year old son, Chief, are the feathered variety, with hair on their ears, back of their legs and tail. Diva, Fly and Heidi are the smooth variety, which as their name suggests, is void of the hairy parts. Be Still My Heart is a rarer Brindle Saluki of the feathered variety from Australia.

Those interested in dog shows locally can visit a Saluki-only show called Dual in the Desert, featuring 50 Salukis from across the country, Feb. 14-16 at the Windemere Hotel & Conference Center in Mesa. Ackerman is the show chairwoman, and Chief will be competing.

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