Seymour woman and her dog accepted for Westminster


Susie Rohr and her Barbet, Harper, have competed in dog shows in Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Florida and South Carolina.

After this weekend, they can add New York to their list.

The Seymour woman and her 4-year-old female French water dog will compete in what’s often referred to as the World Series or Super Bowl of dog shows, the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.

Established in 1877, the Westminster Kennel Club is America’s oldest organization dedicated to the sport of dogs and hosts the iconic all-breed dog show. The show is the second-longest continuously held sporting event in the United States and since 1948 is the longest nationally televised live dog show, according to

The annual dog show — a conformation competition for purebred dogs — and the Masters Agility Championship and Masters Obedience Championship — where dogs from all backgrounds are eligible to compete — make Westminster Week with its nearly 3,000 dogs from the United States and around the world a pinnacle experience for any dog lover.

Normally, the show is conducted inside Madison Square Garden in New York City. Due to the state’s COVID-19 regulations impacting the allowable number of attendees at events, however, Westminster’s 2021 events will take place outdoors at Lyndhurst Mansion in Tarrytown, New York, and there will be no spectators or vendors.

The show will still be on TV, and some parts will be online. Junior Showmanship, Breed and Group judging will be Sunday on Fox Sports, and the final Best in Show competition will begin at 8 p.m. Sunday on Fox.

Rohr is excited because Harper enters the show as No. 1 in her breed and owner-handled based on points earned in American Kennel Club shows this year. She is traveling there with Harper’s breeder, Stacy Able of Indianapolis, who also had a dog qualify.

“I’m hoping to meet more people. There are a lot of nice dog people. We’re all a little nuts when you start talking about dogs. At least there, they speak my language,” Rohr said, laughing.

Rohr said the top five dogs in each breed receive an automatic entry into Westminster, and Harper was No. 7 last year. This year, though, she’s the top Barbet among six that will be at the show.

If Harper wins Best of Breed, she will go on to compete in Best of Opposite Sex against other sporting dogs. Once the sporting dog winner is chosen, it will go into Best of Show against working, herding, toy and other categories of dogs.

All breeds will be livestreamed online at (Harper will be on at 10:30 a.m. Sunday), and the sporting ring will air on TV on Fox Sports.

“I’m not holding my breath, but everybody has got a chance,” Rohr said of Harper advancing through the competition.

While Rohr didn’t enter Harper in shows until 2018, Barbet wasn’t a fully recognized breed by AKC until 2020, she said. Before then, they were in a miscellaneous category because there weren’t many of them in the country.

“We didn’t have a whole lot of shows, and you get what you call a certificate of merit. You aren’t a champion when you’re a miscellaneous dog,” Rohr said.

In 2020, though, Barbet became a member of the sporting division. It’s a sporting dog that’s bred to flush and retrieve game through marshes, so that’s why Barbets have a lot of hair.

“They are an ancient breed, 16th century,” Rohr said. “Just like many dogs over in Europe, most of them almost died out after World War II, and people worked to get them coming back.”

Rohr hasn’t been working with Harper for too long, but she took a long break from training dogs before getting back into it.

“I always loved dogs and horses, but I lived in town and wasn’t going to get a horse,” she said of her youth. “I was in seventh grade, and a farmer friend of my dad’s, you know how they just have farm dogs, he had a litter of cocker spaniels, and he gave me a blonde cocker spaniel, and that was my dog and I joined 4-H and started training.”

She continued that through most of high school, competing in the Jackson County Fair each year and going to the Indiana State Fair one year.

Then she took time away from it until her children, Alec and Libby, joined the Waggin’ Pals 4-H Club. In 2006, she became a club leader and began helping the kids with dog training.

“From me being in 4-H all of those years, it just stayed with me, and it was something I really liked,” she said.

Libby started training a second dog, and when the first one died, Susie wanted another purebred dog to train herself. She initially wanted a Portuguese water dog, but as she continued to research, she came across Barbet, learned there were only 600 in the United States and found a breeder in Indianapolis.

“I went and met the breeder and interviewed and I thought, ‘I don’t know if I’ll even get one because they are not cheap,'” Rohr said. “Then she called me and she had a family back out, and she goes, ‘I need a home for a pet puppy that will be shown.’ I was like, ‘OK, I think I can do this.'”

Rohr passed the test and became the owner of Harper. At first, she had a family friend, Izzy Smith of Seymour, show the dog. At 9 months old, Harper won her first show.

By the time Harper was 2 years old, Rohr felt ready to train her in obedience.

Harper later won conformation, which is like showmanship in 4-H where the judge also is judging the handler. The handler ensures the dog is properly stacked and obedient as it trots around a rectangular ring.

“I’ve been doing it ever since, and I caught the bug, as they say,” Rohr said, smiling.

The dog also is judged on the accepted standards for its breed.

“When you’re in the dog show ring, you’re somewhat competing against the other people, but you’re really competing against a piece of paper. That’s what I always say,” Rohr said. “They want to pick out who best represents the standard of that breed.”

It helped that Rohr started working with Harper at a young age and the dog was a natural in the ring.

“I’m lucky she’s a natural,” Rohr said. “She is sassy. She loves to show off. I’ve seen other dogs and they are just like ‘No, I’m not doing that today.’ She loves it, which makes it easy on me.”

In the middle of March 2020, Rohr and Harper were competing at a big four-day dog show in Louisville, Kentucky, when the COVID-19 pandemic interrupted.

“On Friday, she earned her last point to become a champion, and then the show shut down, so she got her championship just in time,” Rohr said.

Then there weren’t any shows until the fall and winter, and most were in the southern U.S. because those were the first states to open back up.

Recently, Rohr and Harper have competed in Indiana at Kokomo and Crown Point and also in Ohio.

“We’re starting to get them all opened up again,” she said of shows. “At least I don’t have to drive so far.”

Driving to New York for Westminster, however, will be an exception. She doesn’t mind that since it’s such a prestigious show.

More than a month ago, she received an email letting her know her application had been approved, but then she had to go through an AKC audit. Finally, she received a confirmation email and her tickets in the mail.

“It’s so wild because this is my first show dog,” she said of Harper. “It helps that she’s a rare breed. … That’s in my favor, but for this to be my first show dog and me never having done (Westminster) before, it’s like, ‘Wow!'”

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Name: Harper

Dog breed: Barbet

Age: 4

Weight: 49 pounds

AKC name: GCH CH Ginkgo de Ellis Lexington CM2 BN RI TKN CGC

Owner/handler/trainer: Susie Rohr of Seymour

Breeder: Stacy Able of Indianapolis

Groomer: Izzy Smith of Seymour


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