NEW YORK, N.Y. — A Cortland County woman won a medal in the group class for Belgian Malinois at the Westminster Dog Show Monday night.
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Debbie Keith, of Homer, won 'Best of Breed' in the Herding category for Belgian Malinois at the Westminster Dog Show in Madison Square Garden, beating out 16 other dogs of the same breed.
Keith imported the dog from a Finland breeder when the animal was eight weeks old.
"I knew Finn was special when he finished his first championship when he was six months old," she said.
She won't receive a cash prize but will receive a Westminster ribbon and medallion with Finn's name engraved on it.
Keith, who works full-time as an Information Technology director for the Wendy's franchise, has been training dogs as a hobby for years.
She became interested in the sport after watching her daughter train her dog in agility techniques. Since then, she's been to the Westminster show on four different occasions, though this was Finn's first time competing in the event.
Aside from being a show dog, Finn also competes in the categories of tracking, lure coursing and agility, she said.
Keith purchased her first Malinois in 2001. Since then, she's had eight different Malinois, a dog she calls "an incredibly talented and devoted dog."
"I just love working in partnership with the dog," she said. "If you're not working with your dog and your dog isn't in tune with you, you won't succeed. It's such a gratifying feeling to be able to connect with this animal and achieve this."
Keith says she doesn't plan on pursuing dog training as a full-time gig.
"There are people who show dogs professionally," she said. "I just like showing my own dog."
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