Best in Show
Peggy Beisel-McIlwaine is once again headed for Westminster.
by Patrick Dunn
From the February, 2019 issue
This month Peggy Beisel-McIlwaine will mark her eighth time judging what she describes as "the Super Bowl of dog shows"--the annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show at Madison Square Garden. Although the Northfield Township resident has judged shows on four continents, Westminster is still special. "It's just like walking through an art museum for dog people," she says. "You get the best of the best."
Fascinated with dog shows since high school, Beisel-McIlwaine went on to earn her living as a handler and breeder of Cairn terriers and wire fox terriers. She transitioned from those careers to judging, which she says brings "more of a mental fatigue than a physical fatigue" but offers her greater schedule flexibility. At this year's Westminster show, she'll judge the herding group.
She can't even estimate the number of shows she's judged, but the 2006 Westminster show stands out. She judged her beloved terrier category--and was "elated" when her choice went on to win "best in show."
During a phone interview, Beisel-McIlwaine's bull terrier, Virgil, can be heard barking in the background. Virgil, she says, disproves the stereotype that show dogs are so sheltered they miss out on the messier pleasures of canine life. "He's now standing on our couch, looking out the window at the birds, and he's dirty because he's been in the mud," she says. "They really are just dogs!"
[Originally published in February, 2019.]
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