For The Love Of Dogs

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From the Bronx to Riverhead, and everywhere in between, there is a kennel club on Long Island for every imaginable facet of the dog world. There are agility clubs, obedience clubs, show dog clubs and there are even clubs for owners of a particular breed.

Founded in 1923, the Westbury Kennel Association (WKA) has been doing it all. Dedicated to hosting dog shows, informing the community and championing the right of dogs across Long Island, the WKA is an all-breed, nonprofit member club of the American Kennel Club (AKC).

“[The WKA] is part of a network of kennel clubs all around the country and even around the world,” said Lindenhurst resident Patricia Enright, president of the WKA. “Kennel clubs are a product of fanciers who believe in preserving the purebred dog and preserving dogs in general.”

A fancier, as Enright explained, is “the terminology used for people who are directly involved in dogs and have a passion for dogs.”

As an AKC member, the WKA follows the rules, regulations and mission statement set by the overseeing national club.

“The mission statement shares the same mission statement as the AKC, which is to support the advancement of purebred dogs through education and events,” Enright said. “To provide a platform for the family and to provide a platform for all things dog to not only the exhibitors and the fanciers, but also to the community.”

The Westbury club, at its time of inception when kennel clubs were few and far between, was based out of Old Westbury Gardens, hence the club’s name. Today, the club welcomes people of all ages from anywhere in the country as it has active members in North Carolina and Florida. There is a $20 annual fee for membership, and they are always welcoming new members to join their meetings at the Town of Oyster Bay Ice Skating Rink in Bethpage and help out their cause.

“You just have to have a love. Years ago you had to own a show dog. Not today. Even if you don’t have dogs, as long as you love dogs and you don’t want to harm them, you’re welcome to come,” Enright said.

The Westbury Kennel Club is dedicated to all things dog, including hosting conformation dog shows and championing dog rights.

One of the major things the club does, as mandated by the AKC, is host conformation dog shows during which a judge will evaluate individual purebreds for how well they conform to the standards of their breed. Enright said these shows are a way for those interested to continue to maintain the integrity of the purebred dog.

Hosted annually on the last Sunday in September at Planting Field Arboretum in Oyster Bay, the dog show is an important source of funding for the club.

“This past dog show we made a little over $2,000,” said Enright. “[The money] gets recycled, it goes right back. We’re going to need that money to put on our match show and then our other show.”

One of the WKA’s accomplishments is making dog shows accessible to junior handlers, a feat Enright considers to be “a very big thing.”

“The WKC is noted to have started junior handling. Junior handling is young people, anywhere from ages 8 to 18, getting to learn and get involved in dogs in a responsible way,” she said.

Besides hosting these conformation shows, the club also hosts agility matches, seminars, fights for legislation for the wellbeing of dogs and acts as a resource for the public to come to for information about all things dog.

Enright, who is a proud Coton de Tulear owner, became heavily involved in the dog world because of the history of her own dog.

“My breeder told me about the history in Madagascar, which is where my breed is from. [The Coton] evolved in the rainforests of Madagascar,” she explained. “They’re a survivalist, they’re tough dogs. I got intrigued with that. That’s why I wanted to breed and I wanted to show. It wasn’t enough for me to just own one; I wanted to make sure that this breed continued.”

From being an avid dog lover, Enright went on to show her dogs in rare breed shows, get involved in multiple kennel clubs and judge dog shows, even moving up the ranks to become an official AKC judge.

For Enright, owning a dog is much more than having a furry companion. Owning a dog is a lifestyle.

“Dog shows and kennel clubs are for everybody. It’s not just for the exhibitors and the breeders,” she said. “We need everybody now to be involved in dogs and love dogs and accept dogs into our society as members of the family.”

For more information, visit www.westburykennelassoc.org.

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