For years, Joyce Ferrario’s friends told her that she needed to step onto the green carpet at least once. They were referring to the floor at New York’s Madison Square Garden during the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. In February, the dean of the Decker School of Nursing and her 3-year-old Cardigan Welsh Corgi, Francesca, entered the ring for their first Westminster competition.
“The air is electric around the Garden,” Ferrario says. “You go out on the street and there are lots of dogs and people stopping to have their pictures taken with them.”
Westminster wasn’t Ferrario’s first dog show. Francesca competes in about 10 shows a year. While she did not win at Westminster, Francesca had to be an American Kennel Club champion of record in order to compete; she earned a championship in 2009 at the Grand River Kennel Club show in Ohio. She also earned Best of Breed in 2010 at the Wine Country Circuit Dog Show in Romulus, N.Y.
“When they place her on the table, she’ll look up at the judges and bat her eyes,” Ferrario says. “Her personality causes the judges to take a second look at her.”
Though Francesca gets points for personality, the judges would prefer her coat to be shorter, straighter and more coarse, Ferrario says.
To ready herself for dog shows, Ferrario started an exercise program. She suffers from rheumatoid arthritis, so the running and standing that are part of training and handling a dog can be grueling.
“I chose this breed because of its short legs, so I wouldn’t have to run with a longer-legged dog,” she says. “But I still have to run at an appropriate pace to show what the dog can do. She’s a herding dog, so she’d have to run after livestock.”
In addition to being a winning show dog, Francesca is special because she’s named after Ferrario’s late father, Frank.
“If he knew how much money I spent on this dog, he’d come after me, so I figured this would smooth him over,” she says.