A Puppy Bought as a Pet Wins at the Famed Westminster Dog Show at Madison Square Garden
Greta Garbo was awarded ‘Select Bitch’– the top female of her variety–at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in 2013. The story of how this two-year-old, wire-haired dachshund won at the top dog show in the land is quite remarkable.
The story begins in 2011 when Laguna Niguel resident Laura Garrett lost the last of her two dachshunds, and was feeling the void.
“Tucked away in the back of my desk drawer was a card for Palm Springs breeder Meri Lynn Hurd,” Garrett says. “On a whim, I placed a call and learned that she had a litter of three, and there was one left.”
There was never a doubt once Garrett saw the little bundle. She was sold as a pet because Hurd thought her wiry coat might be too soft to show her in competition. She had named her “Iona Trailer,” but that name changed the next day.
Garrett’s husband Tom noticed that Greta had extraordinarily long eyelashes that reminded him of Greta Garbo and her name was officially changed to ‘Greta Garbo.’
There was a chance from the very beginning that Greta might prove to be a show dog, but her coat was “iffy,” says Hurd.
“I put in the contract that if we could get her coat to come around, I wanted to show her,” Hurd says. “And, fortunately, I was blessed with the most supportive owner anyone could ever ask for.”
So, Hurd came out of semi-retirement as Greta’s breeder/handler. Garrett explains that if the breeder feels there is potential with a puppy, they can request a co-ownership arrangement, whereby the original breeder can help show the dog, as well as mentor and coach the new owner.
Greta’s training began, and she was registered with the American Kennel Club (AKC), touted as the country’s largest not-for-profit purebred dog registry. She was off to dog shows across the country, picking up ribbons as she strutted ‘round the ring.
After a string of winning placements and a looming entry deadline, Garrett called Hurd and said, ‘Let’s go for the gold and enter her at Westminster!’ Hurd was speechless.
“Making a commitment that big takes guts, faith, hope, and a large chunk of your savings account,” Garrett says.
“Going to Westminster is like having a horse race in the Kentucky Derby or a car race in the Indianapolis 500,” Hurd says. “It is the biggest of the big shows in the U.S.”
The first Westminster show was held in 1877, making it the second-longest continuously held sporting event in the country behind the Kentucky Derby, which was first held in 1875. It was also the first club admitted to the AKC, after its founding in 1884.
So, Garrett and “Team Garbo” set out with Greta for the Westminster show in the blizzard of 2013. She had a severed meniscus and was using a wheelchair and cane, but she was determined to get there.
“We were taking Greta through snowdrifts to get to the show at Madison Square Garden in New York City,” she recalls.
Once there, Garrett found Greta’s fame had followed her, as people were pointing and saying, ‘Oh look, there goes Greta Garbo.’
“This is the little dog that could,” Garrett says. “She has something very, very special. She exudes star quality that says to all, ‘Look at me!’ She walks in the ring and commands attention. Her ears go up, her whole body inflates with anticipation, and she is ready to rock ‘n’ roll!”
Greta was shown in the hound class, one of seven pure-bred groups judged at the competition. There are two size categories for dachshunds: miniature and standard. And, there are three varieties–long-haired, smooth and wire-haired. Greta was judged against 20 other champion miniature and standard wire-haired dachshunds, some of whom were very seasoned veterans with high-profile professional handlers. After Greta’s win, judge Jamie Hubbard told Garrett and Hurd that he had bred dachshunds during his youth in Australia and thought Greta Garbo was one of the nicest he had seen in a very long time.
Following Westminster and a few more winning dog shows, Garrett bred Greta to another champion dog in Virginia named “Owen.”
“She had four puppies, which I named Humphrey Bogart, Katherine Hepburn, Grace Kelly and Clark Gable. I kept ‘Kate,’ who is identical to her mom. She hit the show ring in the fall of 2014.”
Garrett muses about her special dachshund, saying, “Greta is what we call a ‘heart dog.’ She is the one who sleeps with you, who travels with you–the one dog who would lay down her life for you. I get teary as I say this. There will never, ever be another dog like this one in my life. She’s just that special.”