Ferndale resident leads champion dog into Westminster Dog Show

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published May 8, 2024

 Ferndale resident Samantha Gibson and her Sussex spaniel, Clyde, will be taking their talents to the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show next month.

Ferndale resident Samantha Gibson and her Sussex spaniel, Clyde, will be taking their talents to the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show next month.

Photo by Donna Dalziel


FERNDALE — A Ferndale resident and her dog will be making their way to New York next month to compete in the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.

Samantha Gibson will be taking her Sussex spaniel, Clyde, to the 148th edition of the annual dog show, which runs May 11-14 at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Queens, New York.

Gibson and Clyde, whose show name is CH Stonecroft Watter O’Clyde CGC TKN, began performing in shows in July 2021. Gibson said she never thought she would get into dog show competitions until she got Clyde.

“It’s like a fun sort of bonding thing with my dog,” she said. “I never even thought he would become a champion, and you have to be a champion to qualify for Westminster. It was always something I always watched on TV. I’ve always enjoyed watching it, but it never would have entered my head that we would ever have a chance to go to something like that, to be eligible to go to something like that.”

Gibson and Clyde were officially accepted into Westminster in March, thanks in part to Clyde’s performances in multiple competitions last year, including being named Best of Winners at the Tri-Star Kennel Club Show in Tennessee in October.

Since their acceptance, the duo has been training every week for the competition at a facility in Warren.

“The conditions are similar; like, you’re in a ring with other dogs,” Gibson said. “For Clyde’s breed, he has to go up on a ramp and then be examined by the judge. So the whole thing is mimicked to do that multiple times over, like, the 45-minute period of the class, and so that really helps with the prep. In addition to that, I’m training him at home. I’ll take him to my office just so we’re in a different location than home and sort of do practice there.”

Though the two have been performing for three years now, Gibson said they only do around three shows a year, as compared to owners who regularly appear in competitions every weekend, something that’s not lost on Gibson heading into the show.

“They are dogs that were bought specifically with this in mind, that they were always sort of destined to do this,” she said. “Whereas that’s not the case. Clyde was bought to be my pet and companion.”

Grooming also was noted to be a big aspect of the show, as Clyde needs to be kept with trims, as well as good nutrition to make sure his coat is shiny and healthy.

While Clyde does have a full-time groomer, Gibson’s wife, Rachel Gillespie, helps with the daily grooming of their champion canine with brushing, mat checking and bathings.

“It’s important because if their fur gets too dirty and stays like that for a while, it actually breaks off. So certain dogs have longer coats than others, and that has to be maintained constantly,” she said.

Gillespie said she’s very proud of both Clyde and Gibson for making it to Westminster.

“It’s been a lifelong dream and she didn’t think that she would be going so soon to Westminster,” she said. “Both of them have put in a lot of hard work.”

With less than a month until the show, Gibson said that not only is she ready for the big stage, but so is Clyde.

“You know what’s funny? He was always fine. He’s like as if he was born to do this,” she said. “He’ll go on a walk around the neighborhood, and he sees another dog across the street and barks at it like a normal dog would do. When we’re at a show and he’ll be around, you know, like 7,000 dogs, he falls asleep. He does not bat an eyelid. It’s like his game face. It’s like he knows. It’s crazy. But with me, I get really nervous beforehand, but as soon as I get in the ring, it’s like it’s totally gone.”