A local business owner’s recent trip to New York City went to the dogs, but that’s how it was meant to be.
Doug Johnson, who co-owns Comfort Keepers in Columbus and Bloomington, exhibited champion Clussexx Man of Steel, a Clumber Spaniel at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, winning best of breed and placing second out of more than 400 other dogs in the sporting group.
Westminster has long been considered one of the most prestigious dog shows in the country, televised each year from New York City.
Johnson and Jaime Hubbard are the breeders for Clussexx Man of Steel, also known as Angus, whose second-place finish in the sporting group was to the eventual Best in Show winner, a German short-haired pointer named C.J.
Story continues below gallery
Clussexx is the chosen kennel name for Johnson, representing a combination of the names of the two breeds — Clumber and Sussexx Spaniels — he works with the most, Johnson said.
He has won awards at Westminster for the past 18 years, and some of those wins have been record-breaking, he said. Johnson is the only breeder to have two different breeds selected as Westminster Best in Show winners.
Johnson’s story began as a teenager when he was walking dogs and cleaning cages at a veterinary clinic where he saw his first Clumber Spaniel. On his 15th birthday, his parents gave him a Clumber Spaniel, which he said spurred a lifelong dedication and passion to breed top-quality, purebred dogs.
With all of the hard work put into raising these animals, Johnson said it is much more than a hobby. A show dog’s training begins as a puppy, he said. They are raised and socialized as a puppy, and are given baths, pedicures and other care each week.
“The dogs are a big part of our life and we enjoy them as pets when not being shown,” Johnson said.
Other than breeding, Johnson is a well-recognized figure in the dog world as a member of the Clumber Spaniel Club of America, Santa Barbara Kennel Club and president and show chairman of the Bloomington Indiana Kennel Club.
“He is probably one of the most famous dog people in the world,” said Ann Harrison, co-owner of Comfort Keepers and fellow AKC judge.
Harrison said Douglas is so well-known that people from around the world visit the area to meet him or to see or purchase one of his dogs.
These days Johnson spends more time judging competitions than competing. He still shows about 10 times a year himself, but his dogs will attend about 100 shows a year with a professional handler, such as Erin Myers who handled Angus at Westminster in February. Johnson judges roughly 30 times a year.
Between breeding, showing and judging dogs and co-owning Comfort Keepers with Harrison, Johnson said the commitments keep him busy.
Comfort Keepers offers in-home and respite care for families needing help for senior citizens.
Harrison said in addition to his work with dogs, Johnson has always been passionate about helping people.
Johnson said working with animals has helped him recognize how to care for others successfully, to understand how important proper nutrition and staying active are to longevity, and how being engaged with people can aid in the quality of a long life, Johnson said.
Height: 17 to 20 inches
Weight: 55 to 85 pounds
Color: Primarily white with some lemon or orange markings
Temperament: Gentle, affectionate, intelligent and loyal.
Origin: Believed to have originated in France
Height: 13 to 15 inches
Weight: 35 to 45 pounds
Color: Rich golden liver
Temperament: Friendly, cheerful and even-tempered
Origin: Sussex, England
Endangered; there are fewer than 2,500 Sussex and about 3,500 Clumbers alive today.
Members of the Sporting Group.
Heavier than Springer Spaniels
When hunting, they plow through underbrush to flush out game.
Selectively bred for companionship and recreation.
Sources: American Kennel Club, The Kennel Club and Doug Johnson
The first Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show was held in 1877 (before basketball or the light bulb were invented), making it the second-longest continuously held sporting event in America. The Kentucky Derby, established in 1875, is No. 1.
The event is held in February at Madison Square Garden in New York City each year and lasts two days.
This year more than 3,000 dogs competed.
1996: Breeder of Westminster Kennel Club Best in Show winner (Ch. Clussexx Country Sunrise, also known as Brady)
2005: American Kennel Club Sporting Dog Breeder of the Year
2009: Breeder of Westminster Kennel Club Best in Show winner (Ch. Clussexx Three D Grinchy Glee, also known as Stump).
Winner of 20 years Best of Breed at Westminster Kennel Club.
Breeder of top winning Clumber Spaniel of all time.
Breeder of top winning Sussex Spaniel of all time.
2016, second in Sporting Group (Ch. Clussexx Man of Steel, also known as Angus).
2016, Best of Breed winner (Ch. Clussexx Man of Steel, also known as Angus).
Only breeder in AKC history to win two Best in Show awards in two different breeds at Westminster.
Sources: American and Westminster Kennel Club websites, Doug Johnson.