by Brad Flory/ Jackson Citizen Patriot/ January 24, 2013
JACKSON, MI – One of the greatest national champions living in Jackson County still enjoys the simple pleasures of a normal life.
For example, he once ate a sponge.
He is Herbie, the nation’s seventh-ranked Old English sheepdog, who next month will make his debut in America’s top dog show, the Westminster Kennel Club show in New York.
“He definitely knows he is a star,” said Laurice LaZebnik of Columbia Township, Herbie’s co-owner. “But I wouldn’t want you to think he’s not a regular dog. This dog gets into a lot of trouble.”
Herbie, who lives at Clark Lake with LaZebnik and her husband, Bob, became a champion at 13 months old. He weighs 70 pounds, including maybe five pounds of flowing hair, and is now hitting his dog-show prime at age 3.
Bred for greatness, Herbie’s full and official name is Ken-Bear’s G. Ch. Herbie the Love Bug. The “G. Ch.” stands for grand champion. His father, Pippin, won First Award of Merit at Westminster.
It took time for Herbie to develop the self-confidence of a champion.
“In his early years at Clark Lake, he was a coward,” Laurice LaZebnik said. “He was just a puppy, so he was afraid of everything.”
Herbie also did goofy dog things.
Aside from the sponge-eating incident, he once walked to the end of a dock straight into Clark Lake, apparently failing to grasp the concept that water starts where docks end. He swam back to dry land beneath the dock, perhaps assuming it was important to return along the same path.
“I was just happy he knew enough to come back to shore,” Laurice LaZebnik said.
Herbie matured into a fearless and protective dog not startled by loud noises or large animals. His transformation inspired a novel Laurice LaZebnik is writing, titled “Strongheart, a dog who was a coward.”
Cathy Drummonds of Monroe, one of two breeders who co-owns Herbie with the LaZebniks, handles him in dog shows. They have many ribbons and awards.
Westminster features 3,200 dogs of all breeds in a format like a basketball tournament. Herbie will compete against 21 Old English sheepdogs. The winner will advance against 25 winners from other breeds in the herding-dog group. That winner will compete for Best of Show against six other group winners.
Drummonds, who has past experience handling dogs at Westminster, has no fear the stage will be too big for Herbie.
A sheepdog breeder since 1986, Drummonds has bred 58 champions and nearly 40 litters, but few dogs with Herbie’s fondness for the spotlight.
“He is one of the most conceited dogs I have ever known,” Drummonds said. “He cannot wait to get out at shows.”
“He was just born a star,” Laurice LaZebnik said. “He loves all that attention. He demands it.”
— Reach Brad Flory at email@example.com
— To read more columns by Brad Flory, visit the Bradosphere.
–For a comprehensive guide to the fifty most popular dogs, click here.