STERLING – The sweltering days of summer came early for Gregg and Margaret von Sternberg when they had the opportunity to show off one of their beloved golden retrievers at the 146th annual Westminster Kennel Club dog show in June. Westminster is one of the oldest and most prestigious dog shows in the world.
The City couple said they were ‘thrilled and honored to show off our 4-year-old American/Canadian CH Starhill Who’s That Girl, Annie’ daughter, who earned her title last fall, qualifying her for the show of Westminster this year.
“It was especially special for us because Annie is bred from our own foundation and exclusively shown by us,” Gregg said. “There were a lot of great dogs on show, and seeing Annie in the ring with those other elite golden retrievers was a treat.”
The show, held this year at Lyndhurst Mansion in Tarrytown, New York, began in 1887 as a show for sporting dogs – retrievers, setters and spaniels – and has grown to become one of the largest annual canine events in all country breeds. For nearly 100 years, the show was held in New York’s Madison Square Garden “as a bench show where all dogs had to be kept in their assigned bench spot from the opening to the close of the show,” it said. Gregg, adding “it was not uncommon for the fire marshal to close the doors to additional spectators due to the excessive number of people.
Margaret said that when their spaniel Andy was shown at Westminster in 2010, “the crowd was so thick that it took Gregg an hour to carry Andy the 200 yards from his bench to the show ring on the ground floor. of garden.” In 2021, the show moved from Manhattan to Lyndhurst Estate, an estate along the Hudson River in Westchester County.
“This show is unique in that all of the dogs featured have won their AKC (American Kennel Club) championship titles, and it’s largely invitational for the top winning dogs of their breeds,” Gregg said.
While this wasn’t the first time the couple had appeared on the iconic show, it was the first time they showed off one of their golden retrievers.
“A lifelong dream has come true just by being there and showing our daughter,” they said. “It was a great pleasure to watch many of the best dogs and handlers in the country.”
This year they presented breeder judge Nancy Talbot of California with a field that included 47 males and 23 females.
“Many of the top Golden Retrievers from the United States and other countries were competing for the coveted title of Best in Show,” Margaret said. Although Annie did not place at Westminster, she earned a Best of Breed and Sporting Group 1 ranking under golden retriever breeder judge Gloria Kerr at the Pioneer Valley Kennel Club show in Greenfield on August 6. .
Gregg grew up in Marblehead and Margaret was born in Switzerland and has family there.
Gregg said his love of dogs started at an early age, as he “always had dogs”, mostly cocker spaniels as a child and later golden retrievers. After the couple retired in 2018, they moved to Sterling from North Andover, where they had lived for 20 years.
“It’s been a hobby for us for the last 25 years,” Gregg said. “We both worked for IBM before we retired and have found working with our dogs a wonderful relief from our corporate responsibilities. In all respects Westminster is not that different, just bigger, more prestigious and glamorous.
He and his wife acquired their first golden retriever, Kimmie, in 1984.
“Kimmie was a wonderful golden retriever, but he really came from a backyard breeder and had a number of health issues that we weren’t aware of at the time,” he said. “But she was a wonderful companion to us, and when Kimmie passed away, we felt we wanted to spend a little more time in the search to find a better bred golden retriever.”
After months of discussions with breeders across the country, they “finally found a female in the area that we felt comfortable with, and she was planning a litter.”
Soon Emmy joined their family.
“The breeder asked if we would consider showing him, and that was our introduction to the world of dog sports,” Margaret said. “Initially we paid professional dog handlers to groom and show our dogs in conformation, then we went to seminars and classes and picked them up ourselves.”
They currently have four golden retrievers ranging in age from 6 months to 5 years old, including Annie. Margaret grooms the dogs and trains them in obedience, rallying, agility and therapy dog work, and Gregg handles conformation dog shows.
“Our dogs all go by the AKC kennel name of ‘Starhill,’ the English translation of our last name,” Gregg said, adding that people can track their puppies on starhillgoldens.com.
They said all purebred dogs “tend to have a national club which provides a wealth of information about their breed, the breed standard, code of ethics and contact list of local clubs and their breeders”.
For them, it’s the Golden Retriever Club of America, and they “like to stress the importance for future owners of Golden Retrievers, or any purebred dogs, to do their research to find responsible breeders who get all the health clearances on their dogs and who are open and honest in discussing their breeding.
“There are plenty of sites online with cute pictures of puppies, but any good dog breeder won’t sell their puppies without interviewing potential pet owners and meeting them in person,” Gregg said. “It takes time and patience, but the rewards of a well-behaved dog are worth the wait.”
They said good information on how to find a golden retriever breeder can be found on the Golden Retriever Club of America website, grca.org, and there is information on the site about the history of a golden retriever, AKC breed standard health, and more. .
Since 1997, the couple have shown their dogs more than 2,000 times at around 800 dog shows in the eastern United States and Canada, and they have no plans to stop anytime soon.
“Breeding, training and showing our golden retrievers is our great passion and hobby, and we hope to continue for many years to come,” they said.