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The Student News Site of Van Nuys High School

The Mirror

The Student News Site of Van Nuys High School

The Mirror

Doing the impawsible

Special education teacher and dog breeder Ms. Karin Bryne hits a milestone achievement, with three of her dogs being invited to compete in the prestigious event.
Ms. Byrne is a Special Education teacher at VNHS, who breeds and trains Pomeranians in her free time. (THE MIRROR | GIANNA IOVINO)

 

Looking through her mail, Ms. Karen Byrne spotted four white envelopes from the Westminster Kennel Dog Club that she had been anxiously waiting for.

Opening the first letter, she was faced with the rejection of one of her champion class dogs, Blossom, by the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. Assuming the rest were the same she almost threw the other three envelopes in the trash. 

Hesitantly, she decided to open them. What she found was that her three other champion class dogs had been invited to the show, taking place in Queens, New York. Tears streamed down her face as she picked up her phone and called her friends and family in disbelief.

“‘Are these really invitations?’ I said in shock,” Ms. Byrne said. “My friend asked me if they were gold and I said yeah. She said ‘You’re in,’ and I just went nuts.”

Byrne had entered her dogs into a lottery to attempt to secure an invitation to the show. For a dog to enter the lottery, they have to be a champion-class dog. Only the top five winning dogs receive a priority invitation. 

Out of the thirty thousand Pomeranians that were considered for this lottery, Ms. Byrne’s three dogs were selected. 

She was ecstatic that her three white Pomeranian dogs Blizzard, Cherry Blossom and Pear Blossom had all been invited to compete at the Westminster show, one of the most prestigious dog shows in the world.

Winter Blossom and Ms. Byrne also visit hospitals in Blossom’s toy car. (THE MIRROR | GIANNA IOVINO)

Breeders and their dogs come from all over the globe to compete, with people coming from as far as Russia and Japan.

The competition will be held at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center from Saturday, May 11 until Tuesday, May 15.

Between Saturday and Monday, all dogs will go through two levels of the competition. Judges will inspect the dogs from their agility to their bone structure, to their eyes and even proportionality, all to determine who will compete for Best in Show on Tuesday night.

During the first level of the competition, Ms. Byrne’s dogs will compete against 19 other Pomeranians to determine which dog is the best of their breed. 

The second round of the competition determines which dog will be the top of their group, with there being seven groups in total: sporting, hound, working, terrier, toy, non-sporting and herding. The seven winners will then compete for the Best in Show award.

Those in the breeding world take competitions like the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show very seriously and train year-round, campaigning their dogs in preparation. 

A lot of dedication is put into dog breeding and dog care alone. 

The job of a dog breeder includes researching dog pedigrees, studying breeding standards, making sure the dogs are in good health and feeding, cleaning, exercising and aiding the dogs in labor. These responsibilities paired with training the dogs to participate in competitions can be very taxing, especially for Ms. Byrne who is also a special education teacher. 

Ms. Byrne is the current Director of the Fire and Ice Pomeranians, her own dog Kennel, through which she breeds and exhibits American Kennel Club Grand Champion and Champion Colored Pomeranians. (THE MIRROR | GIANNA IOVINO)

“My whole weekend is donated to grooming, cutting nails, brushing teeth and getting to know dogs,” she said. “Everybody else is out having fun, going on vacation and I have to stay home and take care of my babies.”

Pomeranians are considered the “heartbreak breed” due to their substantial mortality rates after birth. Ms. Byrne explains that the breeding process is arduous from conception to birth, as she performs ultrasounds and pulls the puppies out of the womb herself. 

“It’s really labor intensive,” she affirmed. “A birth can happen at three in the morning and then I’d still have to go to school. I don’t regret any of it because they’re the best company I could ever have in a million years.”

She explains that being invited to this event is very rewarding.

“It’s a real honor to be in this competition with other breeders because we spend so many hours and so many sleepless nights taking care of these puppies,” Ms. Byrne said.

Prior to being a breeder, Ms. Byrne exhibited her dogs herself. However, having to balance teaching with racing to last-minute competitions at distant locations with her dogs took a toll on her physical and mental health.

“I did it for a few years when I first started teaching and it was a real grind,” she said. “At one point I decided I wanted to be a breeder because I couldn’t be away from the puppies.” 

Before a competition, Ms. Byrne ensures her dogs receive an ample amount of rest to reduce the degree of stress they can feel as a result of travel and participation in events. She acknowledges that it can be extremely stressful for a dog when they’re campaigned and frequently flown across the country. 

The struggle of making sure her dogs are feeling okay isn’t the only thing that can be taxing. The cost of the competitions also takes a toll on her financially. Campaigning a dog during competition season can cost thousands of dollars.

“I would say for a good campaign you would need to spend between 100 to 150 thousand between publicity, showing the dog and flying your handler everywhere,” Ms. Byrne said. “I am taking out my life savings at this point. My retirement money is going to be spent on going to New York to compete.”

Three of Ms. Byrne’s puppies got invited to the 2024 Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. (THE MIRROR | GIANNA IOVINO)

Even on a teacher’s salary, Ms. Byrne is willing to make these financial sacrifices because there is no telling whether or not she will get another chance at something like this.

“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I don’t know if it’ll ever come around again,” she said. “I am at the age where I’m telling myself I just have to go for it.”

She knows that only one dog can leave New York a winner, but she plans to go through the competition with complete confidence in her team’s potential.

“You can’t show a lack of confidence because the dog can sense it,” Ms. Byrne said. “I have to walk in like I have the best dogs that are going to win.”

She explains that she will continue to love her dogs and treat them like they are the best, regardless of what the judges think.

“The dog doesn’t know the difference between winning and losing, and at the end of the day, it’s still your dog,” Ms. Byrne said.

After competing in the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, she plans on breeding more puppies and placing one of her champions in a “forever home” where they will receive the utmost care and attention from their new owners. 

Winter Blossom, one of Ms. Byrne’s prized Pomeranian, was named winner of the Grand Champion at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. (THE MIRROR | GIANNA IOVINO)

Receiving three invitations to compete in this event was an ultimate goal on Ms. Byrne’s bucket list. Having the opportunity to participate in it has led her to begin setting new goals for the future. 

“I’m trying to figure out what that next goal could be,” she said. “Maybe having the number one Pomeranian in the country.”

Tenacious and committed to her craft, Ms. Byrne intends to continue breeding and competing with her dogs for the next decade. Afterward, she plans to retire and become a mentor for young dog breeders.

“We have so many older people in the sport right now,” she said. “We really need to recruit younger people, and I won’t stop until I can’t move anymore.”

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About the Contributors
Olamide Olumide
Olamide Olumide, News/Features Editor
From writing stories at the back of my elementary school notebooks to my unhealthy obsession with law-themed shows, (especially Lucifer), I've always loved telling and reading stories. As a returning staff member to the Mirror publication, I intend to explore my interest in writing in a more in-depth way as well as reporting stories in a dynamic and interesting perspective. Besides writing and law, I'm an absolute sucker for the kpop industry.
Mia Ramirez
Mia Ramirez, Staff
I never thought that one day I would sit and write news stories all the time. When I was little the only thing I liked to write about was fairytales and popstars. Now that I am older the focus of my stories have shifted. As a staff writer for The Mirror, I write stories that focus on real people and what they have to say.  I have written multiple stories for the paper and I continue to search for new stories wherever I go. Outside of journalism, I am the captain for Van Nuys’ cross Country team and am constantly looking for new ways to make people smile.
Delmis Vaquerano
As a deep inquirer and keen observer, I am enthralled by the world around me and the subtleties that lie beyond the surface. From deconstructing metaphors to noticing my heart-shaped nostrils, I scour the planet and the internet for answers that exist behind behaviors and occurrences. As a new addition to The Mirror, I strive to translate the perplexities that propagate our social world. Outside of spectating my environment, you could find me visiting beaches, exploring national parks, or hiking on mountain trails.
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