Davis dog to show at Westminster as rare breed makes debut

A sweet-natured Davis dog, part of a French breed nearly wiped out by the two World Wars, is entered in the nation’s top exhibition for purebreds next week – the Westminster Kennel Club dog show in New York City.

Six-year-old Meggie, whose formal name is CH Allstars Ellen Barken, is a Berger Picard (pronounced bare-ZHAY pee-CARR). The already award-winning canine will hop on a plane next week in San Francisco to head east.

It will be the first time that the ancient breed developed by sheep herders of the Picardy region of northern France will be shown at the Westminster dog show, which will be held Feb. 15 and 16.

“The Picards go all the way back to medieval days,” said Jackelyn Lundy, Meggie’s owner. “You can see old tapestries showing knights in armor headed for the Crusades and the dog with them looks very much like the dog of today.”

The Berger Picard, also called the Picardy shepherd, is one of the oldest French herding dogs. The medium-sized dogs with wiry coats are alert, tireless workers.

The breed was nearly wiped out by the violence and disruption of World War I and World War II, according to the Berger Picard Club of America.

After the wars, interested dog owners worked to re-establish the breed.

Lundy, who once raised golden retrievers for use by the blind, waited more than two years to get Meggie from a breeder in Virginia. Lundy said she wanted to help the endangered breed make a comeback.

“They are very much a herding dog, but not so much that they are always ‘on,’ ” Lundy said. “They are a much more laid-back herding breed, which I appreciate. And they are extremely smart.”

Lundy, who is retired, had to change her doorknobs from the lever type to the traditional round knob because Meggie and her other Picardy shepherd had learned to open doors.

“And they are a fantastic family dog, great with kids and a wonderful companion,” she said.

The breed was featured in the 2005 movie “Because of Winn-Dixie.” Needing a dog that resembled a mixed breed, but requiring several interchangeable canine actors on the set, they settled on the slightly shaggy Picard for the movie. Meggie’s great-grandfather was one of the dogs used in “Because of Winn-Dixie.”

Meggie, the mother of three litters, has done well in shows, a requirement for Westminster. Meggie will compete against 18 other Picards.

The best dogs of the breed show a fluidity of movement in the field and agility required of a dog that must step lively to corral sheep.

A best in the Picard group will be chosen. That top dog will then move on to be judged in the herding group.

Lundy and Meggie take a direct flight next week to New York. Once in the city, they take a special dog shuttle bus to the hotel.

“We will get there a little early,” Lundy said. “That will give Meggie a couple of days to relax before she is out in the show ring running around. This is very exciting for me and very exciting for the breed, which has been so unknown. Now people are finding out that they are a fantastic dog.”

Bill Lindelof: 916-321-1079, @Lindelofnews

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