Rescue Gals – Barbara Miller

President of the Long Island Kennel Club

The Long Island Kennel Club’s annual dog show is one of the oldest sporting events on Long Island, having first incorporated with the American Kennel Club in 1903. From its roots as a high society club, LIKC has evolved into an organization focused not only on showcasing purebred dogs, but also holding breeders to a high standard and giving all dog lovers an outlet for their passion.

Barbara Miller has been president of LIKC since 1973, though she’s been an active member of the dog breeding communitydl Club’s National Breeder of the Year in 2007. Miller, who works in her family’s Nassau County real estate company when she’s not on LIKC business, is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to dogs, shows and her favorite breed: The Norfolk terrier.

Long Island Pulse: Have dogs always been an important part of your life?
Barbara Miller:
It goes back to early childhood. I was seven when I got my first dog, an Irish setter. From there I got into collies. And then in 1967 I was one of the first people to get into Wheaten terriers. In 1973, I purchased my first Norfolk terrier. Dogs rely on us. And they also give a tremendous amount of comfort. When you’re a kid and you feel like crap and you failed your test and don’t know how to tell your mom, who are you going to go to first? Your dog.

Pulse: This year, the pre-eminent dog show in the country, Westminster, decided to include mixed breeds in the competition for the first time since the 1800s. What do you think about this decision?
If a dog barks and wags its tail, it’s a dog. It has every right to compete. It cannot compete against a purebred, because that’s a different ballgame. Purebred dogs have a certain standard—a written picture of that breed—and dogs are judged on that. I think it’s a good idea that Westminster is allowing mixed breeds. It’s their prerogative to do it and it makes for a more open canine society.

Pulse: You’ve been recognized as the top breeder of Norfolk terriers in the country. What’s special about this breed?
The first Norfolk I saw, I didn’t even know it was a purebred. I said, “That’s the cutest little mutt I ever saw.” And my friend said, “That’s not a mutt.” I got my first little dog, named her Rum Raisin ‘cause I’m an ice cream freak and the rest is history.

Every dog was originally bred for a purpose. A Maltese was bred to sit on someone’s lap. Herding dogs have a job. Terriers are working dogs. Norfolk terriers were originally, in the early 1800s, bred to go to ground—which means to go down in a hole to get the vermin out. They’re ratters. That’s how the breed developed and they can still do it. There are only about 400 Norfolk terriers registered with the American Kennel Club in a year. Compare that with Labradors, which are maybe 155,000. There are only one to three puppies born on average in a Norfolk litter. If you want one, you need to have the patience to wait.

Pulse: Why is it important to purchase a dog through a breeder?
Good breeders test their dogs. Every breed of dog is predisposed to something. But when you breed a dog and sell a puppy, you need to be sure to do so in good faith.

Pulse: How has the Long Island Kennel Club’s tradition changed since it first began in the early 1900s?
If you go back to the early years you’ll see that the people involved were very upper class. Rockefellers and Vanderbilts. Especially on the East Coast, the clubs started as a couple of guys getting together as a social event. At one time it was high society, but it has trickled down since then… With LIKC, we go into schools to talk about dogs, to let kids interact with dogs and to educate them about the importance of buying from a breeder. Members bring their dogs to hospitals and nursing homes. LIKC also has a tremendous rescue area. We will go to any dog that’s lost and try to help find kennel space.

Barbara Miller has been Long Island Kennel Club president since 1973.

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