Georgetown trainer, dog compete at National Dog Show

Field Spaniel wins Best of Breed
November 24, 2023

With only a few weeks of showing experience, Sawyer shot up as a top field spaniel for 2023, ensuring him a spot in this year’s prestigious National Dog Show – an event annually aired on Thanksgiving Day.

Sawyer – known professionally as GCH CH Killara’s Adventures in the Dark TD CGC TKN ATT –  shined under the bright lights of the competition ring, outperforming some of the best canine competitors in his class.

“He showed great,” said his handler Jennifer Johnson-Iorii of Georgetown. “He didn’t mind the cameras or crowds at all. He gave it his all.”

The liver brown 7-year-old won Best of Breed and went on to win Group 3 of the Sporting Dog Division – a division with an overall field of 277 entrants.

Johnson-Iorii said she first met Sawyer when she was picking up some other dogs from Sawyer’s owner in Michigan.

“Sawyer ran by me and gave me a hug, and I thought that was so sweet. I kept asking his owner if I could show him, and she finally said yes,” Johnson-Iorii said.

The two have become a formidable pair in the show ring.

At Sawyer’s first show in June, he won Select Dog, which is runner-up to Best of Breed, Johnson-Iorii said.

Since then, she and Sawyer have continued competing at breed select shows, gaining enough points to qualify for the National Dog Show and a No. 2 ranking for field spaniels. “He was guaranteed a spot,” she said.

Johnson-Iorii said she was optimistic as she and her husband Mark loaded four dogs, their crates, grooming supplies, tables and other show necessities in their van to head north.

“We call it our Amazon van,” she said. “It’s the biggest one made.”

They met two other dogs at the show for a total of six that Johnson-Iorii showed over the weekend.

Johnson-Iorii has been showing dogs since she was young, a skill learned from her grandmother and mother. Her grandmother showed toy poodles, while her mother Gordon setters. Johnson-Iorii’s first show dog was a shih tzu; she also worked with toy poodles for a bit before moving into larger breeds.

“I worked for a handler who just showed poodles, and after tha, I think I had enough of poodles, they’re a lot of work,” she said with a laugh.

At age 12, Johnson-Iorii showed at her first Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show as a junior competitor with a Gordon setter.

She said she likes showing field spaniels because it helps give recognition to a breed that could go extinct. As of today, she said, field spaniels are listed as a vulnerable breed.

But with more exposure, she hopes to change that. “I’m optimistic about the breed,” Johnson-Iorii said.

Sawyer goes to the beach as much as possible where he runs around like a puppy and dives into the water. 

“That’s his happy spot,” Mark said. “He loves the water and doesn’t want to stop.”

He said people always comment on him when they’re out. Sawyer even joins them at pet-friendly restaurants and watering holes.

Sawyer takes it all in stride with his silky, long brown hair and puppy dog eyes. His tail is always wagging, and he is happiest when he climbs into someone’s lap. Most of the time that lap belongs to Mark, who is quick to give Sawyer a bear hug.

“I’m attached to him now. He’s cool,” Mark said.


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