Ohio Mason’s Dog Shines at the Westminster Kennel Club

If you’ve ever watched a dog show on television, chances are it was the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. The second-longest running sporting event in U.S. history – just behind the Kentucky Derby – Westminster is the most prestigious show in the sport.

One of this year’s winners, a three-year-old Norwegian Elkhound named Josie, has a unique connection to Ohio Freemasonry. She is the family dog of Brother Andy Vance, an Endowed Member of Boggs Lodge #292 in DeGraff and a plural member of Highland Lodge #38 in Hillsboro. Andy, his wife Miranda, and their nine-year-old daughter Kyra live in Bexley, near downtown Columbus.

Josie, the number four ranked Norwegian Elkhound in the country, has had a successful show career, with more than two dozen group placements to her credit since the Vance family started showing her last June. But Westminster is a different beast entirely. More than 3,000 of the top dogs in the country competed over three days at 146th annual show, held June 20-23 at the famed Lyndhurst Estate in Tarrytown, New York.

At a conformation dog show, a panel of judges evaluates how closely dogs conform to their breed’s official written standard. The “Best of Breed” winners from each individual breed then compete in one of seven American Kennel Club defined groups: Sporting, Hound, Working, Terrier, Toy, Non-Sporting and Herding. The judge evaluates each Best of Breed winner among its peers in group and then places the top four.

After winning Best of Breed at Westminster, Josie was selected by highly respected Hound expert, judge Eugene Blake of Tulsa, Oklahoma, as third place in the Hound Group – defeating 325 hounds entered in this year’s competition.

“Placing at that show under a man of Eugene Blake’s stature in the sport was truly an honor,” Andy says. “Winning a breed at Westminster is a lifelong dream for many dog people, so to place in the group our first time there? Unbelievable.”

Competing in canine sports is a family affair for the Vances. Miranda is the team’s primary trainer and handler in the show ring, while Andy does most of the show-day grooming. Kyra just started her journey in AKC Junior Showmanship competition, and recently won Best in Junior Showmanship at Purina Farms in Gray Summit, Missouri. “Traveling to show our dogs has allowed us to see some wonderful parts of our country, and more importantly to meet so many wonderful people and build incredible friendships based on a shared interest,” Andy says. “It’s a wonderful bonding experience with our dogs, and we’re creating incredible memories as a family.”

Josie’s biggest win to date was the Group 3 placement at Westminster, generally considered the toughest, most esteemed show in the sport. Josie also won Best of Breed at the AKC National Championship in Orlando last December!

While dogs and family–along with his career in media–keep Brother Vance busy, he counts his membership in the Masonic Fraternity as one of the most important aspects of his life. He is a Past High Priest of LaFayette Chapter #60, Royal Arch Masons; a Past Illustrious Master of Logan Council #85, Royal and Select Masons; a Past Inspector of the Second Arch, Grand Council of Royal and Select Masons of Ohio; and a Past Eminent Commander of Bellefontaine Commandery #61, Knights Templar. Brother Vance is also a member of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite, Valley of Dayton, and the Aladdin Shrine.

“I’ve met some of the best people in the world through Masonry, and I’m proud of my affiliation with such upstanding men,” Andy says. “I’ve had the pleasure of traveling throughout our Fraternity, and really treasure the years I spent as an officer in my local York Rite bodies.”

In addition to Masonic membership, Andy is currently Vice President of the Friends of the Bexley Public Library Board of Directors and was recently installed as President of the College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Alumni Society at Ohio State University.

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