A 190-pound Fresno dog named Fierce Warrior, who goes by “Joel,” will compete in the renowned Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York City on Tuesday.
The 3-year-old has competed in hundreds of dog shows – earning the accolades of No. 4 St. Bernard in the nation and 2016 St. Bernard Club of America National Specialty Show winner – but this is the first time that he and his owners have been invited to what they consider the “Super Bowl of dog shows.”
Fierce Warrior (whose full registered name is Grand Champion Nobel’s Fierce Warrior V. Jamelle) got the nickname Joel after getting new owners as a 1-year-old. Doug and Nicole Tucker of Fresno decided their gentle giant was too sweet for the fierceness.
It’s a cool name, but it really doesn’t fit him at all.
Nicole Tucker about Fearless Warrior
They hoped to change his name officially to The Piano Man, after musician Billy Joel, but by the time they learned they couldn’t, Joel had already stuck.
Plus, Doug says: “He just seems like a Joel.” In his view, Joels are “pretty chill.”
“Joel seems like the kind of guy you can hang out and drink a beer with.”
The 42-year-old has done just that with his beloved St. Bernard many times – but the dog doesn’t drink.
“Somebody has to drive,” Doug says playfully.
The Tuckers describe Joel as fun-loving, sweet, goofy and eager to please. His hobbies include sleeping, snoring loudly, being with his people, and hopping happily like a bunny in the presence of female dogs.
The Tuckers co-own Joel with Michele Mulligan of Diamond Bar in Southern California, who will be showing Joel at Westminster. The Tuckers and Mulligan share dog show-handling responsibilities, and Joel splits his time between their homes.
We really feel like we have a good chance (at winning) with his past track record.
He will be among more than 3,000 dogs at Westminster, including Joel’s brother. Nicole considers him the top dog of the East Coast, and her dog the best of the West. The dogs will be judged against a standard, which defines ideal proportions and temperament. Among them is that St. Bernards should display an “intelligent expression” – a look Doug says comes naturally for Joel.
Doug, who works as a project manager at J.I. Garcia Construction, sees Joel’s smarts on display often. Before Joel is allowed to touch his dog food (he eats seven cups daily), for example, he waits to hear the word: “Release.” Doug sometimes tries to trick him by saying “reverse” or “relent,” but Joel doesn’t take the bait.
When not competing, Joel likes to lounge with three St. Bernard siblings in Fresno. The dogs have their own room in the Tuckers’ home and eat grilled chicken for snacks – a life of luxury that’s far from what St. Bernards were originally bred to do: Rescue people in the snowy Swiss Alps.
Dog-show days are long – sometimes 12-14 hours between grooming, driving and showing – for mere minutes in front of judges. Pre-show dog grooming lasts about an hour and includes blow drying and applying hair care products.
It’s like the Super Bowl of dog shows.
Nicole Tucker about Westminster
The Tuckers first started showing dogs in 2012 with another St. Bernard that’s now retired. It’s something Nicole, a once-aspiring veterinarian who grew up with St. Bernards, has long wanted to do. Joel’s first dog show was in the spring of 2015. The Tuckers also plan to start breeding him soon.
They’re excited about Westminster.
“It’s just fun,” Doug says, “all the preparation, and you kind of have pride in how great your dog is. In the ring, you want to exude that to the judges.”
Watch Joel at Westminster
Joel will compete for the title of Best of Breed at 10 a.m. (7 a.m. PST) Tuesday in New York. If he’s chosen as the No. 1 St. Bernard, he’ll progress to an 8 p.m. (5 p.m. PST) competition for all breeds considered working dogs. The competitions will be broadcast live. Program information is available online at westminsterkennelclub.org/plan-your-visit/tv-schedule/