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The not-so-secret life of Chamber President Sarah MacQuiddy

April 23, 2019


Terry Frei 

Grinning at each other Sarah MacQuiddy and Otterhound Bogie complete the finishing pose used in the show ring. The pair was practicing in the backyard before a show in Scottsbluff, Nebraska. (Lindsay Porter)

Long-time Greeley Area Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Sarah MacQuiddy successfully compartmentalizes her life and her passions.


Family, including her husband, Rusty Mellon, retired after a 37-year career with the Greeley Police Department.

And her beloved Otterhound and Clumber Spaniel show dogs.

Not necessarily in that order.

“They know here that when I’m here, my heart and soul is here,” she said in her Chamber office recently at the historic Union Pacific Railroad Depot, with pictures of her dogs on display. “And they know that when I do the dog shows, my heart and soul is there. I work all the way to the dog shows. But when it’s dog show time, I have to turn it off, from the email on. Just stop.”

And what does she get out of the dog shows?

“Oh, my gosh,” she said. “It keeps me sane, it keeps me grounded. I’m so passionate about my work life that it’s kind of all-consuming. Knowing there has to be some kind of balance, this is my balance. Most people want to relax on the weekend. I come back to work to relax.”

This all started in the early 1980s, after she bought an Afghan Hound puppy as a birthday present for her mother and went along when her mother entered the long-haired hound in a show in Omaha.

“I was watching the Hound Group,” she said. “I said, ‘Wow, there’s a dog out there that kind of looks like a mutt, what’s this about?’”

It was an Otterhound, a rare scenthound with its roots in Great Britain.

“So I got hooked on finding out about the Otterhound,” she said. “They’re big dogs. They’re not smooth and sleek. They’re the boisterous clown of the hound group.”

They’re so rare, acquiring one takes patience.

Two years later, she made a trip to a rest area in Council Bluffs, Iowa, where she had the prearranged right to pick out an Otterhound puppy from a breeder’s litter.

“I’m looking at these cute fur balls and I didn’t know which one to take,” she said. “There was one that decided to chew on my wedding ring. So I said, ‘I’ll take that one.’ He just kind of picked me out.”

So MacQuiddy was a show dog owner.


Three year old Bogie stands while Sarah MacQuiddy give him a quick grooming. (Lindsay Porter)

She named the Otterhound “Winchester” and went to a class taught by long-time Greeley dog show figure Dick Quaco at Island Grove Regional Park to learn how to handle a show dog in the ring. At her first show with Winchester, in Loveland, she appreciated the tolerance and patience of the judge.

At 6 months old, Winchester was the only Otterhound in the show, so he won the best in breed by default and made it through the best in group judging.

Soon, Winchester was winning everything, breed and group and bests in show, and was considered the top Otterhound in the country.

“He loved going to the shows,” MacQuiddy said. “He’d walk into the ring and it was like, ‘Hey, I’m here.’ I didn’t know what I was doing. I don’t want to call it dumb luck, but it sure was beginner’s luck. The judges would say that the moment he walked in the ring, they knew he was the winner. He was so full of himself. I’m on the end of the lead just trying to keep upright.”

As she took Winchester to shows, she discovered the allure of the dog-show circuit. It isn’t just the dogs. It’s also the people.

“We met great people and I think that’s what keeps you going back,” she said. “It’s a completely different world and the people are so passionate about their dogs. I am so happy that I have a hobby that I can travel for, connect with people. The people I know in the dog world, I have a special relationship with. We spend so much time together.”

Later, another of MacQuiddy’s Otterhounds, Louie, won 16 all breed bests in show and was ranked fifth in the country among hounds.

“The year he was born, there was one litter of Otterhounds born in the country,” MacQuiddy said. “There were seven puppies and I flew back to New York and said, ‘That’s the one I want.’”

Along the way, she began showing Clumber Spaniels, too.

“When my husband and I got settled on the Otterhounds, we said, ‘You know, there is a dog in the sporting group that’s kind of the clown of the group’,” MacQuiddy said. “We fell in love with the Clumber Spaniel. They were bred to be a flushing dog, the old man’s hunting dog. So they’re white so they can be found in the field. They’re about 85 pounds in a small package. He’s low and big, with feet the size of saucers. And they are so sweet.

Sarah MacQuiddy and Otterhound Bogie practice his gait. (Lindsay Porter)

“The sporting dogs are very clingy and kind of have to be with you every second. The Otterhounds are, ‘Whatever …’.”

Currently, MacQuiddy has two Otterhounds, Bogie and General, but shows only Bogie — officially named DeKenchar’s Howlaway Leader of the Pack.

Bogie won Best of Breed at the Otterhound Club of America National Specialty in Des Moines in September and also won an All Breed show’s Best In Show there.


Sarah MacQuiddy and Bogie after their blue ribbon finish at the Roaring Fork Kennel Club Dog Show last July in Eagle, Colorado.

He also won the Best of Breed at the AKC National Championship in Orlando in December.

MacQuiddy’s current Clumber Spaniel show dog is Axle, 6.

A Texas-based professional handler, Holly Leftwich, shows Bogie, and MacQuiddy shows Axle herself.

“You have to be certifiably nuts, especially if you’re an owner-handler,” she said. “To get a Clumber Spaniel ready to go in the ring takes me six hours.”

And it all happens about 20 weekends a year. MacQuiddy was head of Greeley’s convention and visitors bureau before it merged with the Chamber, and she also worked at United Way before that.

Regardless of her job, her dog show immersion has remain unchanged.

MacQuiddy and Mellon have had several vehicles — station wagons, vans and trucks — adapted for traveling with the dogs, but last year they switched to a 40-foot mobile home.

“We’re out once or twice a month throughout the while year,” MacQuiddy said. “People used to say, ‘Where are you going on vacation?’ They know not to say that anymore. They say, ‘What dog show are you going to?’ Generally in January we do go to Palm Springs, but we didn’t this year because of the Chamber’s 100th anniversary and we were kind of busy here. ”

Bottom line: Show dogs are dogs. They swipe meatballs off the counter, too.

“There is nothing better than going home after a crazy day at work and have all the wagging tails ready to see you,” MacQuiddy said.