Can anything be whiter than snow?

Todd and Sandra Wingert's dogs are. Their American Eskimo dogs trace their history to Pomeranian and Spitz dogs. Known as German Spitz, they were brought to this country during the war and renamed American Eskimo dogs. They come in three sizes – toy up to 12 inches, miniature up to 15 inches and standard size.

Sandra says they are low maintenance dogs because their hair naturally sheds dirt. They can be outside and get muddy, and when they dry the mud slides off without staining the fine, soft hair.

Shedding is not a problem because they have a double coat. At the right time, their undercoat "blows" and comes out in a day or two in clouds of white.

Sandra and Todd have four miniatures and one toy. To get them to perk their ears, they have only to hear the word "bank."

Todd had two boxers and their daughter received a cat. All the animals died in a short period of time. There was no intention to replace them since it had been hard on the children – triplets and a daughter.

The house was so empty that Sandra started researching breeds on the Internet. She found a list of all breeds and wondered what an American Eskimo was.

After more research she determined, "This is the breed for us."

She emailed breeders. One had a dog she intended keeping to show, but was willing to let Wingerts have her if they would show her.

"I know nothing about showing, but if you guide me, I'll do it," she said.

That first dog was Jewels.

Both she and Todd took dog-handling classes to prepare for the show ring. Other breeders helped. They did not do well in their first shows but by age 2 Jewels was getting into showing and soon became an American Kennel Club champion.

"They are the most intelligent dogs," said Sandra.

Jewels was featured on the Sept. 16 page of a Dog Fancy calendar.

"We went to a United Kennel Club show and met Jacqueline Brothers, a breeder. I asked why her dog had a heavier coat," said Sandra.

Brothers said it was because he was older and male. She had an upcoming breeding in Arkansas and the Wingerts arranged to buy one.

Todd said they drove to Tennessee where Brothers met them. The Wingerts do not believe in shipping dogs.

The new dog was Breezer. He earned his UKC and AKC championships in his first year and went to Westminister by the time he was 1-1/2 years old.

A cocker spaniel judge told them, "I'll tell you, you need to look professional – have to look like you have the winner and have the facial expression that shows it."

The 20-dog class was cut in two and Breezer made the first cut. Among his other wins was the UKC National Award of Excellence.

Breezer is the February dog on this year's Pet Prints calendar. He enjoyed showing and would be happy showing every day, whereas Jewels gets upset at a big show.

For one show, Sandra handled Pixie Dust and Todd showed Breezer.

"We had two in the top 10," said Todd.

Pixie, a toy size, got an invitation to the invitation-only Crufts show.

Sandra had hopes for a group win. To earn a best of breed was necessary, but then someone told her "it's political." They show in the non-sporting group.

"We'd have fun. If it isn't fun, don't do it, but we wanted a group placement at least once," said Sandra. "We take pride in every ribbon, every achievement."

Prayer Bear was out of the first breeding between Jewels and Breezer.

The family could not agree on a name. Sandra said she prayed about it and since he was exceptionally fluffy, he became Prayer Bear.

"They made a heckuva dog. He was AKC champion and UKC grand champion before age 1," Sandra said. Finally at Ludwig's Corner they got to show in the group class and Prayer Bear was ranked sixth.

She was told, "Girl, you don't know what you accomplished."

American Eskimos are a very healthy breed. The Wingerts will breed them between the ages of 2 and 6 but test for night blindness, hip problems and other diseases before breeding or selling them. Their dogs have an A-rating so they cannot pass on any problems.

Todd said they check out possible homes before the dogs are bred. A sale is with the condition that if the owner cannot keep the dog it gets returned to them.

Primeau, from the same litter as Prayer Bear, wasn't supposed to stay but the kids fell in love with him. He was going to be sold as a pet, but they took him along to shows and he got his AKC championship.

"He'd have been good as an agility dog," said Todd.

The third from the litter went to Jan and Bob VanHorn who do obedience, agility and canine good citizen.

Another dog earned his companion dog, canine good citizen, agility excellence and masters excellent jumper with weaves.

Rose started showing and earned points but did not finish her championship. She is an agility and therapy dog.

Although they are protective and bark when anyone comes, when they are away from home they are quiet.

For information, google American Eskimo dog or check the Wingerts Web page at cherubeskies.tripod.com/index.html.