The dog show community has once again demonstrated support for one of its own in the aftermath of a devastating fire that left a professional handler and her teenage daughter without a home.
On Thursday, June 13, 2013, Lesley Potts and her daughter, Calley, left their Hannacroix, N.Y., home to run a few quick errands. The pair had plans to leave the following day for a vacation in England, but when they returned they found the house engulfed in flames. An electrical fire eventually destroyed everything inside but, mercifully, all of the dogs on the property were uninjured.
Anna Stromberg, a fellow fancier who lives on Long Island, tells Best In Show Daily about the neighbors who risked personal injury to ensure the dogs’ safety. “A brave 16-year-old neighbor saved the dogs. She came off a school bus, saw the smoke and let the dogs out into the pasture field behind the kennel room. Her screams [alerted] another neighborhood teenager [who] ran into the burning house to save the two older dogs.”
“It’s everybody’s worst fear,” says Anna of the devastating fire. “It can happen to anybody.”
Many in the dog community surely identified with the tragedy and were quick to provide donations of clothing for the ladies and supplies for the dogs. “The outpouring of support was instant,” says Stromberg.
Several individuals have lent their support right from the start, according to Anna, including Corey Heenan who’s acted as liaison between the family and the folks helping with the demolition and rebuilding efforts. (Corey was scheduled to housesit during Lesley and Calley’s trip abroad.)
Neighbor and good friend Greg Owens opened his home to mother and daughter temporarily, and another has offered to install an RV onsite throughout the construction of a new house and kennel.
The worldwide community of purebred dog lovers has been steadfast in their show of support too. “Donations have been given at many all-breed shows,” Anna notes. “Show secretaries and show chairs have gone in the ring before the Groups and mentioned the situation. Exhibitors, officials and judges have been helpful in raising thousands of dollars.”
Senior Editor Bo Bengtson was in Long Beach last weekend, and he took up a collection by the Whippet ring. “We made over $600,” he says.
Other fanciers at Long Beach did the same at the all-breed shows. Professional handler David Murray is credited with gathering more than $1,200 in donations from the handlers, and judge Peggy Beisel-McIlwaine offered to distribute a collection envelope after learning about the fire through Facebook. “You do what you can to help your family,” Peggy says of the outpouring of support being extended to another fancier in need.
Anna mentions that those wishing to make a donation may do so through PayPal at email@example.com. Checks may also be made out to Lesley Potts and sent to Anna Stromberg, 24 Wakeman Road, South Salem N.Y., 10590. Anna is quick to point out that 100 percent of the proceeds will go straight into Lesley’s bank account and any excess amount will be put away for Calley’s college fund. “All of us who know Calley know that she deserves to go to college.”
In the meantime, friends are pushing Lesley to get out and go to the shows. “Lesley is extremely grateful,” Anna says. “She’s in good spirits, and the dogs are doing great.”
Best In Show Daily readers perhaps know Lesley best for her success with sighthounds. She handled Scottish Deerhound Ch. Thistleglen Margot to Group First at Westminster in 2006, and showed Whippet Ch. Sporting Fields Winsome Won to Best of Breed at the American Whippet Club National Specialty in 2001.
All of us at Best In Show Daily wish Lesley, Calley and their many supporters a speedy rebuild, and a safe and happy holiday.