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Kyllian Genzmer

Owner-handler Kyllian Genzmer says that she won the jackpot with her dog, a 4-year-old Belgian Sheepdog named “Legend.” When the Fredericksburg, Virginia, began her quest for a purebred dog on during the 2020 holiday season, she says she ended up finding so much more than a pet.

Named after singer John Legend, this sheepdog is up to any task that Genzmer throws his way. Though she got him as a pet, he quickly took her by surprise, and their bond was instant. The versatile, cheeky dog continues to take the 30-year-old by surprise, getting her involved in Conformation and handling. Before he was recently diagnosed with epilepsy, Legend was Genzmer’s PTSD service dog, something that she also didn’t plan for.

Finding Legend, the Pick of the Litter

During the COVID pandemic, Genzmer, a former Army geospatial engineer, decided she wanted to get a dog. “I took the breed personality test online, and was matched with the Keeshond and Belgian Sheepdog,” she recalls. After getting the same results a couple of times, she posted in local Facebook groups in search of more information and breeder referrals. Before she knew it, she was getting in contact with breeders in the area. Through this, she met Legend’s co-breeders: Laura Gilbert, of Hobbiton Kennels in Warrenton, Virginia, and Kim Matson of Wildmour Kennels in West Virginia.

Kyllian Genzmer

After discussing the breed’s character and Genzmer’s lifestyle over phone conversations for several days, Genzmer and Gilbert met up in December 2020. Legend was the first dog of the dogs to leap out of Gilbert’s vehicle. “[He] sold himself,” Genzmer says. “I don’t know if I would have gotten into the breed if it hadn’t been for him.”

“This is Legend!” Gilbert had said to her, handing Genzmer the rambunctious puppy’s leash. The two women then spent the afternoon together, talking dogs while surrounded by several of Gilbert’s Belgians and Border Collies.

After arriving home that night, Genzmer received a message from Gilbert asking if she wanted to co-own Legend with her. “I took a couple of days to think about it,” she reflects. “I initially thought this lady was crazy for offering me her pick of the litter after only knowing me a couple of hours.” But of course, as fate would have it, she agreed. And they’ve been inseparable ever since.

Handling Her Own in the Dog Show World

Genzmer had no intention of entering the show-dog arena. The duo agreed that Gilbert would show Legend to his CH title, and Genzmer would support this by making sure Legend was available for shows and training classes. Outside of conformation, Genzmer did get involved in dogs sports with Legend, like agility and AKC Rally.

But not long after, the Army veteran soon found herself hooked. “I brought him to handling classes, and the instructor, Becky Lueth, challenged me to take the lead, literally,” she says. Lueth began having her handle other dogs in the class, telling Genzmer: “You never know when someone will hand you a dog, so it’s always best to be prepared to take one into the ring.” Genzmer very quickly fell in love with handling, and never looked back. “I still see [Lueth] at shows where she’s handling, and it’s always the greatest compliment when she asks me to help take a dog in.”

Kyllian Genzmer

Before she got Legend, the only shows Genzmer was familiar with were the Westminster Kennel Club and National Dog Shows that she saw on TV. But once she took that first step, she wasted no time getting into the ring with Legend (GCH CH Hobbiton’s A Legend In Time Of Wildmour BN RN CA BCAT SWN CGC TKI). Without really intending to handle a show dog, Genzmer found herself in the conformation ring at the Shawnee Kennel Club Dog Show in Berryville, Virginia, just three months after bringing Legend home. Two years later to the day, they won their first Best of Breed ribbon and capped the weekend with an Owner-Handler Herding Group win at the same show they started at.

Falling in Love With Conformation

Since January 2022, they’ve started working under trainer Claudia Bailey. Bailey has emphasized all kinds of things outside of conformation, like AKC Scent Work, AKC Rally, and obedience. Legend and Genzmer began earning more titles together – not just the CH that Genzmer and Gilbert had originally planned on.

Kyllian Genzmer

In fall of 2023, she left the military, but seamlessly continued working with Legend in dog sports. “I signed my final discharge forms on a Thursday last November and Friday morning competed at The National Dog Show in Philadelphia,” she recalls. That Saturday, Legend won Best of Breed over six others. While he didn’t advance out of the Herding Group to the Select Seven, Genzmer was humbled that the announcers shared their story on the telecast. “It was truly surreal watching it,” she says. “And to see the Belgian Sheepdog highlighted…it’s a breed that does not get a lot of national attention.”

A Tuned-In PTSD Service Dog From Day One

Kyllian Genzmer

Along with achieving success in the show ring, Legend also works as Genzmer’s PTSD service dog. “I never intended for him to become my service dog, but he sort of fell into that role,” she explains. “He was able to identify where I was struggling with things in my day-to-day life, and gradually evolved to meet my needs.”

Genzmer has done all of Legend’s service dog training herself. He is trained to retrieve her anxiety medication and taught himself to do “check-ins” with her when he knows she is starting to have a panic attack. In the process, he’ll also lie down on her to help keep her grounded during attacks. From the start, she knew he was special. “The day after I brought him home, he spotted a co-worker having a panic attack in the office and immediately rushed over to comfort him,” Genzmer recalls.

She believes these skills mirror their success in different dog sports. “I used to not run him in a harness for Scent Work. But after watching him, and talking with our instructor, Claudia, I realized that having different clothing for different activities helped focus him more in a variety of environments,” she explains. “Each piece of equipment has its role, and Legend knows what we’re doing based on that. He’s incredibly smart.”

Switching the Roles of Support

Unfortunately, Genzmer recently had to retire Legend as her service dog. Now, she takes care of him: Legend was diagnosed with epilepsy. “He’s taken care of me at my lowest, and now it’s my turn to return the favor,” says Genzmer.

Despite this, Genzmer says life with Legend has been a “feel-good story” from the first day he entered her life. She says that he not only makes her happy, but those around them too. Even with his diagnosis, he continues to be the friendly, loyal dog that Genzmer fell in love with that first day. Once, “he greeted an older gentleman outside a cidery in northern Pennsylvania that resulted in us sharing stories with him for hours,” Genzmer recalls. “All the while Legend rested his head on his lap.” There are no shortage of stories just like these when it comes to Legend.

Kyllian Genzmer

The pair will continue to do dog sports together, because it’s something that Legend loves. “For as long as he’s healthy and able, I will continue to pursue the activities that make him happy,” Genzmer says.

When not attending conformation, AKC Scent Work, and AKC Rally events, they stay active with daily neighborhood walks together. On the weekends, they explore state and national parks in their area. Their journey has taken them to many unexpected places, but one thing’s for sure: Legend has opened up an entirely new world for Genzmer.