The Belgian laekenois (pronounced lak-in-wah), originated in the town of Laeken, the seat of the Belgian monarchy. It is the “rarest of the four Belgian herding breeds,” which include the Belgian malinois, Belgian tervuren, and the Belgian sheepdog, according to the American Kennel Club, which calls the laekenois a “survivor.”
“The Laeken was deployed as a messenger dog in both World Wars and was the target of a bounty by Hitler in the latter, resulting in a sizable drop in its numbers,” the AKC says in an online explainer about the hardy, wire-coated canine.
While wary of strangers, the laekenois “is affectionate and friendly with those he knows well,” states the AKC. The same cannot be said of the small American community of laekenois enthusiasts.
Nancy Guttenberg, 65, is the founder of a national organization for fanciers of the laekenois, a “virtual unknown” among canine breeds. She is also now the central character in an extraordinarily hostile melodrama roiling the usually collegial purebred dog world. The dust-up is just the latest twist in a saga that has involved accusations of everything from extramarital affairs to substance abuse, antisemitism, drunk texting, and targeted shootings—and it shows little sign of letting up.
Guttenberg—a tax lawyer, cybersecurity entrepreneur, and self-described paleoarchaeologist who calls herself the “top dog attorney in the country”—lives mostly in New Mexico but has homes in New York State and elsewhere. She and the show-dog community have been at each other’s throats for some time; in 2019, Guttenberg sued the Chihuahua Club of America over claims she called their president “a Nazi.”
Last year, Guttenberg took control of the American Belgian Laekenois Association (ABLA), after being brought in to settle a dispute among members. Now, she is hauling ABLA president Jennifer White (who is also the president of the Oklahoma City Kennel Club) into court, accusing White of, among other things, casting doubt on her mental faculties and calling her a substance abuser with a drunk texting problem.
Guttenberg, who does not herself own a Belgian laekenois, became highly exercised when discussing the situation, telling The Daily Beast, “It’s hard not to be emotional when somebody is doing a character assassination… I’m shocked she didn’t put more things in there. What, that I’m devil spawn?”
The seething battle between Guttenberg and White played out for months behind closed doors before finally bursting into public view this week.
Things seemed “normal for the most part” when Guttenberg first took over ABLA, White told The Daily Beast. However, she said she recognized signs of trouble just below the surface.
“You could just definitely tell something wasn’t quite right,” White recalled. “But you can’t quite put your finger on it.”
White said in a court filing earlier this month that Guttenberg would often call her, slurring her words, would badmouth her to the AKC in an attempt to ruin her business, and had disparaged her by saying she “pick[s] up shit for a living.” At the same time, White, a former 911 operator with a master’s degree in forensic psychology, told The Daily Beast that Guttenberg was fond of telling people she had an IQ of 165.
On Jan. 5, White decided she had finally had enough.
“I’ve asked Guttenberg numerous times to not contact me,” White wrote in an email to Guttenberg’s son Nicholas, also an ABLA board member. “Yet she continues and picks and chooses what she copies to people. As the president of ABLA I will be filing a complaint with AKC with concerns for the mental stability of Nancy Guttenberg. She yet again last night drunk texted people. Be assured I have screen shots.”
White told Nicholas in the message that he was “enabling” his mother’s behavior and that other club members “literally hate her.”
Nicholas shared the email with Guttenberg, who promptly sued White for defamation. The email in question was submitted into evidence as part of the public court record.
In her lawsuit, which Guttenberg filed in New York State Supreme Court on Jan. 6, she insisted she hadn’t drunk texted anyone and included sworn affidavits from legal clients and neighbors who said she’d spent the day and night with them and “was lucid, enunciated everything clearly and concisely.”
In a follow-up filing, Guttenberg argued that misspellings do not constitute proof of drunkenness.
Yet, in a letter White submitted to the court earlier this month, she included a screenshot of Guttenberg saying in a text message, “I have a solution. Had to get totally drunk to think of it. It’s how my brain works. I’m best when my brain isn’t working.”
On Friday, Guttenberg told The Daily Beast that she communicates primarily on her phone and blamed any misspellings on her “long fingernails.”
Yet another lawsuit
Roughly six weeks later, Guttenberg struck again.
On Feb. 22, she filed another lawsuit against White. In it, Guttenberg claimed White defamed her in another email sent to an address Guttenberg shares with her son.
“You are literally hated Nancy and I’m tired of cleaning it up,” the email said, according to the suit. “You know you can be declared unfit to practice with everything you have done. You are unstable and I do t [sic] care if you drink but I made Excuses for Your behavior…. Turns out your [sic] just unstable Even when your [sic] not drinking.”
An hour later, White sent another email to Guttenberg, with ABLA Vice-President Carol Shields cc’ed, the lawsuit goes on. White wrote that Guttenberg had subjected her to “screaming, threatening, [and] name calling” and “needs help.”
“She needs to go or it will become an issue as these people have had enough,” White wrote.
By sending the email to a shared account, White “committed defamation,” Guttenberg’s lawsuit alleges, accusing White of lashing out in response to Guttenberg’s demand she resign from ABLA over unspecified “illegal actions.”
White called the allegation ludicrous, insisting Guttenberg had personally told her of deleting certain contacts from her phone “so she wouldn’t drunk text them.”
“It’s not defamation when it’s true,” she told The Daily Beast.
White eventually forced Guttenberg and her son to resign from the ABLA board, Guttenberg claimed in a complaint filed with the New York Attorney General, which is part of the court record in Guttenberg's suit.
She’s Gonna Get an ‘FU’
Earlier this month, according to court records, Guttenberg proposed a settlement to the first lawsuit: an apology from White and an admission that she and the ABLA allegedly breached a contract they had for Guttenberg to provide cybersecurity services for the organization’s website. But White declined the offer, insisting she had done nothing wrong.
“Mrs. Guttenberg has harassed, threatened, ranted, screamed, name called and asked people to lie for her to ‘destroy’ me,” White wrote in a letter to the judge. “I will not apologize to Mrs. Guttenberg or Mr. Guttenberg simply because she is desperate to save face publicly.” (“[She’s] gonna get an ‘FU,’ not an apology,” White told The Daily Beast.)
White explained in the letter that Guttenberg did not have a problem with her “until I stood up to her and her bullying behavior,” which included “late-night phone calls with her clearly agitated and inebriated… [that] ended up with screaming on her part.” She wrote in the letter that she sent Guttenberg a cease and desist demand, and blocked her phone number, social media accounts, and email addresses after receiving emails in which Guttenberg allegedly threatened to sic cybersecurity clients on her.
“You have defamed, slandered and attempted to ruin my lively hood [sic],” White wrote in a Jan. 24 email to Guttenberg, which was introduced in court earlier this week. “You have threatened my life with your Russian, Italian and Israeli contacts and my window was shot. Police report on that is filed in Texas.”
White provided photos of her Volkswagen, with a shattered rear window, to The Daily Beast.
Guttenberg denies having anything to do with the shooting, telling The Daily Beast, “That would be like me saying, ‘Oh, there were aliens coming from space and you know what? They emitted a ray and it blew up somebody’s house.’ Okay, there would have to be actual evidence to substantiate.”
In her letter to the judge, White also accused Guttenberg of bad-mouthing her to the American Kennel Club and trying to ruin her business. In a subsequent letter filed in court, she accused Guttenberg of adultery, and claimed Guttenberg “freely admits it not only to me but numerous people.”
“She doesn’t have to admit substance abuse, it’s apparent to anyone dealing with her,” White continued in the legal filing. “How can so many people that do not know each other all draw the same conclusion about Mrs. Guttenberg if it is not fact. It is the court’s responsibility to report these actions for sanctions. I would like Sanctions through the New York State Bar Association for Mrs. Guttenberg’s actions.”
In her own response letter, Guttenberg denied the adultery claim as based on “hearsay evidence.”
Guttenberg told The Daily Beast that White’s adultery claim was “made with actual malice, with no substantiation,” and that the “boyfriend” in question is nothing more than a business partner. In response, White said, “She’s all concerned because I said ‘adultery.’ I'm like, ‘Honey, you’re the one that told me that.’”
The legal actions have become something of a family affair. In her suit against White, Guttenberg claimed White disparaged her son’s reputation by accusing him of having committed mail fraud, tax fraud, and wire fraud. (Nicholas Guttenberg is, of course, now also suing White for defamation over this.)
Defamation suits are nothing new for Guttenberg. In 2019, she sued the president of the Chihuahua Club of America (CCA) for an email in which a board member said she had witnessed Guttenberg “using antisemitic language at the [CCA] national.”
“The words that came out of her mouth were very offensive like calling the President a Nazi and refuring [sic] to constration [sic] camps and Nazi Germany etc,” the head of the Hudson Valley Chihuahua Club wrote to the board.
In her lawsuit, Guttenberg noted that her son and the majority of the stockholders of her cybersecurity firm are Jewish.
For this, Guttenberg demanded $1.5 million, plus costs, legal fees, and any other amount the court deemed appropriate. She told The Daily Beast that the email was sent to the CCA’s 11 board members, which included someone she described as “probably one of the biggest farmers in Montana.”
“I do paleoarchaeology,” Guttenberg said. “[The farmer] has 5,000 square acres. So we had planned on doing an excavation… to establish the origins of the horse in the Americas… I had a lot of universities and geneticists very excited about that work. So when she receives an email that states those things about me, she forms an impression, doesn't she?” (The parties agreed to discontinue the case in February 2020, with prejudice, for unspecified reasons.)
In May 2022, Guttenberg, who notes in her many filings that she is a specialist in “dog law,” sued another lawyer—the former ABLA secretary and an ex-U.S. Army officer—over his allegedly defamatory remarks in a resignation email.
“Ms. Guttenberg, I have listened to literal hours of your yelling,” the lawyer wrote in his goodbye message, which was filed as an exhibit in court. “I am done with the verbal abusiveness independent of any legal issues.”
In response, Guttenberg demanded damages of $74,000. (She told The Daily Beast on Friday that the case was “settled out.”)
Guttenberg also once sued a tenant for stating in a group email that she rented her home while knowing there were “rats in the garbage,” and, “You make shit up as you go.”
The case is still pending, court records show.
And in 2017, in the midst of a $7.4 million federal libel suit Guttenberg brought against a Dallas, Texas intellectual property law firm, one of the attorneys involved notified the court that Guttenberg placed a “threatening phone call to my office in which you implied that you ‘knew people in Israel’ who you could enlist to do physical harm to me and my partners.”
At the beginning of February, Guttenberg filed a complaint with New York State Attorney General Letitia James, demanding authorities oust White from the ABLA presidency. No further information has yet been made publicly available—but with no one prepared to call off the dogs, the drama is far from over.