Breed: Sussex Spaniel
Call name: Stump
Title: National Specialty & BIS champion
Birth date: Dec. 1, 1998
Deceased: Still alive [As of Jan. 2012 posting of this article — Ed.] thankfully!
Parents: Stump’s sire was Ch. Three D Genghis Khan, and his dam was Ch. Clussexx Sprinkled With Dew. Their background is from generations of American breeding: Clussexx, Three D, Lexxfield and Ziyadah. In fact, Lexxfield and Ziyadah are the two oldest kennels for the breed in the country. They were founded on English imports in the 1970s.
Breeders: Doug Johnson, Dee Duffy and Doug Horn
Owners: Beth Dowd, Cecilia Ruggles and Scott Sommer
Handler: Scott Sommer
Main claim to fame in the show ring: Stump had a great career from the very beginning. At his first show he was Best Puppy in Show under Susan St. John Brown, at 6 months of age; he finished at the American Spaniel Club under Mary Ann Alston and won the National Specialty under Donald Sturz, all before leaving to be shown by Scott.
He was indeed special. Stump was the first Sussex Spaniel to really get judges to take the breed seriously on a national level. They took notice of the breed and this started people thinking about what this breed looks like and how it functions. There is a special challenge in campaigning a rarer breed. Before Stump there were only a handful of Best in Show-winning Sussex Spaniels, and none that would win on a weekly basis.
Stump was the No. 1 Sporting Dog and tied as winner of the most Group Firsts won by a dog in the Sporting Group in 2004. He also won the Group at Westminster that year under Judith Goodin. Stump retired with 50 all-breed Best in Show awards that year. However, the grand finale would be his most thrilling win — BIS at Westminster Kennel Club in 2009, bringing his record to 51 all-breed Best in Shows. This would be Stump’s final ring appearance at 10 years of age, the oldest dog ever to win Westminster.
The stars aligned that night for him. First he won the Sporting Group under Robert D. Ennis and then BIS under Sari Tietjen. What was exciting was that he was not on anyone’s radar to win that show, so we just went with our gut to give it a good try.
When the panel was announced we thought it looked favorable for him and joked that Scott still had him in excellent condition, and as the entries got closer to closing we started to really think we should go for it. All of us involved with his campaign were excited to see him show again. It was gratifying to listen to the crowd support for him on the night. He looked and showed so well. It was obvious that he was enjoying his moment in the spotlight again.
Those are some of the most satisfying memories of my life today. Stump’s win was shared by so many special people. It was fun for all of us to come together again and enjoy this special dog once again. This is what a campaign is really all about: find that joy in the moment. It is the joy of success and the triumph of your plan all coming together.
Stud career: As a stud dog, Stump was only used a few times, as the breed is so limited in numbers. There were very few places we could take him for breeding. Scott, Ceil and Beth have puppies by him, and there are a handful of other champion offspring. We do have frozen semen to be used at a later date.
To be honest, it is hard to think of producing Sussex Spaniels after you have a dog like this. He is the pinnacle. I am pleased that I have started several breeders in the breed, and they have gone on to produce some very nice dogs. We do still breed them, but sparingly.
Who is in charge of day-to-day care?
Stump lives at the Kennel at Champions in Houston, with Scott and his crew. He lives a great life of retirement. He has a huge bed and lots of stuffed Grinch toys to keep him company.
Is Stump mostly healthy even in his mature years?
Part of the reason his final win was so exciting was because of Stump’s ongoing health concerns. He was very sick with a heart problem and most recently with an eye issue. The Westminster win was after a touch-and-go health issue, making that win all the more meaningful. All things considered, he has the will to live a long life for sure.
Does he miss not being a show dog?
Stump is a happy dog by nature, as is the breed, so he loved the adventure and attention, but is still on the ride. He loves life. He has something that makes great show dogs great … a love of life and a willingness of spirit. Stump lives each day with this attitude. He is without question the happiest dog you could ever meet.
What is his daily life like at home?
Stump shares the limelight with JR, his kennel mate and fellow Westminster BIS winner. [The Bichon Frisé Ch. Special Times Just Right! — Ed.] They make personal appearances even to this day. The retired show dog is still on the boards. It is nice to see, actually, and we think they represent publicly that old show dogs go on to live great lives.
Breed: Sussex Spaniel