It’s Tuesday, February 12, 2013, and the Empire State Building is glowing in purple and gold. New Yorkers are looking up and basking in the spectacle and thinking: “Wooo-weee, it’s Mardi Gras!!” Today is indeed Pope Benedict XVI’s last Fat Tuesday, so why not party in style.
But, actually, the purple and gold is not about the Pope….it’s about the poop! Dog poop and the Westminster Kennel Club’s 137th Annual Dog Show. (Last night only one dog relieved himself after gaiting for the judge, and tonight we’re hoping it will be one fewer.) Well, anyway, Happy Mardi Gras and Happy Westminster! We continue this most spectacular of dog shows with the Sporting Group, where America’s most popular dogs compete, the Labrador Retriever and 29 other breeds. Registration popularity truly has nothing to do with winning the Group at Westminster, and, in fact, the Labrador Retriever—America’s number-one breed for over a decade—has not only never won the show, it’s never even won the Group.
The “favorites” in the Group are the German Wirehaired Pointer, “Oakley,” officially GCH Mt View’s Ripsnortersilvercharm, and the English Springer Spaniel “Payton,” otherwise known as GCH Wynmore Champagne Supernova, the number 1 and number 2 dogs of all breeds for 2012. The semi-retired Black Cocker Spaniel, “Beckham,” CH Casablanca’s Thrilling Seduction, the Group winner from the 2012 AKC National Championship show and the number 1 dog from 2011 is also in the mix. Tough competition, for sure, and judge Karen C. Wilson of Sperryville, VA, is charged with finding the best Sporting dog.
No stranger to Sporting dogs, Mrs. Wilson began her dog-show career with an Irish Setter in 1966, though she and her husband now breed Cairn and Airedale Terriers. She’s judged specialties in all three of her breeds and has been a judge since 1991: this is Mrs. Wilson’s fourth WKC assignment.
After reviewing all the breeds in the Group, Mrs. Wilson pulled her shortlist of possible placers: the Pointer, German Wirehaired Pointer, Golden Retriever, English Setter, Clumber Spaniel, Black Cocker and English Springer Spaniel. No surprises here, the German Wirehaired Pointer, the nation’s top dog, won the Group, becoming the first of his breed ever at the Garden. Oakley was handled by Phil Booth, is owned by Victor Malzoni Jr. of Brazil and bred by Helen George and Claire and Kelly Wich. The other two “faves” placed behind Oakley. Group 2 went to the Black Cocker Spaniel, owned by Bruce Bandeman, C. Douglas, M. Walker and Linda Moore, the breeder. Group 3, the English Springer Spaniel is owned by Celie Florence, Beth Fink, Ken McWilliams, Erin Kerfoot and Dolores Streng. Group 4, the Clumber Spaniel GCH Clussexx Collaboration with Traddles, bred by Doug Johnson, Jamie Hubbard and Sheila Musaeus and owned by William Holbrook, Beth Dowd, Missy Capone, Janene Havericks and Andrianda and Patricia Jaramillo.
The top-winning Working Dog of 2012, Doberman Pinscher GCH Protocol’s Veni Vidi Vici, “Fifi” to her friends, is in contention for the Working Group tonight, as are multi-Best in Show winners Kuvasz GCH Szumeria’s Wildwood Silver Six Pence, “Tanner,” Boxer GCH Winfall I Dream of Style, aka “Macy” and Great Dane GCH Longo Miller N Lore’s Diamond.
Robert Vandiver of Sipsonville, SC, judges tonight’s Working Group. Himself an active Doberman Pinscher breeder, owner, and handler, Mr. Vandiver judges the Working and Sporting Groups and most of the Herding Group. Well known internationally as a judge, tonight marks Mr. Vandiver’s second assignment at WKC.
Of course, the question on everyone’s mind is whether Mr. Vandiver will like the Doberman Pinscher “Fifi,” the Las Vegas choice 7 to 1 favorite to win Best in Show.
Moments before Mr. Vandiver began to make cut, the crowd started chanting “Doberman.” Loud cheers greeted the Boxer, Doberman Pinscher, Giant Schnauzer, Great Dane, Kuvasz, Portuguese Water Dog, Rottweiler, and Samoyed.
As it turns out Mr. Vandiver is not a betting man…or not a man easily swayed by vocal SRO crowd, a record of nearly 100,000 dogs defeated in 2012 (according to the stats) or Fifi’s superb quality recognized by the nation’s top judges… he placed the Doberman second to the Portuguese Water Dog, GCH Claircreek Impression De Matisse, bred by co-owner Donna Gottdenker and owned by Milan Lint and Peggy Helming. In 2011 Portuguese Water Dog CH. Aviator’s Luck Be a Lady (a more Vegas name for sure!) won the Group here. Perhaps Mr. Vandiver is a Democrat and is giving a nod to “Bo,” the Portie living at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue with the Obamas. Indeed, Mr. Obama was busy giving his State of the Union Address while we were tending to the important matter of watching these dogs run around the ring!
Doberman Pinscher, Fifi, the “Mitt Romney” of the evening, is owned by Dick and Suzy Lundy and breeders Kevin and Jocelyn Mullins. Group 3 was the Boxer, bred Tina Porter and Lee Stanton and owned by C. and K. Robbins, B. and B. Adkins, J. Pinson and the breeders. Group 4 was Rottweiler GCH Chancellor Flirt’s Hi Flyin’ Gladiator, bred and owned by Wendi Lewellen.
Residing over the final Group of the evening, the Terrier Group, is Jay Richardson of St. Charles, Ill. His experience in purebred dogs began with Poodles and Collies. For over twenty years, Mr. Richardson was a professional handler and began judging in 1996. His judging career has taken him all over North America as well as Asia and Europe. He is approved for three Groups: Terrier, Working, and Sporting.
The number one Terrier of the year is Wire Fox Terrier GCH Afterall Painting the Sky, the breed that, by the way, has won this show more times than any other breed: an amazing 13 times! Let’s see if Mr. Richardson thinks “Sky” deserves a chance at number 14. The Smooth Fox Terrier breed has won the show 4 times, and GCH Slyfox Sneak’s A Peek, a previous Westminster Group winner, is also in ring tonight.
Border, Smooth and Wire Fox, Lakeland, (the new to the Garden this year) Russell, Scottish, Welsh and West Highland Whit Terriers were the eight breeds that Mr. Richardson unearthed. As crowd favorites go, the Westie was the crowd’s choice, but Mr. Richardson decided to give the Smooth Fox Terrier his second Group win here at Westminster (and the fifth for his breed). He is owned by his breeder James W. Smith, the AKC Breeder of Year 2012, and his handler Edward Boyes.
Group 2 was the Wire Fox, owned by Victor Malzoni Jr., Torrie Steele, S. and M. Olund, and D. Ryan, and was bred by A.J. Pertuit Jr. and Betty Seton. Group 3, the Border Terrier GCH Meadowlake Simply Sinful, owned by Kiki Courtelis, Joyce Wilkinson, Dr. David Fitzpatrick and co-breeder Karen Fitzpatrick, bred with Tracy VanNiel. Group 4, the Russell, GCH Goldsand’s Columbus, bred by Madeleine Sandell-Bark and owned by Mark Ulrich and Christina Areskough.
The newly renovated Madison Square Garden is spectacular, well deserved of its reputation of the world’s greatest sporting arena, and it makes a second-to-none backdrop to the Best in Show judging of America’s Dog Show.
Michael Dougherty of Escondido, CA, has the honor of judging Best in Show in this superb arena tonight. Mr. Doughtery is a second-generation dog professional, having apprenticed with his father Jack Dougherty in the early 1960s. His first Westminster experience was as a Junior Handler in 1968. Over the years he’s bred Whippets, Miniature Schnauzers and Smooth Fox Terriers and was a professional handler for over ten years before becoming a judge in 1985. He has judged at all of the nation’s top shows, including Westminster, Morris & Essex, Montgomery County, and many others. Internationally, he’s adjudicated on four continents.
Mr. Doughtery not only gets to select the Best in Show, but for the first time since 1925, a Reserve Best in Show as well. (The award was offered from 1911 to 1925 and resurrected in 2012.) The seven contenders enter the ring, spotlighted in a darkened stadium: the German Wirehaired Pointer, American Foxhound, Portuguese Water Dog, Smooth Fox Terrier, Affenpinscher, Bichon Frise and Old English Sheepdog. The crowd was encouraged to cheer loudly for their favorite, and there was no contest, the Old English Sheepdog owned the their rowdy wave-happy hearts. New York crowds simply cannot resist a giant ball of fluff, and the OES is all that and a basket of fries. No one in New York City could walk down the street with a dog this fluffy, gorgeous and white! Happily, the tiny Affenpinscher, a breed most people hardly recognize, had a solid fan base. For the record, four of the seven dogs in the ring have never won Best in Show at Westminster. The Old English Sheepdog is the only non-champion in the ring, and should he win the show, he will be the first non-champion to claim the prize since Collie Laund Loyalty of Bellhaven did in 1929.
Mr. Doughtery’s awarded the historic Reserve Best to the Old English Sheepdog, and the Affenpinscher took its first Best in Show in Westminster history. “Joe” was the number 5 dog in the country last year. GCH Banana Joe v Tani Tazari was bred in the Netherlands in 2007, and he is owned by Dr. William and Tina Truesdale and breeder Mieke Cooymans. Joe was handled by Ernesto Lara.
It will be a festive Mardi Gras in Joe’s house tonight!
And no one pooped in the ring!