Westminster Dogs Steal Hearts on Valentine’s Day

Night one of the biggest event in dogdom kicks off with a few crowd favorites.

While Madison Square Garden is shimmering in purple and gold for the 135th annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, it’s romantic shades of red and pink that color this February 14th. Every year we are reminded that Westminster is the best of the best and the most prestigious show in the American dog calendar.

What truly makes Westminster the show of shows is the Madison Square Garden stadium. No other arena in the country is more conducive to an exciting dog show, and it’s the enthusiasm of the crowd assembled that fuels the excitement of the night. As always, the popular breeds, the tiniest dogs whose animated gaits barely propel them around the large MSG ring, and the newest and strangest dogs get the loudest applause and whistles from the crowd. Both the Bluetick and Redbone Coonhounds, making their debuts in New York City, received rightly warm welcomes from the crowd.

Rarely are judges swayed by the audience’s fervor, though there were a few dogs tonight that stole the hearts of the crowd. All four of tonight’s judges are previous Westminster BIS judges!

Judging the Hound Group, Dr. Robert Indeglia of Narragansett, R.I., began in Cocker Spaniels and went on to breed Norwegian Elkhounds in the 1960s. At 2007 WKC show, Indeglia had the honor of judging BIS. Fortunately Monday night’s crowd had a good eye for a dog, as Indeglia pulled a few crowd favorites for his finalists, namely the Miniature Wirehaired Dachshund, the Scottish Deerhound, and the PBGV.

Tonight’s Indeglia’s choices were: Group first, the elegant Scottish Deerhound, GCh. Foxcliffe Hickory Wind, one of the top-winning Hounds of 2010, owned by Sally Sweatt and Dr. Scott and Cecilia Dove, handled by Angela Lloyd; Group second, the 15-inch Beagle, GCh. Torquay Midnight Confession, owned by Marcelo Chagas, Marco Flavio and Alessandra Botelho, the top-winning 15-inch Beagle bitch in history; Group third, Norwegian Elkhound, GCh. Vin-Melca’s Voyager, breeder-owner-handled by Patricia Trotter, the country’s leading breeder-owner-handler, who has singlehandedly led ten of her Elkhounds to Group firsts at Westminster; and Group fourth, the Petit Basset Griffon Vendeen, GCh. Celestial CJ’s Hearts on Fire, owned by Charles and Jeanne Hurty, Mark and Lynne Florian and breeder Pamela Helmer, handled by Greg Strong.

 Tonight’s Toy Group judge, “the one and only” Frank Sabella of Tampa, Fla., on his 15th WKC assignment, holds the distinction of being one of only two living dog men who have both won and judged Best in Show at Westminster. (Famed Skye Terrier breeder and judge, Walter F. Goodman is the other.) In 1973 Sabella won BIS with Standard Poodle Ch. Acadia Command Performance, and in 1990 he awarded BIS to Pekingese Ch. Wendessa Crown Prince.

While Pomeranian GCh. Powerpom High Performance’s tiny cuteness and happy quick-spinning gait stole the crowd’s heart, Sabella was not swayed, once again selecting a Pekingese as his numero uno.

His superb selections were as follows: Group first, the Pekingese, GCh. Palacegarden Malachy, owned by Iris Love, Sandra Middlebrooks and handler David Fitzpatrick, the country’s number-two show dog of 2010; Group second, the Affenpinscher, GCh. Banana Joe V Tani Kazari, owned by Zoila Truesdale and Mieke Cooymans, handled by Ernesto Lara, a Netherlands import; Group third, the Pug, Ch. Xoe’s Oscar De La Hoya, owned by Poul and Moraine Kirby-Green and Elyse Fernedes, the number-three dog in Canada 2010; and Group fourth, the Papillon, Ch. Copella’s Rising Attraction, owned by Madeline Mosing, Paula Cox and Cheslie Pickett.

The 2011 WKC Non-Sporting Judge, W. Everett Dean, Jr. of Richmond, Virginia, began breeding Cocker Spaniels and then became a professional handler. His WKC BIS assignment was in 2002. Tonight his picks included Group first, the Chinese Shar-Pei, GCh. Vaje’s Miss Jayne Hathaway, owned by Jeff and Vicki Mauk, handled Clint Livingston, the first of its breed to win a Group first at Westminster; Group second, the Bichon Frise, GCh. Saks Hamelot Little Drummer Boy, owned by Barbara Weidner, L Darman, K Griffon, and Cecilia Ruggles, handled by Scott Sommers; Group third, the Lhasa Apso, GCh. My Thai Ta Sen Hallelujah Chorus, owned and handled by Susan Giles and Mary Vaden, the breeder; and Group fourth, the Keeshond GCh. Karolina Bonnyvale Meant To Be, owned by Dr. Bill and Patricia Stroud (co-breeder), Darlene Bosch (co-breeder) and Donna Smith.

Herding Group judge, Lynette Saltzman, a native New Yorker now living in Westport, Conn., has been attending the WKC show every year since 1949. Saltzman, a breeder of champion Shetland Sheepdogs, judged BIS at the Garden in 2005. The confident and sweet-tempered Icelandic Sheepdog made an auspicious debut in the Westminster Herding Group, the third new breed to appear at the Garden this evening.

The selections for the evening’s final variety group were: Group first, the Bearded Collie, GCh. Tolkien Raintree Mister Baggins, owned by Ellen Charles, Stein and Woodstock and Lamm and Ross, handled by Clifford Steele, the top Herding Dog of 2010 and the all-time top-winning Beardie in the world; Group second, the Belgian Tervuren, GCh. Sky Acres Spy Plane, owned by breeder-handler Michelle Edling and Wayne Thompson; Group third, the Border Collie, GCh. Bon-Clyde’s Take One, owned by Bonnie Buchanan and handled by Greg Strong; and Group fourth, the Pembroke Welsh Corgi, GCh. Segni At Coventry, owned by Alexandra Geremia and Bill Shelton, handled by Jenny Wornall.

To be continued Tuesday evening with three more Group winners and Best in Show!

Andrew DePrisco is the Editorial Director and Vice President of Kennel Club Books. Allan Reznik is the Editor-at-Large for Dog World and DOG FANCY magazines, and Editor-in-Chief for Dogs in Review magazine.

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