After endless primping, cheers and more than a little drool, the Westminster Dog Show culminated with a triumph for a German shepherd named Rumor.
The champion was crowned after an extensive judging finale during which Rumor, a crowd favourite, was paraded with six other contenders including a majestic Irish setter named Adrian, and Chuckie, a ground-hugging Pekingese furball.
The win marks just the second Westminster crown for a German shepherd, a breed known for its “quality and nobility,” said Thomas Bradley III, the final arbiter of the proceedings.
Tuesday capped the 141st instalment of Westminster, an annual February ritual that, along with Fashion Week, helps New Yorkers to survive a midwinter slog of frigid temperatures, transit delays and cranky half-sick colleagues.
Madison Square Garden was nearly at capacity on Valentine’s Day, with bursts of applause for popular breeds such as the golden retriever and St Bernard, and knowing laughs as handlers used treats to try to coax silence from yappy contestants.
Nearly 2 800 dogs from 200 breeds competed this year. Judges assess how the dog compares with official breed standards. Does the beagle’s snout do justice to the breed’s sniff instincts? Do “ratter” terriers look like they would catch vermin? Beyond that, to garner the top prize, an ambitious canine is one who knows to “bring it” when it counts.
Rumor, who is five years old, is a natural performer, said her owner and handler, Kent Boyles. She had been favoured to win Westminster last year but finished runner-up in the Best in Show finale.
After last year’s disappointment, the dog didn’t compete for a year, while Boyles contemplated whether she was ready for motherhood.
Sitting out of the ring didn’t sit well with Rumor, who watched her housemates travel to shows. “She hated it at first, she’d go nuts, barking and carrying on,” he said.
Rumor adjusted to life on the sidelines but Boyles, who loves German shepherds for their intelligence and capacity for empathy, began to consider one last try at Westminster.
After winning, Boyles told a television interviewer that “there are puppies in the future” for the champ.
The selection of Rumor once again relegated Patricia Trotter to bridesmaid status after a lifetime of championing the Norwegian elkhound cause, a midsized, grayish breed originally bred to hunt moose.
Trotter beamed as she prepared to present her dog, Duffy, who had triumphed in the hound category over beagles, fox hounds and a whippet, among others. “It feels like old times,” said the 81-year-old Trotter.
Duffy was bred from the sperm of the son of a prior Westminster finalist that was frozen in a sperm bank for 17 years until a suitable partner could be located. “Yes for science!” she exclaimed.
For Laurel Cain Denk, a California veterinarian, just bringing her two-year-old Tibetan mastiff to New York was a goal that helped her to get through cancer treatments.
“He’s going to be a pain,” she said, speaking beside the 61kg giant named Kalhant shortly before presenting the dog in the working category. Alas, Kalhant did not advance. “But he’s going to have fun and I’m going to have fun,” Cain Denk said. “This is really one of the best moments of my life.” – AFP