NEW YORK – Sky, a wire fox terrier with scores of best-in-show titles under her furry white belt, added another one to the collection Tuesday night by winning the top prize at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.
The ginger-and-white dog defeated six others – whittled down from more than 2,800 – to take the prize, which brings no money but a trophy, a large ribbon, fame and a steak lunch at Sardi’s. It's the 14th time the breed has won best in show here.
"It’s overwhelming. I’m so proud of her. There’s no words to describe this," Sky’s handler, Gabriel Rangel, said after the judge, Betty Regina Leininger, tapped Sky at the close of the two-day event.
The reserve best in show – or first runner-up – was Ally, a snowy white standard poodle, who appeared to jump with joy as Leininger announced her decision.
The dogs bested crowd favorites that included Matisse, a jet-black Portuguese water dog with a crown of glossy curls; Nathan, a 135-pound bloodhound with pendulous ears; Riley, a chocolate brown Irish water spaniel; Classie, a 7-pound miniature pinscher with more than 120 best in show titles; and Coco, a cardigan Welsh corgi with a white-tipped tail and a snowy white breast and legs.
Many dog-show watchers had favored Matisse to win best in show. Matisse has collected an array of titles in her 2 1/2 years, including best in show in December at another prestigious event, the AKC\Eukanuba National Championship in Florida.
"He’s a beautiful dog," said Manny Regateiro, whose own Portuguese water dog, Mighty Quinn, competed against Matisse.
But this year’s Westminster show, which featured 187 breeds, included some surprising turns. Two crowd favorites mentioned by show regulars as likely best in show contenders did not reach the finals: an Old English sheepdog named Swagger, who was last year’s first runner-up; and a Doberman pinscher named Fifi, who had won best in breed for three straight years.
Swagger won best in breed but was eliminated when Coco won the title of best herding dog.
Fifi was not named best in breed. She sat quietly in her carrier later, lounging on a soft pink blanket decorated with small black paw prints.
Even one of her competitors insisted Fifi had been robbed.
"Fifi is awesome. Fifi is perfect," said Marilyn Almy of Stillwater, N.Y., whose own Doberman, Navarra, also was in – and then out of – the running. "She’s a great representative of the breed," Almy said of Fifi, speculating that the dog’s string of victories might have worked against her.
Fifi’s owner, handler and breeder, Jocelyn Mullins, of Dublin, Ohio, shrugged.
"It’s a dog show," she said. "Sure, it’s disappointing, but at the end of the day, I’m taking home my wonderful dog."
As the Dobermans licked their wounds, other dogs waiting to enter the rings endured the fuss that goes with being on the pageant circuit. An Alaskan malamute stood stoically, covered in sudsy water, as a groomer placed one paw after another into a soaking tub. A husky sat patiently as someone trimmed the fur around her paw pads.
Hair dryers competed with the sounds of applause and roars of approval coming from show rings, nine in all, spread across two piers on the frozen Hudson River. The finals took place later in Madison Square Garden.
In addition to dogs, the show featured the usual collection of vendors selling dog-related items – everything from diamond earrings in the shape of paws or bones to clutch purses with handles in the shape of dogs.
Perhaps the booth drawing the most attention was the one for Cuddle Clones, where eerily realistic replicas of past best in show winners stood silently on a counter manned by Jennifer Graham and Adam Greene of Louisville, Ky.
Cuddle Clones, launched by Graham in 2009, uses photographs of animals to create exact replicas for pet owners mourning lost companions or simply looking for a double of the family pet, whatever it might be.
"We’ve done rats," said Graham, who has a staff of 12 to manufacture the clones, which are made of synthetic materials. The company also uses 3-D printing technology to make figurines and earrings modeled on real pets.
Graham, who had a lucrative career as an actuary before going into full-time cloning, said any qualms her family had about the switch evaporated last year when she produced three clones of Zack, the family pet who had died years earlier.
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