Who’s top dog? Pampered pooches vie for best in show at the Westminster Dog Show finals – held outside of New York City for the first time in 145 years and without spectators
New York City’s most pampered, primed and prettiest pooches competed to be named top dog at the Westminster Dog Show finals on Sunday.
The event was held in the Westchester town of Tarrytown, NY, rather than its typical Madison Square Garden home, to allow competitors and their owners to socially distance amid the COVID-19 pandemic. It is the first time the event has not been held in Manhattan in its 145-year history.
Wasabi, a Pekingese, was named the Best in Show following hours of competition.
‘He has that little something special,’ his owner and handler, David Fitzpatrick said. It was the fifth-time in the competition’s history a Pekingese won the coveted title.
Wasabi will now be going on media tour of New York, being carried at all times while also enjoying some filet mignon as Fitzpatrick sips on some champagne.
Wasabi, the Pekingese, sat in the winners circle after winning Best in Show at the 145th annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show at the Lyndhurst Estate in Tarrytown, New York
David Fitzpatrick seemed very proud of Wasabi as he sat surrounded by medals after winning Best in Show
Wasabi, a Pekingese of East Berlin, Pennsylvania, looked dignified as he is presented by his owner and handler Fitzpatrick before winning the Best in Show
Fitzpatrick said Wasabi can now enjoy a meal of filet mignon and will continue to be pampered as he goes on a media tour of New York following his big win
A whippet named Bourbon was named runner-up for the second time in his career.
They faced a French bulldog, an old English sheepdog, a Samoyed, a West Highland white terrier, and a German short-haired pointer as finalists in the 145-year-old competition that tests a dog’s looks, agility and poise.
The competition is the second-oldest continuous sporting event in the United States, after the Kentucky Derby. It is also the longest nationally televised live dog show, according to the Westminster Kennel Club.
It was rescheduled from its usual February dates and human participants must be vaccinated or newly tested to compete. Dogs will compete as usual on green carpet for televised parts of the competition, inside a large air-conditioned tent, but some other rounds and judging occurred on the lawn at the sprawling Lyndhurst estate.
‘It was a show for the ages,’ said judge Patricia Craige Trotter before announcing Wasabi, of East Berlin, Pennsylvania, as the winner.
Bourbon, the whippet, ended the night the runner-up to the Best in Show for the second time in his career
Connor the Old English Sheepdog stood tall as he waited for a judge to come over and examine him for Best in Show
Boy, the West Highland White Terrier, stood ready for his chance to walk around the ring for a chance at the Best in Show title
Boy and Mathew the French Bulldog prepared to compete for the coveted title on Sunday night
Trotter, an 85-year-old middle school teacher, made her own Westminster debut in 1961, according to USA Today.
Her Norwegian Elkhound won Best in Breed in 1964 and Best in Group a year later, the first of an unprecedented 11 victories.
David Haddock, co-chair of the show, estimates that there have been 350,000 handlers who have competed in the Westminster Dog Show since its inception in 1877, but none of them have ever come as close to achieving what Trotter has, even though she is not a professional breeder or handler.
‘I couldn’t carry Pat’s bags on a good day,’ he continued, ‘and yet she treats me as an equal, the same way she treats everyone in the sport.’
Mathew, a French bulldog, won the top prize in his breed group at the 145th Annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, on Saturday, in Tarrytown, New York on Sunday, the first time in the competition’s history it was held outside of New York City
Kitty, an Old English Sheepdog from North Carolina, tried to hide while being groomed before her competition
A handler gave Jade, a German short-haired pointer that just won the sporting group, after a judge announced that she won the Sporting Category Sunday night
Striker the Samoyed won the Working Group category. He is the No. 1-ranked dog in the country, based on the numbers of competitions he has won in the past, according to the New York Times
The West Highland White Terrier won the Terrier group at the 145th annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, becoming the last finalist to be announced Sunday night
But that doesn’t mean the dogs and their handlers were not prepared for the competition – in fact many of them were seasoned professionals and the heirs of previous winners.
Both Wasabi and Bourbon have won another big show, the American Kennel Club National Championship, and Bourbon was the runner-up at the Westminster Dog Show last year.
Wasabi is also the grandson of a Westminster winner, and Connor, the old English sheepdog, is the son of a runner-up.
Striker the Samoyed is also the No. 1-ranked dog in the country, based on the numbers of competitions he has won in the past, according to the New York Times, and Jade, the German short-haired pointer who won the sporting group is the daughter of C.J., the pointer who won Best in Show in 2016 with the same handler, Valerie Nunes-Atkinson.
Meanwhile, Bourbon has been jockeying for bragging rights with French bulldog Mathew on a daily basis – the two live together, since their handlers are married to each other.
Handlers shook hands after it was announced that the West Highland White Terrier won the Terrier Group Sunday night
A judge inspected a Great Dane’s teeth in the Working Group competition as the handler tried to wrangle the large dog
The judges looked carefully at every part of the dogs before watching them walk around the ring
An Akita and a Mastiff became fast friends at the 145th Annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show on Sunday, the first time the show was held outside of New York City due to the coronavirus pandemic
A Nederlandse Kooikerhondje was carried in prior to the Judging of Sporting, Working, and Terrier Breeds
Attison, a Komondorok dog, shook his dreads as he walked around the ring in the Working Group competition
A dog competed in the Sporting Group category Sunday night, as judges examined his features
In total, 2,500 dogs entered the show – each with their own story.
One of the finalist’s handler and co-owner Valerie Nunes-Atkinson lost the dog’s father, CJ, whom she guided to a 2016 Westminster Best in Show title in September, when the 7-year-old German short-haired pointer died of a fungal infection, NPR reported.
‘The good part about it is: He’s left an incredible legacy,’ said Nunes-Atkinson, of Temecula, California, adding that Jade, the finalist, ‘had my heart’ from birth.
Boy, the West Highland White Terrier, meanwhile, came all the way from Thailand to compete, where one of his owners was watching the competition from Bangkok, according to handler Rebecca Cross.
‘He always makes us laugh,’ said Cross, of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.
A dog had his hair put in pig-tails for his big competition in the Terrier Group at the Dog Show
Handlers and their dogs got ready to compete in the Terrier Group, sitting on the floor and waiting for judges to come around
A German Shepard showed off his size and strength as he ran through the ring in the Working Group competition
Some handlers and their dogs also enjoyed some time outside at the 67-acre Lyndhurst Estate in Tarrytown
‘It´s always exciting every time, and you´re always hopeful,’ said Fitzpatrick, who guided the Peke’s grandfather Malachy to the Westminster title in 2012. ‘It’s an honor to be at Westminster.’
That’s true even for baseball’s all-time home run leader, Barry Bonds, who was cheering on a miniature schnauzer he owns with sister Cheryl Dugan. The dog, Rocky, didn’t win his breed, but the slugger said he was proud of Rocky simply for qualifying for the champions-only show.
‘We won because we got here. That´s all that matters,’ Bonds told Fox Sports. ‘I’ve been to a lot of playoffs, and I’ve been to the World Series, and I´ve never won. But for 22 years, I kept trying.’
The 56-year-old Bonds holds baseball´s career home run record with 762, though his feat was clouded by allegations of steroid use – he denied knowingly taking them.
Bonds was the latest in a line of baseball luminaries to enter dogs at Westminster, including Lou Gehrig, with a German shepherd, and Mike Mussina, with an Irish setter.
A Siberian Husky waited patiently to be groomed for his turn in the spotlight at the Westminster Dog Show
Percy, another whippet, enjoyed being groomed before his big competition at the Westminster Dog Show
A handler presented her Schnauzer in the Working Group category on Sunday as he jumped around
A German wirehaired pointer kissed his handler during judging of the Sporting Group as a show of good faith
Miniature Schnauzers, including Rocky, center, owned by former baseball star Barry Bonds competed in the show
Attison, winner of Best in Breed for Komondorok dogs, lipped his licks as he was presented with flowers for his win
A Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever looked up at his handler during judging in the Sporting Group as he awaited a decision
Olga Contant made a fist-pumping leap into the air Sunday afternoon as a judge chose Hugo – a bullmastiff she bred, owns and handled – as best of his breed, giving him a shot at the working group title.
‘It’s a pinnacle show for anybody,’ and all the more so for the relatively few owners who show their own dogs instead of entrusting them to professional handlers, said Contant, of Los Gatos, California.
The 149-pound Hugo might look imposing, but he’s ‘the sweetest dog in the world…. He captures the heart of everybody who comes around,’ she said. ‘He is the best presentation of the breed, where you can keep him as a family pet, but also, he’ll protect you.’
For Douglas Tighe, his turn in the sporting group ring with a Brittany named Pennie will pay tribute to a family tradition. His parents began breeding Brittanys 55 years ago.
In a sign of the pandemic times, some handlers wore masks – though vaccinated people were allowed to go without – and the show was closed to the public.
Martha Stewart was seen attending the 145-year-old Westminster Dog Show in Tarrytown on Sunday
Former Major League Baseball star Barry Bonds watched his Miniature Schnauzer, Rocky, compete
The handler of a Nederlandse Kooijerhonde runs her dog for judges in the sporting group category
A dog looked up expectantly at his handler as he waited to compete in the Working Group category
Striker, the Samoyed from Toronto, Canada, jumped for joy upon hearing he won the Sporting Group
A Portuguese Water Dog entered the air-conditioned tent to compete in the Working Group competition
An English Settler stood poised as he waited for a judge to look at his features in the Sporting Group competition
Some handlers took the time to groom their dogs before judges arrived to judge the pooches on their looks
A Tibetan Mastiff wore a bib making fun of his large size as he waited for judging in the Working Group
Pennie stayed focused, but Tighe says he just goes with it if his dogs get distracted by the birds they were bred to hunt.
‘Let them have fun,’ said Tighe, of Hope, New Jersey. ‘That’s what it’s all about.’
That’s what it’s about to Kole Brown, too. At age 9, he showed a bull terrier named Riley on Sunday alongside his parents, Kurtis Brown and U.S. Air Force Capt. Samantha Brown, and some of the family’s other bull terriers.
The entertaining breed is strong and known for being stubborn, and the biggest ones don’t weigh much less than Kole himself. But he wouldn’t have it any other way: ‘I was born into this breed, and I’m staying in this breed,’ he declares.
‘I have a lot of fun with this sport,’ said Kole, of San Antonio, Texas. ‘Every single time I go into the ring, I have a smile on my face.’
Two Dogue de Bordeaux chatted while they waited in the benching area prior to the judging Sunday night
One of the large dogs was presented to a judge in the Working Group category, who examined all his wrinkles and slobber
A Golden Retriever got his hair brushed so it was silky smooth before the Sporting Group competition
Dog handlers waited to present their dogs to the judges in the Working Group competition Sunday night
A handler carried her dog to the ring where he would compete against other dog in his group
A boxer competed at the Westminster Kennel Club dog show on Sunday, happily running through the course
But with many dog shows canceled over the last 15 months, it was tough or impossible for some dogs to get the points needed to qualify for Westminster. There were 545 AKC-sanctioned dog shows nationwide last year, down more than 60 per cent from 2019.
Tracy and Peter Rousseau have repeatedly made the trip to Westminster from their cattle ranch in Franktown, Colorado, to help ensure that their breed – the Norwegian lundehund, which is rarest of all in the AKC rankings – is represented. But none of their current dogs qualified, and the couple felt hesitant because of virus concerns and other issues.
‘We really do love showing our dogs, love educating people about this quirky little breed,’ said Peter Rousseau, a civilian military employee and retired Air Force sergeant. ‘With all the pandemic craziness and everything, it just didn’t work out this year. We´re looking forward to getting back to it.’
A Wirehaired Vizsla decided to relax a little before competing in the Sporting Group competition Sunday night
The West Highland White Terrier is seen in the benching area waiting to compete and win in the Terrier group
Mastiffs laid around beach chairs at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show on Sunday after a long day of hard work
Two Kerry Blue Terrier dogs and their owners gather on the lawn outside the Lyndhurst Mansion after breed judging
The last Westminster show concluded February 11, 2020, when there were only 13 confirmed coronavirus cases nationwide, although the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has since concluded the virus was already more prevalent.
Westminster spokesperson Gail Miller Bisher said organizers considered various scenarios for 2021, including a virtual show, an event with archival footage, Fans-via-video scenario similar to that used at NBA games last summer, and an outdoor event outside New York.
‘We felt we owed it to the dog community and to the sports community to put this up,’ club President Charlton ‘Chat’ Reynders III said. ‘We just wanted to be sure that we created a venue where the person that might be most nervous about COVID, or health, would feel safe.’
By last fall, the club decided on June at the 67-acre Lyndhurst estate, which lies about 25 miles north of Manhattan. The estate has hosted a smaller dog show for decades, and former owner and Gilded Age railroad magnate/financier Jay Gould’s sons had dogs that won prizes at Westminster.
The show will return to Madison Square Garden in January 2022.