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As always, there was stiff competition at “America’s Dog Show.” Staged at two different venues for the first time this year, the show has several elimination rounds. At each level, the dogs are being judged against a breed standard rather than against each other.
The Best in Show winner first competes with members of their own breed to win Best of Breed. The breed competitions took place at Piers 92/94 along the Hudson River this year. Those winners then moved on to compete with the representatives of the other breeds that make up their Group, over at Madison Square Garden. And those winners were the seven who arrived in the Best in Show ring.
Here are this year’s Group winners:
Best of Hound Group: Although the crowd went wild on Monday night when Bassett Hound Tiger trotted around the ring with his gums flapping, and Westminster’s first Treeing Walker Coonhound made a big splash, the Group winner was Jewel, a 3-year-old female American Foxhound from Mechanicsville, Md. Lisa Miller, the breeder, owner and handler of CH. Kiarry’s Pandora’s Box was thrilled that her “baby” came in first place. "I brought her into the world, and I always dreamed of going to Westminster, take her to the big show and for her to win it,” she said. Meanwhile, “Jewel seems pretty calm about the whole thing,” said Mary Carillo, one of the show’s announcers.
Best of Toy Group: Before going on to win the top title, Banana Joe had to take the Group title. Joey has won Best of Breed three times in a row, and the crowd was thrilled to see him place first. Facing competition from a 4-year-old Pekingese cousin of last year’s Best in Show winner and a Pug with a lot of fans in the Garden, the nearly-6-year-old little black dog’s entourage had an emotional celebration at the podium.“This is his swan song,” said Lara, his handler. “He has just wonderful charisma. I’ve been lucky to have him in my life.”
Best of Non-Sporting Group: Honor, a 4-year-old Bichon Frise, lived up to his name, taking the top prize in his Group. In his fluffy white coat, CH. Vogelflight's Honor To Pillowtalk, quickly won over fans with his cheerful personality. "He has a great attitude, and he's a cute little show dog," said his handler, Lisa Bettis. Although Honor hails from Washington, D.C., he lives with Bettis in Indiana.
Best of Herding Group: Looking like he could hardly see through the hair covering his eyes, Swagger, the Old English Sheepdog, had a surprise win. "He's a natural," said Colton Johnson, who’s the dog’s breeder, owner and handler, from Colorado. Bugaboo's Picture Perfect defeated 15 canines who were champions in his Best of Breed competition to get to the Group level. “It’s a big upset of sorts because it was a dog that people didn’t know about, because it came in as a class dog and not as a big winning champion, but a beautiful dog,” explained veteran commentator David Frei.
Best of Sporting Group: Oakley (CH. Mt View's Ripsnortersilvercharm), a 6-year-old German Wirehaired Pointer, became the first of his breed to win the Sporting Group. “He’s had a career that dreams are made of,” said his handler, Phil Booth. “He’s a once-in-a-lifetime dog.” Booth lives with Oakley in Michigan. The number-one show dog in the country in 2012, Oakley was a favorite of oddsmakers in Las Vegas for a Group win. Spectators thirsting for a first-time Best in Show win for America’s much-loved retriever breeds got their hopes up when the Golden made the Group’s final cut, but alas, it was not to be — again — this year. “The crowd comes to life for the sporting dogs,” said Frei. “Look at all those tails that are going too.”
Best of Working Group: An excited Portuguese Water Dog, the same breed as White House resident Bo Obama, took the top prize in the Working Group. CH. Claircreek Impression De Matisse, who goes by Matisse, was born in Canada and lives in the U.S. The 6-year-old dog’s win was a major upset, as he defeated the Vegas Best in Show favorite, Doberman Pinscher Fifi — or the Fifinator — who has a Facebook page with more than 7,000 loving fans. (She placed second in the Group.) “He’s not going to have enough ribbons for this group,” commented Frei, as the judge stood making his decision. “Wow, what a nice group.” Also entertaining the crowd while the Working Group was in the ring was the Bullmastiff, Sam, who gave his handler a “massive hug” while he was being shown.
Best of Terrier Group: The Smooth Fox Terrier, Adam (CH. Slyfox Sneak's A Peek), an 11-year-old male, snagged first place ahead of the favored Wire Fox Terrier, Sky. They were followed by the Border Terrier and Bosse, a 4-year-old Russell Terrier from Michigan, who got quite a welcome as he became the first of his breed to compete at Westminster. To the crowd’s amusement, the white Bull Terrier made a pit stop as she trotted away from the judge to pick up the treat that her handler dropped in the ring.
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