A Pekingese walks his handler in the Best in Show at the Westminster Kennel Club dog show in Tarrytown, NY on Sunday. The dog won the blue ribbon in the Best in Show. Kathy Willens / AP hide caption
Kathy Willens / AP
Kathy Willens / AP
TARRYTOWN, NY (AP) – The Flavor of the Year at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show: Wasabi.
A Pekingese named Wasabi won Best Show on Sunday night, scooping a fifth win for the distinctive toy breed. A whippet named Bourbon was second to repeat.
Waddling through a small but neat twist in the ring, Wasabi grabbed the most prestigious award from the American Dogdome after winning the American Kennel Club National Championship in 2019.
“He has showmanship. He is the breed standard. He has that little something extra, that sparkle that makes a dog stand out,” said Wasabi’s dog handler and breeder David Fitzpatrick, who led Peke Malachy’s grandfather to the 2012 Westminster title.
How is Wasabi going to celebrate?
“He can have a filet mignon. And I’ll have champagne,” said Fitzpatrick from East Berlin, Pennsylvania, laughing.
Wasabi ended up winning a pack of finalists that included Mathew, the French Bulldog, Connor, the Old English Sheepdog, Jade, the German Shorthair, Striker the Samoyed, and a West Highland White Terrier named Boy. A total of 2,500 champion dogs took part in the show.
It see big changes this year Moved out of New York City for the first time since the show’s inception in 1877 because of the coronavirus pandemic. This year’s show took place outdoors on a property in the suburbs of Tarrytown, about 25 miles north of where the top band is usually presented at Madison Square Garden, and took place in June in February.
As a sign of the pandemic, some handlers wore masks – although vaccinated people were allowed to walk without – and the show was closed to the public.
Striker went on the show as the top ranked US dog with more than 40 best-in-show wins since January 2020. And Bourbon had won the AKC National Championship too.
The show was bittersweet for Jade’s handler and co-owner Valerie Nunes-Atkinson. She led Jade’s father CJ to a 2016 Westminster Best in Show win – and lost it last September when the 7-year-old died unexpectedly of a fungal infection.
“The good thing is, he left an incredible legacy,” said Nunes-Atkinson of Temecula, California. She said Jade “had my heart from birth”.
Boy had come a long way to Westminster – all the way from Thailand, where one of his owners was watching from Bangkok, according to handler Rebecca Cross.
“He always makes us laugh,” said Cross of Gettysburg, Penn.
For many dog owners, making it to Westminster is a thrill – even for baseball all-time home run leader Barry Bonds, who cheered on a miniature schnauzer he owns with sister Cheryl Dugan.
The dog Rocky didn’t win his breed, but the bat said he was proud of Rocky just because he qualified for the champions-only show.
“We won because we came here. That’s all that matters,” Bonds told Fox Sports. “I’ve been to a lot of playoffs and the World Series and I’ve never won. But for 22 years I’ve tried again and again.”
The 56-year-old Bonds holds the baseball career home run record at 762, though his performance has been marred by allegations of steroid use – he denied knowingly ingesting them.
While the semi-finals and final rounds were held in an air-conditioned tent, earlier parts of the competition took place on the lawn of an estate called Lyndhurst.
Douglas Tighe, who ran second in the sports group with a Brittany named Pennie, says he just goes along with when his dogs are distracted by birds and other outdoor attractions.
“Let them have fun,” said Tighe of Hope, NJ. “It’s all about this.”
This is what Kole Brown is all about. At the age of 9, he showed a bull terrier named Riley next to his parents, Kurtis Brown and US Air Force Captain Samantha Brown, and several other bull terriers in the family on Sunday.
“I really enjoy this sport,” said Kole of San Antonio, Texas. “Every time I go in the ring, I have a smile on my face.”