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NEW YORK — Champion Palacegarden Malachy, a charming pekingese, bested six other group winners Tuesday night to emerge top dog at the 136th annual Westminster Kennel Club dog show.
The pekingese, owned by Iris Love of New York City, Sandra Middlebrooks of Magnolia Springs, Ala., and David Fitzpatrick of East Berlin, Pa., and shown by Mr. Fitzpatrick, won out over a German shepherd, a Doberman pinscher, an Irish setter, a Dalmatian, a Kerry blue terrier, and a wire-haired dachshund.
Photos from Tuesday's Westminster Dog Show
The winner is the first pekingese to capture best in show at Westminster since 1990 and only the sixth “peke” — as the breed is nicknamed — to win in the history of the show.
“What a wonderful way to end his career,” said Mr. Fitzpatrick, who said the 11-pound, 4-year-old toy breed dog will retire from the show ring and spend the rest of his life chasing squirrels in Mr. Fitzpatrick’s backyard or playing with a squeaky rat toy inside.
“He was very relaxed. We kept him quiet all day, trying to save his energy for the ring,” he said. “He’s a very happy dog. He’s an extrovert in the ring.”
Malachy was the top toy dog at last year’s Westminster and has had 115 best in shows at other dog shows in his career. When asked if the dog behaved like a cat because of his quiet and dignified demeanor, Mr. Fitzpatrick replied with a laugh: “No he’s not like a cat at all because he’s a pekingese.”
This year’s field at the country’s second-longest-running sporting event after the Kentucky Derby included 2,077 entries representing 185 breeds.
The second day of judging included breed judging for dogs that make up the sporting, terrier, and working groups. The best of breeds went on to compete in the group judging in the evening.
The three Tuesday night group winners joined the group winners from Monday night in the hound, toy, nonsporting, and herding groups to be judged for the ultimate title — best in show.
Grand Champion Peerless I Am the Love Bug, better known as just Bugs, a dog from the Toledo suburb of Holland who was competing in New York, did not make the cut in the bull mastiff best of breed judging.
Owned by Christy Shepler and Alexis O’Larry of Holland, the dog won best in breed last year at Westminster, so Ms. Shepler was understandably disappointed.
“He came, he brought it, and he did his best,” Ms. Shepler said. “To be in this sport, you have to have a thick skin and accept the opinion of the judge. It was just someone else’s day.”
Ms. Shepler praised her handler, Tina Harbert of Spring Arbor, Mich., who was also showing two other dogs at Westminster Tuesday. Besides Bugs, she was also in the ring with Champion Nirvana’s Tidal Wave, a Cane corso owned by Nora Saunders of Lansing and Champion Honadore Kiss N Tell, a Labrador retriever owned by Katherine Wiecha and Carol Cooper of St. Clair Shores, Mich.
Ms. Harbert, who breeds and shows Siberian huskies and whippets, ran herself ragged Tuesday, grooming and taking care of the three dogs in between handling each of them in the ring. She has been showing since she began as a junior handler in 1989.
“It’s a 24/7 job,” said Ms. Harbert, who often has a dozen dogs living with her and her husband while she shows them on weekends.
Her clients have sent dogs from as far away as Singapore, Hong Kong, and Japan, and sometimes their dogs live with her for upward of two years while she takes them on the rounds to become American champions.
Handlers make on average of $50 to $150 a show for handling a dog, plus expenses. Handling a dog in a national show like Westminster pays upward of $200 a dog.
Bugs was in local company at the long-running show. The other local dogs also didn’t make it past the best of breed judging, including:
Champion Avalyn’s Regal Trailblazer, a borzoi owned by Barbaranne Benjamin and Lynne Bennett of Toledo;
Grand Champion Wil-Orion’s Twenty Twenty, an English springer spaniel owned by Laurie Green, Erline Jesseman, Janice Johnson, and Erica Johnson of Toledo;
Grand Champion Born od Mihajlovica, a Staffordshire bull terrier owned by Chris and Michelle Roberts of Temperance.
Carol Heidl and Noel Nivera of Sandusky showed three Labrador retrievers, none of whom was named best of breed in a very large field of 38 dogs.
The second day of the show was abuzz with news about unexpected upsets in the competition for best of breed for the black cocker spaniel and wire fox terrier. The best of breed for the spaniels, Champion Mario N Beechwood’s Midnight Express, owned by Frank and Cathy Charest, and Mark and Pam Ragusa of Raynham, Mass., beat out the expected winner, Grand Champion Casablanca’s Thrilling Seduction, owned by Bruce Vandeman, Carolee Douglas, Mary Walker, and Linda Moore of Dallas. With 68 all-breed best in show wins, the dog recently claimed the top award at the 57th Annual Show Dogs of the Year Awards.
The top wire fox terrier is Grand Champion Graycottage Santeric Fyrestorm, owned by Clint and Altha Graham of Hermitage, Pa. Their dog beat out the expected winner, who was rumored to be a front-runner for best in show, Grand Champion Steele Your Heart, owned by Tori Steele and Maryann Roma of Malibu, Calif.
Outside Madison Square Garden, Dogs Against Romney, a Facebook-based protest group demonstrated to bring attention to the now-infamous incident in which the former Massachusetts governor and a Republican hopeful for president put his Irish setter, Seamus, inside a dog crate and strapped it to his vehicle for a 12-hour drive to a family vacation spot. Perhaps to avenge Seamus’ unfortunate ride, an Irish setter won the sporting dog group Tuesday night.
Contact Tanya Irwin at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6066.