Wednesday, February 16, 2011

And The Westminster Winner Is....

A Scottish deerhound that loves to chase wild animals wound up catching her biggest prize yet.
A five-year-old named Hickory pulled a huge surprise Tuesday night at the Westminster Kennel Club, winning best in show and the title of America's top dog. She became the first of her breed to capture the purple-and-gold ribbon and shiny silver bowl. "I think Hickory could feel my lead that I was excited and went with it," handler Angela Lloyd said. Judge Paolo Dondina of Italy thanked everyone at Madison Square Garden, then picked Hickory from a best-of-seven final show ring that truly sounded international — there was a Pekingese, Portuguese water dog, Chinese shar-pei, smooth fox terrier, bearded collie and black cocker spaniel.

A couple of those pooches on the green carpet ring with Hickory were among the country's top-rated show dogs. The 85-pound Hickory wasn't on that list, though she wagged her long tail the most at the end after beating out a total of nearly 2,600 entries. "The quality of all of the dogs were outstanding," Dondina said. "This animal is like in the heavens. It's not of this world." Hickory lives on a 20-hectare farm in Warrenton, Va., where she enjoys running after deer and rabbits. Owners Sally Sweatt and Cecilia Dove and Dr. Scott Dove will certainly let her romp all she wants after this victory, her 16th best-in-show overall.

The 135th Westminster was considered a wide-open field from the start. A smooth fox terrier that was the No. 1 show dog of 2010 recently retired and an Australian shepherd that won the big AKC/Eukanuba event did not enter. Hickory won the hound group Monday night, then had to wait around all day for her big chance. That was a lot to ask for a kind of dog that feels most comfortable in the woods, but she clearly managed to do just fine. "She's not used to lights, camera and noise," Lloyd said. The 31-year-old Lloyd had won at Westminster before — in 1998, she was honoured for her handling in the junior showmanship for youngsters who hope to work in the dog world. "People who own, breed, show dogs dream of this day," she said. Among the owners who showed earlier in the day: Brig.-Gen. Rhonda Cornum, an army surgeon who was shot down from a helicopter during the Persian Gulf War and briefly held as a prisoner of war.