Think you know a great dog when you see one? Of course you do! If you’re a dog show junkie (and we know you are) you’ve seen more than your fair share of “great ones” over the years. Heck, you may have bred, owned or shown a great one yourself.
“Great” dogs come in many forms. Some are great show dogs, breaking every breed record on the books while amassing Specialty and BIS wins as never before. Some are great performance dogs, racking up MACH points with ease as they leave their competitors in the dust. Some dogs are great entertainers, immortalized forever on celluloid for future generations of movie goers to admire. Not surprisingly, there are dogs that make great ambassadors, living lives in the public eye as they carry the weight of the canine world on their well-angulated shoulders.
Anyone who’s known a truly great dog will tell you that the dog was quite simply born great. Pedigree and purchase price not withstanding, these dogs quite simply radiate a beauty of mind, body and spirit that cannot be manufactured, measured or manipulated. The fiber of their very being reminds us that every once in a while life can, indeed, be beautiful. One such dog that possessed a preternatural beauty was ‘Mick’, the Kerry Blue Terrier. The greatness of this dog could have been foretold by William Shakespeare when he wrote, “Be not afraid of greatness; some are born great, some achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them.” Mick represented greatness in every way possible.
Of course, the “greatest” dog of all is the one keeping company by your side, making you feel safe and secure, making you laugh, and reminding you that everything is going to be alright. Mick was this kind of dog too.
(Thank you to the Westminster Kennel Club for permission to reprint the following article.)
In any year, when Westminster’s seven Group winners gather in the Best In Show ring Tuesday evening for the selection of America’s top dog, the superlatives flow readily. For The Westminster Kennel Club’s 127th Annual Dog Show in 2003, only one word was needed.
Wow. And let’s add an explanation point.
These seven dogs may well have comprised the greatest finale ever, both in terms of their records and their performances in the pressure-packed conclusion. To have a final lineup like this reflected well on the breed and group judging that had gone on for the two days of Westminster 127.
These seven Group winners had accumulated over 400 Bests In Show in their careers, and as they each took their turn in the spotlight under Judge Irene Bivin on that Tuesday night, it was easy to see why.
By the time Mrs. Bivin was done with her examinations and ready to make her decision, anything was possible. She could have pointed any direction for her winner and made the case without much debate.
And that said, there was little debate and a lot of cheering when she pointed to the Kerry Blue Terrier, Ch. Torums Scarf Michael, as her selection for the dog world’s ultimate prize, Best In Show at Westminster. Given that lineup, it was a spectacular win, even more spectacular than the world has come to know at Westminster.
“Mick” already had his share of spectacular wins. After all, he had gone Best In Show at Crufts, Westminster’s counterpart in England, before coming to America. Once here, he won just about everything there was to win and had compiled a record to be envied: Best In Show at Morris & Essex, two Bests In Show at Montgomery County, #1 dog all breeds in 2001, and Bests at virtually every prestigious dog show in America, with Bill McFadden handling for owner Marilu Hansen.
But that final jewel awaited him: Westminster. He had won the ultra-competitive Terrier Group in both 2001 and 2002, but other dogs went Best In Show. There was talk that 2003 might be his last Westminster, win or lose. So there he was at Westminster in 2003, after an abbreviated show schedule in 2002. He had attended fewer than 50 shows, but among them were the six largest dog shows in America (each of them over 3,500 dogs), and he captured Best In Show at all of them. Mick finished as the #4 dog all breeds on that limited schedule in 2002, and as the Garden approached, the question was being asked everywhere: Would this be Mick’s year?
As the world now knows, that answer was “yes.” Yes-exclamation-point, in fact. Mick won the Terrier Group Monday evening, becoming the only three-time winner in history of what is arguably the toughest of the Group. That brought him into Mrs. Bivin’s ring that Tuesday night, where he was once again in pretty select company. But he was up to it, capturing a fitting win to conclude a great career as one of the world’s greatest show dogs ever.
But he wasn’t out there in that ring by himself. As mentioned before, it was a night of great performances by great dogs. In group order, here’s how it went.
For the second year in a row, the Brittany, Ch. Magic Sir-ly You Jest, won the Sporting Group. What made if most notable was the fact that “Jester” had not been in a dog show since the previous Westminster. He had spent the year training in the field, pointing birds and earning his Junior Hunter title. But in spite of the layoff, he was back for another shot at the big prize with handler Clint Livingston at the other end of the lead. Jester didn’t show it, but at the age of 7, he was the oldest of the finalists.
Clint had a dilemma. A pleasant one, however, caused by the fact that he had also piloted an impressive young Ibizan Hound to victory in the Hound Group. Ch. Luxor’s Playmate of the Year was a well-deserving but surprise winner, giving the breed a placement in the Hound Group for the first time in its short participation (since 1980) at Westminster. Clint’s assistant Janice Hayes handled “Bunny” in the finale, while Clint stood in line with Jester and clapped for them. So did a lot of others.
Another crowd favorite was the athletic big black dog, the Newfoundland, Ch. Darbydale All Rise Pouch Cove. “Josh” was the #8 dog all breeds for 2002, and had 29 Bests In Show to his credit. Michelle Ostermiller had gaited “Josh” to a win in the competitive Working Group and now they had hopes of becoming the second Newfoundland to capture the top award at Westminster..
At the other end of the scale, the elegant little Pekingese, Ch. Yakee Leaving Me Breathless at Franshaw, moved slowly but assuredly around the ring under the confident hand of Hiram Stewart. “Les” had his fans, too, and they were hoping he could become the fourth Peke to capture Westminster’s Best In Show trophy. He had been the #3 dog all breeds in 2002, establishing a record for Toy Dogs with 59 Bests In Show for the year, giving him a career total of 65. Like Mick, Les was also bred in the United Kingdom (Scotland).
Ch. Ale Kai Mikimoto On Fifth, a graceful white Standard Poodle, represented the Non-Sporting Group. Another top ten dog all breeds in 2002, “Miki” was handled by the legendary Poodle man, 77-year-old Wendell Sammet, and had captured many of America’s top shows, a total of 59 Bests in his career. If pedigree were to make a difference, Mike had a lot going for him: his great-great grandfather, Ch. Whisperwind On A Carousel, had been Best In Show at Westminster in 1991 and Miki’s sire had won the Group three years in a row (1998-1999-2000).
The crowd at the Garden always loves the German Shepherd, too, and that was again the case at Westminster 127. Ch. Kismet’s Sight for Sore Eyes was coming off a great year as the #1 dog all breeds and showed the crowd why. “Dallas” had 103 Bests In Show to his credit and was handled by Jim Moses. For Jim, it was the sixth time that he has taken a German Shepherd to the Herding Group title since the Herding Group started in 1983, and one of those, the famous Ch. Covy Tucker Hill’s Manhattan, captured Best In Show in 1987.
But this was Mick’s year. He became the first Kerry Blue Terrier to capture Best at Westminster, the 43rd such win by a Terrier since Best In Show judging began in 1907. He also became only the second dog to capture both Crufts and Westminster, joining the Lakeland Terrier, Ch. Stingray of Derryabah, in that elite club.