I look forward to the Westminster Kennel Club show like most kids look forward to Christmas. When other kids were running down to the corner dime store (a distinctly 1950s term) to get the latest Marvel comic, I was looking for the latest Dog World.
My first memory of Westminster was the 1957 Best In Show win by Sunny Shay’s Afghan Hound, CH Shirkhan of Grandeur, the first Hound to win at Westminster. While many of the Westminster exhibitors seemed to have dead serious expressions, breeder/owner/handler Sunny Shay seem to be having the time of her life. Most fanciers have heard of CH Shirkan of Grandeur, but few knew his call name was Chewey, some 20 years before George Lucas named his Wookie.
I read recently that the breed that has won a Group One at the Garden most frequently is the Pekingese, with 61 Toy Groups to date. That‘s nearly half of the Toy Groups judged. The first Westminster Peke I remember was the 1960 BIS winner, CH Chik T’Sun of Caversham, handled by Clara Alford. Clara & Ossie were at the time the epitome of the dog show couple, winning 126 all breed BIS during their day, a breed record that stood until 2005 when David Fitzpatrick’s CH Yakee If Only logged a career 128 Bests.
In 1973 I realized a life long dream, attending my very first Westminster Kennel Club show. My wife and I had acquired our first real show dog, a Maltese, Gwenbrook’s Joy of Brenbill. While our new puppy didn’t qualify for the show, we were thrilled to watch the Maltese, CH Joanne-Chen’s Maya Dancer win his second consecutive Westminster Toy Group. He resembled a white cloud hover craft as the spot light followed him around the big ring at the Garden.
My favorite Westminster moment from recent history came during the 2005 Sporting Group from the German Shorthaired Pointer, CH Kan-Point’s VJK Autumn Roses, handled by Michelle Scott. I have never seen the equal of Michelle’s presentation of the GSP bitch, Carlee. Carlee literally dared the judge to take her eyes off her. Carlee was not one of the favorites going in. I remembered the TV pundits never even mentioned her. However, when she came back to the group judge and Michelle dramatically dropped the lead, Carlee took over. She hit her mark and stared the judge down like she was a pheasant in the cross hairs. The entire garden was transfixed and, for a moment, all of us, pet owners and die hard enthusiasts, knew we were witnessing greatness. The moment became known to all dog fanciers as “The Stack Heard Round The World.” Carlee and Michelle would got on to win Best In Show, leaving us all with a favorite addition to our dog show scrapboosk.
Join me and the Best In Show Daily Team this year for the 136th Westminster Kennel Club Show. Maybe you will find your favorite Westminster moment. That’s today’s Back Story.