By Christi McDonald
Editor’s note: Determining the top AKC winners in any category is an inexact science. We explain why in a companion article: Biggest BIS Winner Tough to Call.
Among the seven Groups, the contest for top Best-in-Show winner has been most hotly contested in Terriers. The first Terrier to reach the pinnacle was the Scottie shown in the mid-1980s by master Terrier-man George Ward. Ch. Braeburn’s Close Encounter was bred by R.E. and H.M. Girlingm and owned by Alan and Sonnie Novick, a well-to-do couple from Florida who had previously backed winning show dogs for several different handlers.
‘Shannon’ won her 184th Best in Show in February 1985 when she topped Westminster, and she went on to rack up a record 214 all-breed Bests and to become the fifth dog to ever win 100 Best in Shows and the only one in American dog show history to that point to win more than 200 top awards. Fanciers of the day could scarcely imagine that any dog would ever top Shannon’s record.
In the following decades, a steady, if exclusive, stream of dogs topped the 100 Best in Shows mark, including a Wire Fox Terrier import, IR ENG AM Ch. Galsul Excellence, handled by Peter Green. Shortly thereafter the now-legendary German Shepherd bitch, Ch. Altana’s Mystique, began to compile an enviable list of BIS wins with Jimmy Moses on the lead. Another couple from Florida, Sam Lawrence and his wife Marion, campaigned a Black Cocker Spaniel, Ch. La-Shay’s Bart Simpson, to more than 100 BIS wins, handled by Cocker expert Bob Covey.
But it was the second of the Lawrences’ four “100 Club” members that would, against all odds, eventually unseat the Scottie bitch. Ch. Registry’s Lonesome Dove, a daughter of Galsul Excellence and bred by Airedale fancier Forbes Gordon and his late wife, Joan, won 213 Best in Shows handled by Michael Kemp, including Westminster 1992.
In a shocking development in 1993, Lacey’s bright career came to a grave standstill when she was diagnosed with lymphoma. During treatment for the cancer, she lost all of her coat, and all her physical reserves went to helping the tenacious Terrier survive. It was during her treatment and recovery that Michael relocated to the East Coast, and Lacey was left in the care of Scott Sommer, who had worked for Michael for 15 years, and Michael’s ex-wife, Patty.
With formidable Terrier spirit, Lacey rallied after treatment, and Scott got her back in condition to handle her to three more all-breed Best in Show wins. The total of 216 made Lacey, for a brief time, the Top Best-in-Show-winning dog of all time, of all breeds. German Shepherd bitch Mystique eventually shattered that record, but Lacey remains the top Best-in-Show-winning Terrier of all time.