The Tuesday evening activities began at Madison Square Garden amid an air of eager anticipation. Three Group winners were left to be selected before the 2012 Best in Show winner would be crowned.
Judge Terry Stacy officiated the first Group of the evening. What he did not find in his Sporting Group line-up was the 2011 Number 1 dog of all breeds—and last year’s Westminster Group winner—the Black Cocker Spaniel, GCh. Casablanca’s Thrilling Seduction. ‘Beckham’ won the first Award of Merit under breed judge Dr. Donald Sturz in one of the day’s major upsets, with Ch. Mario N Beechwood’s Midnight Express, owned by Frank and Cathy Charest and Mark and Pam Ragusa, the Variety winner.
There were a few of the past year’s Top Sporting dogs in Mr. Stacy’s line-up: Number 2, English Springer Spaniel GCh. Wynmoore Champagne Supernova, handled by Robin Novak for owners Celie Florence, Dolores Streng, Beth Fink, Erin Kerfoot and Ken Goodhue-McWilliams; Number 4, German Wirehaired Pointer GCh. Mt. View’s Ripsnortersilvercharm, handled by Phil Booth for Claire Wisch and Kelly Wisch; Number 6, Weimaraner GCh. Northwoods Send Money Honey, owned by Heidi Warren, T. J. Palmer and Phillip Warren and handled by Michelle Scott; and Number 8, English Setter GCh. Oakley’s B’Dazzled, handled by Tara Schultz for Don and Georjean Jensen and Erik and Jennifer Strickland.
Irish Setter GCh. Shadagee Caught Red Handed was also in the ring. She was the Number 1 Sporting dog—and Number 3 among all breeds—in 2010, but had to be content at last year’s Garden with an Award of Merit under judge Doug Johnson following her big-winning year. She whelped a litter of 15—yes, 15!—puppies and then got right back into shape to return to the Garden this year, to take all comers and win the breed under Setter authority Ken Murray. ‘Emily’ is owned by Debra Burke and Nancy Lee Conner and handled, as always, by Adam Bernardin.
Mr. Stacy’s cut included the Irish Setter, the English Setter, the Springer and the Wire Pointer, as well as Irish Water Spaniel GCh, Whistlestop’s Riley On Fire, owner-handled by Greg Siner and also owned by Tom and Bethany Urban; Labrador Retriever GCh. Clearcreek Bonaventure Windjammer, owned by Elizabeth Martin and Tom and Gail Shearer; and Wirehaired Pointing Griffon GCh. Flatbrook Duet Hide and Seek SH, handled by Amy Rutherford for Kristi and Graham Rogney.
His final four placements were the Irish Setter, the German Wirehaired Pointer, the English Springer Spaniel and the Irish Water Spaniel. No Irish Setter has ever been Best in Show at Westminster.
The Working Group came into the ring next, along with judge Betty Leininger, who I must say could have rivaled any Hollywood celebrity in a stunning midnight blue evening gown.
Mrs. Leininger found in her Group ring seven of the 2011 Top 10 Working dogs: Number 1, Boxer GCh. Winfall Brookwood Styled Dream, handled by Diego Garcia for Debbie McCarroll, Mark Fagan, Mrs. Jack Billhardt and Serio Tenebaum; Number 2, Kuvasz GCh. Szumeria’s Wildwood Silver Six Pence, owned by Mercedes Vila, Lynn Brady, Connie Townsend and Claudia Muir and handled by Diana Wilson; Number 4, Doberman Pinscher GCh. Protocol’s Veni Vidi Vici, breeder/owner-handled by Jocelyn Mullins, also owned by Kevin Mullins and Suzy and Dick Lundy; Number 6, Samoyed GCh. McMagic’s Candied Ham of Pebblesrun, owned by Amy and Andrew Green and Patti McCallum, handled by Andrew; Number 8, Great Dane GCh. Lobato’s JitterBug Man, owned by Mary Ellen Thomas, Joy Lobato and Glenda Cole and handled by Marie Somershoe; Number 9, GCh. Catanyas Latin Lover, handled by Mike Stone for P. J. Kendrick, Armando Martinez and Alisa Syar; and Number 10, Rottweiler GCh. Chancellor Flirt’s Hi Flyin’ Gladiator, owned by Wendi Lewellen and handled by Perry Payson.
After examining and moving each exhibit Mrs. Leininger pulled out the Boxer, the Dobe, the Malamute, the Sammy and the Rottweiler, as well as Bernese Mountain Dog GCh. Alpenspirit Who’s On First, owned by Anne and Greg Summers and handled by Cindy Gorath; Standard Schnauzer GCh. Pepper Tree Zorro V Morgenwald, handled by Jodi Paquette for Penny Duffee; and Tibetan Mastiff GCh. Dreamcatcher Major Victory of Loki, owned by Debra Parsons and William Slayton.
Her placements went to the Doberman Pinscher first, the Boxer second, the Malamute third and the Standard Schnauzer fourth.
Three different Dobes have gone Best in Show at Westminster, including Mr. and Mrs. Len Carey’s great Ch. Rancho Dobe’s Storm, who topped the Garden in 1952 and 1953. Andy Linton handled the last Dobe to go Best in Show here, the red bitch Ch. Royal Tudor’s Wild As the Wind, owned by Rich and Carolyn Vida, Beth Wilhite and Art and Sue Korp.
The final Group of the evening was judged by Bill Potter. In another upset during the day, the Group’s 2011 top points-earner, Wire Fox Terrier Ch. Steele Your Heart, was Best of Opposite Sex to the male GCh. Graycottage Santeric Fyrestorm, owned by Clint and Altha Graham and handled by Leonardo Garcini. Robert Hutton judged the breed.
Those 2011 Top Terriers that made it through to the Group included Smooth Fox Terrier GCh. Slyfox Sneaks a Peek, owned by Jim Smith and handled by Eddie Boyes; Number 3, Skye Terrier GCh. Cragsmoor Buddy Goodman, handled by Larry Cornelius for Carolyn Koch and Victor Malzoni; Number 4, American Staffordshire Terrier GCh. Castle Rock’s Sbigstaff Mad About You, owned by Genoa Brown, Ruth Sampson and breeder Dayna Pesenti, handled by Kim Rudzik; Number 6, Scottish Terrier GCh. Lomondview Clementina, handled by Ernesto Lara for Daphne and John Eggert; Number 8, Kerry Blue Terrier Eng. Ch. Am. GCh. Perrisblu Kennislain’s Chelsey, owned by the Ed Yingling family with Phil Davies and handled by Bill McFadden; and Number 9, Border Terrier GCh. Meadowlake Simply Sinful, breeder/owner-handled by Karen Fitzpatrick and owned by Kiki Courtelis and Joyce Wilkimson.
Mr. Potter’s cut included the Am Staff, the Border Terrier, the Kerry, the Smooth, the Skye and the Scottie, as well as the top-winning Australian Terrier of all time, GCh. Kambara’s Zebulon, bred and owned by Anne and Craig Mitchell and handled by Kellie Dahlberg; and the Welsh Terrier GCh. Bayleigh Shaireab’s Pinball Wizard, handled by Tracy Szaras for owners Michele Steuer, Keith Bailey and Sharon Abmeyer.
The final four placements were first to the Kerry Blue, second the Smooth Fox Terrier, third the Skye Terrier and fourth to the Am Staff.
The only Kerry Blue Terrier to ever go Best in Show at Westminster was also handled by Bill McFadden, in 2003 when Eng. Am. Ch. Torums Scarf Michael took home the award for owner Marilu Hansen.
Selecting the Best From The Best
And now we are at the finale…
After the seven finalists entered the now-darkened Best in Show ring, each dog under a spotlight and to great applause and enthusiasm from the crowd, judge Cindy Vogels was escorted into the ring. She must have been quite pleased with the beautiful line-up before her: the German Shepherd Dog, the Doberman Pinscher, the Irish Setter, the Dalmatian, the Kerry Blue Terrier, the Wirehaired Dachshund and the Pekingese.
Truthfully, each of the final seven dogs in Cindy Vogels’ ring gave a performance worthy of a Westminster Best in Show winner. Every breeder, owner and handler was undoubtedly bursting with pride as they watched the dogs in which they’ve invested a great deal of love, hope, time and attention. The same can be said for all of the dogs in competition over the two days at Madison Square Garden.
TThe German Shepherd ‘Capi’ moved around the ring at a perfect, effortless trot, and struck a perfect stack following his down and back. ‘Fifi,’ the black Dobe bitch, also managed a picture-perfect finish to her individual exam.
Proving she was delighted to be back in the ring, Irish Setter ‘Emily’ challenged handler Adam Bernardin with a few barks and hops before settling into a lovely pose for Mrs. Vogels’ pleasure, and Dalmatian ‘Ian’ provided the crowd, and the judge, with a fine example of what a good coach dog looks like.
‘Chelsey’ the Kerry gave a crisp, clean performance, with “just enough” Terrier spirit thrown in for good measure. ‘Cinders’ the Wire Dachshund handled the big ring without missing a beat, and then ‘Malachy’ took his turn, showing his small heart out for all the world to see.
In the end, as Mrs. Vogels said, there was just one ribbon to hand out. The native New Yorker thanked the Westminster Kennel Club for giving the purebred dog world a wonderful venue each year for presenting our beloved canines to the world, and then she announced that her winner for the evening would be the Pekingese.
David Fitzpatrick, after six Group First wins at the Garden, finally got to take home a well-deserved Best in Show ribbon. Few dog men or women deserve it more than David, who has devoted most of his life to breeding, handling, owning, conditioning, caring for and loving dogs, primarily his beloved Pekingese. David found ‘Malachy’ when he visited Jean and Jim Smith’s small Palacegarden kennel in Northumberland, in northern England, and with his expert’s eye recognized a dog that had great potential… and on Tuesday night the happy, showy little Peke proved David right.