Standard Poodle Is Westminster’s Top Dog

NEW YORK (AP) — Siba, a glossy black standard poodle, won Best in Show on Tuesday at the Westminster Kennel Club dog show.

With the crowd at Madison Square Garden chanting for Daniel the popular golden retriever, judge Bob Slay instead picked the perfectly primped and poised black poodle.

Siba the standard poodle won Best in Show at the 144th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show on Tuesday in New York. (AP photo/Wong Maye-E)

Poodles come in three sizes, and this was the 10th time one of them has become America’s top dog.

Bourbon the whippet finished second. Also in the best-of-seven final ring was Bono the Havanese, Wilma the boxer, Conrad the Shetland sheepdog, Wilma the boxer and Vinny the wire fox terrier.

Vinny, the top terrier in dog show, gave his handler Robert Carusi “an absolute thrill,” Carusi said.

Vinny is the latest in a long line of wire fox terriers to enjoy success at the nation’s premier dog show. The breed has notched more Westminster best in show wins than any other. A wire fox terrier named King won last year.

Wilma the boxer got to the final round Tuesday night for the second year in a row. The 4-year-old dog from Aubrey, Texas, is named after the character Wilma in “The Flintstones.” Her registered name is Cinnibon’s Bedrock Bombshell — after Bedrock, the city where the cartoon Flintstones lived.

The working group is an array of often large dogs that historically guarded homes and livestock, pulled sleds and fishing nets and did other work.

Another dog that got a spin in the working group ring was Titus, a bullmastiff that made a remarkable comeback after being bitten by a snake last March.

For a time, the 3-year-old dog was in danger of losing his back left leg, and he still has a large scar. But he recovered and won his breed at Westminster for the first time Tuesday.

Daniel the golden retriever, though, was clearly the crowd favorite. He qualified for the finals as the best dog in the sporting group, beating out pooches that included spaniels, retrievers, setters and other dogs traditionally involved in hunting.

No golden retriever has won since the Westminster show began in 1877, the second-oldest sporting event in the United States, after the Kentucky Derby.

That’s long been a source of frustration for their many fans. Goldens are the third most popular breed in the country, according to the American Kennel Club.

Daniel has many show wins to his credit, but handler Karen Mammano says, “Nothing’s like Westminster.”

“It’s our Super Bowl,” she said after the dog from Ligonier, Pennsylvania, won the group and leaped up on her to celebrate.

When Sabrina Giardina was asked a few years ago to raise and show a great Dane puppy, the experienced Dane owner didn’t equivocate.

“No. I will not do that. I don’t know how to do that,” she said.

But about three years later, Giardina was cheering on her dog Margot Tuesday at the Westminster Kennel Club dog show.

It was the culmination of an unexpected, nearly three-year detour into the dog show world for Giardina, husband Michael and their family. The Giardinas agreed to take on and show puppy Margot after her intended owner fell ill, and the dog’s breeder helped them learn what they needed to do.

After all the training, baths, conditioning (including nightly treadmill sessions for Margot in the weeks before Westminster) and showing up to shows in all weather, Margot is a champion and retiring after her turn Tuesday in the great Dane ring at Westminster.

“It’s bittersweet for us. … It was a nice journey, but it’s a lot of work,” Sabrina Giardina said. But for Margot, “it’s a celebration now — she’s a pet.”

She’ll celebrate with a special treat. The family planned to get her a cannoli from New York’s Little Italy neighborhood on the way home to suburban Oyster Bay.

While the purebred dogs rounded the rings at the Westminster Kennel Club dog show, animal-rights activists also tried to make an impression.

A small group protested Tuesday outside the building, the latest in a series of demonstrations that People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has organized at the show for years.

The demonstrators say it’s callous to breed, buy or sell dogs when shelters are full of dogs up for adoption.

“Anyone who visits your local shelter and faces the dogs who are desperately needing homes would understand why PETA is here every year,” said associate director Ashley Byrne.

The protesters say purebred aficionados are too focused on dogs’ appearance, rather than their health. They cite breathing difficulties that can beset flat-faced breeds.

An inquiry was sent to a Westminster spokeswoman about the protest.

The American Kennel Club, a governing body for dog shows including Westminster, has said responsible breeders prioritize dogs’ health. The club defends dog breeding as a way to preserve dogs developed for certain functions and traits and to help people find the right dog for them.

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