A bloodhound named Trumpet won the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show on Wednesday night, marking the first time the breed has ever snared U.S. dogdom's most coveted best in show prize.
Rounding the finalists' ring with a poised and powerful stride, Trumpet beat a French bulldog, a German shepherd, a Maltese, an English setter, a Samoyed and a Lakeland terrier to take the trophy.
"I was shocked," said handler, co-breeder and co-owner Heather Helmer, who also goes by Heather Buehner. The competition was stiff, "and sometimes I feel the bloodhound is a bit of an underdog."
After making dog show history, does Trumpet have a sense of how special he is?
"I think he does," his Berlin Center, Ohio-based handler said.
After his victory, Trumpet posed patiently for countless photos, eventually starting to do what bloodhounds do best - sniff around. He examined some decorative flowers that had been set up for the pictures, not appearing to find anything of note.
Winston, a French bulldog co-owned by NFL defensive lineman Morgan Fox, took second in the nation's most prestigious dog show.
"I'm just so proud of him and the whole team," Fox said by text afterward.
Fox, who was just signed by the Los Angeles Chargers and has played for the Los Angeles Rams and the Carolina Panthers, got Winston from his grandmother, Sandy Fox. She has bred and shown Frenchies for years.
Morgan Fox grew up with one and says that as he watched Winston mature, he knew the dog was a winner in both appearance and character. He went into Westminster as the top-ranked dog in the country.
"He's a joy to be around," Fox said by phone before Winston's award. "He always walks around with as much of a smile on his face as a dog can have."
The seven finalists also included Striker, a Samoyed that also made the finals last year; River, a big-winning German shepherd; MM the Lakeland terrier; Belle the English setter, and a Maltese that clearly was aiming for stardom: Her name is Hollywood.
After topping the canine rankings last year, Striker has lately been hitting a few dog shows "to keep his head in the game," said handler Laura King.
What makes the snow-white Samoyed shine in competition? "His heart," said King, of Milan, Illinois.
"His charisma shows when he's showing," and he vocally complains when he's not, she said.
While he was quiet in the ring, an Alaskan Malamute provided a yowling - cheering? - soundtrack for a semifinal round featuring the Samoyed and other breeds classified as working dogs.
The competition drew more than 3,000 purebred dogs, ranging from affenpinschers to Yorkshire terriers. The goal is to crown the dog that most represents the ideal for its breed.
Usually held in winter at New York City's Madison Square Garden, the show moved to the suburban Lyndhurst estate last year and this year because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Some dogs, such as golden retrievers, faced dozens of competitors just to win their breed and move on to the semifinals. Others were among few representatives of rare breeds.
Ooma was the only Chinook that showed up. The sled-pullers are the official dog of the state of New Hampshire, but they're rare nationwide.
"I would love to see a couple more" in the Westminster ring, said Ooma's breeder, owner and handler, Patti Richards of West Haven, Vermont. "Without people who will show and breed, we're in danger of losing our breed."
Even for hopefuls that didn't come away with a ribbon, the event was an opportunity to showcase dogs and all they can do.
Bonnie the Brittany is owner-handler Dr. Jessica Sielawa's first show dog, and their teamwork extends beyond the ring.
Bonnie accompanies Sielawa to work at her chiropractic practice in Syracuse, New York, where "she's really helped people with their emotional stress," Sielawa said.
She plans to get her show dog certified as a therapy dog, too.
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