Miniature poodle wins best-in-show at Westminster
By Ben Walker, Associated Press, 02/12/02
NEW YORK -- A prancing, black package of pompoms put a little Spice into the Westminster dog show.
Surrey Spice Girl, a miniature poodle, wins Best in Show in the 126th Annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show yesterday at Madison Square Garden in New York. (AP Photo)
Photos: More show dogs
In an upset, a miniature poodle named Surrey Spice Girl walked off as America's top dog Tuesday night when she was picked as best-in-show at Madison Square Garden.
"She oozes breed type," praised judge W. Everett Dean Jr. "Every step was right. She was smooth, gorgeous."
The perfectly manicured 3-year-old became the first miniature poodle to win America's most prestigious dog show since 1959.
The victory completed a kind of Triple Crown for breeder Anne Clarke. She previously won best-in-show as a handler at Westminster and also judged the award.
A Kerry blue terrier named Torum's Scarf Michael had been the early favorite among dog fanciers and the crowd of 10,000. He was bidding to become only the second dog ever to win Westminster and Crufts, England's banner show.
But instead of becoming a world beater, the 5.5-year-old terrier called Mick appeared a bit distracted and left room for Spice.
There were more than 2,500 entries at the show, representing 159 breeds and varieties.
The two-day event attracted celebrities such as Candice Bergen and Glenn Close. It also drew an Irish setter co-owned by New York Yankees pitcher Mike Mussina.
Group winners earlier Tuesday evening were a Brittany called Jester (sporting), a Rhodesian ridgeback named Wetu of Kalahari (hound) and a Pembroke Welsh corgi called Sammy Sosa (herding).
A standard schnauzer named Charisma Jailhouse Rock won the working group and an affenpinscher called Cosmo won the toy group Monday night.
Spice came from the non-sporting group and Mick won among terriers.
Kaz Hosaka expertly led Spice around the center ring, and could hardly talk after the victory.
"I came to this country 23 years ago hoping to win this show," he said.
The best-of-breed winner among Afghan hounds was Xandali Isabeau of Boanne, and she got polite applause when she strode onto the green carpet.
That's a better reception than some Afghan hounds have gotten lately.
"Now that 9-11 happened, I'm very careful where I go with my dog," said Lou Guerrero, owner-breeder of the No. 1-ranked Afghan from last season.
"When people ask what kind she is, I just say, 'She's a hound dog,"' he said. "The only reason I do this is for fear of possible retaliation."
Afghan hounds originated in Afghanistan, and certainly no dogs have come under the kind of scrutiny the breed has faced since the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.
Handler Peggy Coffman from Madison, Ohio, knows all about that. There was no mistaking her Afghan's colors -- backstage, George wore a red, white and blue, star-spangled bandanna.
Yet a month after the attacks, Coffman said she was in a restaurant outside Baltimore with a dog's owner when police came looking for them.
Outside, they found police officers surrounding their van -- the one with license plates that read, "AFGHAN1."
"They wanted to know what that was all about," she said. "Then a higher-ranking lieutenant told the younger patrolmen, `It's dogs."'
Even so, such bias led to a brief discussion at the Afghan Hound Club of America's exhibition in Houston whether the breed's name should be switched to something that would attract less attention. The group, meanwhile, requested that the word "Afghan" be taken off the marquee at the hotel where the show was held.
"A few people threw around the idea of changing the name of the Afghan hound to 'Tazi' hound, as they are known in their home country," said USA Network commentator David Frei, who has been involved with the breed for 30 years.
The club decided to keep the name. In the past, however, dogs' names have been altered because of world conflict.
During World War I, the American Kennel Club changed the name of German shepherds to simply shepherd dogs to "save the breed from prejudice." They were called Alsatian wolfdogs in Britain, then shifted to merely Alsatians until the late 1970s.