Past Westminster winners gather at benefit event, and they’re still adored
By Sandy Robins
updated 1:54 p.m. PT, Sun., Feb. 8, 2009
For the first time in the 133rd year history of the famed Westminster Dog Show, past Best in Show winners gathered at a glamorous event at the Affinia Hotel in New York City to host a benefit for the Angel on a Leash therapy program and to celebrate simply being dogs.
“Never in our history have we gathered this kind of collection of past winners together for an event,” said David Frei, Communications Director for the Westminster Kennel Club. “This is like the Hall of Fame for Dogs.”
The canine celebrity line-up included Uno, the Beagle, the reigning Best in Show dog who will hand over his crowd at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night. James, the English Springer Spaniel, 2007. Rufus the colored bull terrier, 2006,Spice Girl the petite black French Poodle who took top honors in 2002 and JR the Bichon-Frise who looked as good as he did in the show ring back in 2001.
Uno and Rufus arrived simultaneously and according to Eddie Dziuk, one of Uno’s co-owners, they locked eyes and seemed to make a canine pact to attempt to out do each other in the spotlight.
“You can just feel the testosterone flowing,” joked Dzuik.
Rufus then set about climbing on top of his carrier and posing with his owners Barbara and Tom Bishop while Uno not to be outdone began baying loudly.
He managed to hold the spotlight until JR the Bichon-Frise who won back in 2001 entered the room looking like freshly coiffed candy floss.
“He’s just loving the attention,” said JR’s owner Scott Sommer of Houston, TX.
“Even though he hasn’t competed for years, he still misses the hoopla of the dog show world more than you can imagine. It’s a great life for a dog. They are with you 24/7. Everyone they meet showers them with love and attention and it’s really exciting. However I still take him with me to dog shows. He’s kept his figure — I could show him tomorrow.”
Spice Girl the miniature poodle has also kept her svelte figure despite two litters of puppies that have gone on to be champions in their own right. She was the only bitch present in this studly line-up.
Both Rufus and James have been keeping busy as therapy dogs.
“James has turned out to be an even better therapy dog than show dog,” confirmed Frei.
The English springer spaniel now lives with his owners Allen and Theresa Patton in Virginia and was thrilled to see his former handler Kellie FitzGerald.
The reigning Best in Show dog Uno has truly had a celebrity year. He played ball games on the White House lawn with former President and Mrs. Bush, he appeared on the Snoopy float in the 2008 Macy’s Thanksgiving parade and “threw” out the first pitch at several baseball games.
In fact, he flew across the country so many times, that America Midwest Airlines upgraded him from “carrier class” and gave him his own seat along side his chaperone David Frei on all his flights.
“He even got frisked by TSA officials one time,” laughs Frei. “It’s nice to know the world is safe from terrorist Beagles.”
Mick the Kerry blue terrier who won in 2003 was also invited but couldn’t attend because he is recuperating from successful surgery.
Carlee the German shorthaired pointer who won in 2006 also had to decline because she is recovering from a false pregnancy.
The dogs sniffed and mingled with the guests at this gala event that was designed to raise money for Angel on a Leash, which is the official charity wing of the Westminster Kennel Club.
In two days, Uno will take his final bow on the famed green carpet at Madison Square Garden when another dog will be crowned. He is definitely going to be a hard act to follow.
They say that every dog has its day, but it seems that for Westminster celebrity show dogs, the spotlight will never fade.
© 2009 NBC Sports.com Reprints
© 2009 NBCSports.com