Opinion: Harry Lost Best In Show, But Won Us Over
Adorable Dandie Dinmont terrier was second to English springer spaniel
By Sandy Robins
updated 10:34 a.m. PT, Wed., Feb. 14, 2007
NEW YORK – English springer spaniel Felicity’s Diamond Jim was without doubt a worthy winner of best in show at the 131st Westminster Dog Show. But there’s no doubt that the Dandie Dinmont terrier Hobergays Fineus Fogg, commonly known to his friends and fans as Harry, was unanimously the people’s choice.
He was definitely mine.
He strutted his stuff on the green carpet and played to the adoring crowd doing everything in his own time. Even when he stopped to shake his coat into shape, the crowd roared its approval. He seemed to deliberately avoid eye contact with best in show judge Robert Indeglia. But his body language and typical terrier attitude was saying “Pick me. Pick me!” He even got the crowd chanting “Har-ry. Har-ry.”
Sadly, he wasn’t Indeglia’s doggy delight.
One thing is certain. Even though he won’t be showered with the fame and fortune that comes from being a best in show winner, his appearance on the most famous green carpet in dogdom is going to pump up the best public relations machine for Dandie Dinmonts because the breed is not especially well known. That’s one of the attributing factors to Harry’s charm. Out of the streets, many people don’t realize that he is a special breed at all. They think he’s a mutt!
No offense Harry. It’s just that with his short stubbly legs, a two-tone coat topped with a poodle-styled bouffant hairdo and pigtail ears, he could be of — er, how do I put this delicately — “vague parentage”. I mean, people can’t even get his name right. This week he’s been called everything from a Dundee Dog to a Bandy Dinpot. But no one called him Dirty Harry!
Another reason Harry was such a crowd pleaser is because he’s so different to last year’s winner, Rufus, and to previous Westminster winners in the past decade such as the Newfoundland, the Kerry Blue, the Poodle and Papillon.
Rufus was very popular. However despite his wonderful nature he got a bad rap in the general public for being a dog from one of the “bully breeds” considered to be lean mean fighting doggy machines.
From his performance on the green carpet you could tell that Champion Felicity’s Diamond Jim, known as James was a thorough gentleman with great charm. But there was something very endearing about Harry. Let’s face it. He has what’s called the Cute Factor.
So yes, I was disappointed. So was showdog mom Lynda Angelis of Minneapolis. Her Dandie Dinmont terrier Morgan is Harry’s daughter. There are close family ties there and she gave me the inside scoop as to why she considers them to be such special dogs.
“The Dandie is called the gentleman of terriers,” explained Angelis. “They are intelligent and have a wonderful sense of humor. They are great companions and just love people generally. But best all their fur is hypoallergenic and they don’t shed!
“They originated in the 1700s in an area between England and Scotland and are the only dogs with a literary history. Novelist Sir Walter Scott had a character named Dandie Dinmont who owned terriers in his novel ‘Guy Mannering.’”
I couldn’t see what Harry was snacking on while waiting for the judges, but Angelis assured me that a Dandie’s favorite snack is carrots.
“They will pick carrots over a doggy treat anytime. Also they never eat on the bed — because they are too short to jump up there! This suits me just fine in our household.”
The final top dogs in the seven categories included a toy Poodle, a standard Poodle, both white and stylish, an Akita, Bouvier de Flandres and a Petit Basset Griffon Vendeens, who apart from being a similar low-slung elongated shape like Harry, was also a popular dog with the crowds.
This year for the first time in the Westminster show’s 131 year history, odds were posted on the sports book at the Wynn Las Vegas.
“There was a lot of interest in the odds said,” said John Avello, director of race & sports operations at Wynn. “From the moment they were posted, lots of people came in and got the sheets and the phone rang off the hook.”
And Avello, known in Sin City as the Wizard of Odds, got it right. He had the Springer Spaniel listed as 25–1 to win. Harry placed second at 28-1. The toy Poodle was listed as 60-1, the standard Poodle at 80-1, the Petite Petit Basset Griffon Vendeens at 85-1, the Akita at 175-1 and the Bouvier des Flandres at 450-1.
Despite all the media hoopla that went on long after the lights faded at Madison Square Garden, I hope Diamond Jim manages to get a good night’s sleep and that his handler’s alarm clock works. He has an early call for his first media tour to various TV studios and has to be bright-eyed and sleek to meet his fans. The highlight of his first day as the new champion will be a celebrity lunch at New York’s famous Sardi’s restaurant.
I know we haven’t seen the last of Harry. After all, he won 57 events last year alone. And even though for now the reign of terriers at Westminster is over, he’s still my Prince Harry.
Sandy Robins is an award-winning dog writer. Her work appears regularly on MSNBC.com and MSN.com and in various national publications.
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