Moore woman's dog wins Westminster show
Posted February 11, 2009 7:40 a.m. EST
Updated March 9, 2009 5:12 p.m. EDT
NEW YORK — Having just turned 10, a Sussex spaniel called Stump became the oldest best in show winner at the Westminster Kennel Club, ending his retirement last week and taking the big prize Tuesday night for his North Carolina co-owner.
"He hasn't slowed down a bit," expert handler Scott Sommer said. "I thought it would be fun."
With floppy ears and a plodding gait, the golden-red Stump became America's top dog and an instant fan favorite at Madison Square Garden.
Turns out the old dog taught Westminster a new trick.
Wow! In human years, he's almost 70!
Beth Dowd, a Southern Pines, N.C., merchant and dog breeder, is Stump's co-owner.
Sommer said Sussex spaniels can live to be 15. The previous oldest winner at Westminster was an 8-year-old Papillon in 1999, and Stump was the first of his breed to capture the silver bowl.
Stump barely made it past 5 or so. He left the show ring in 2004 and later nearly died from a mysterious medical condition. The vets at Texas A&M saved him.
"It was miraculous," Sommer said.
A nearly full crowd at Madison Square Garden cheered loudly when judge Sari Tietjen pointed to the new champion. She picked Stump from a field of seven that included a giant schnauzer that was the nation's top show dog, a favored Brussels griffon, a Scottish deerhound named Tiger Woods, a standard poodle with 94 best in show wins, a Scottish terrier and a puli.
"He showed his heart out," Tietjen said. "He was everything you want."
After he won, Stump showed off his one trick: He got up on his hinds, as if to beg. He didn't have to, he was already No. 1.
Nearly 2,500 dogs in 170 breeds and varieties were entered in this 133rd edition of Westminster. Last year's champion, a beagle named Uno, was perhaps the most popular winner ever.
But with a bounce in his step, Stump is sure to win over plenty of people while he reigns for a year. He'll also get extra playtime with his green Grinch toy.
"He really is retired this time," Sommer said.
Adorable and mellow, Stump doesn't bark much. He'll have something to howl about now – after being shipped to New York because he's too big to fit under the seat, he'll fly back in first class.
Stump won the sporting group at Westminster in 2004, then went into retirement. Soon after, he nearly wasted away and spent 19 days in a pet hospital.
"It was very traumatic," Sommer said.
Once he recovered, Stump mostly spent his days hanging out with Sommer, living a dog's life. That was more than fine with Sommer. He'd handled a great Bichon Frise called J.R. to the best in show at Westminster in 2001, and wasn't looking for Stump to try again.
Besides, Stump had two sons to take care of, named Root and Forest.
Then five days before this show, Sommer thought Stump might enjoy one last walk on the green carpet at the Garden. And what a walk it was - his 51st best in show victory overall.
Stump began by winning the best of breed, then took best in group.
"Can you believe that?" said New York Yankees president Randy Levine, a regular at this event.
There was more in store, too. Stump lives with J.R. at Sommer's home in Houston, and may have gotten some advice.
"J.R. must've told him this morning, 'Keep up the family name,'" Sommer said.