I am an Adopt Don’t Shop girl. There was a time, however, when I didn’t know what I know now, and we bought Sophie, our Portuguese Podengo Pequeno, from a good breeder. I think there is a place for the responsible breeder in the marketplace, and the ones I’ve met at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show the past few years have all been wonderful. They are as in love with their dogs as we are. They care deeply about making sure their dogs are well cared for and represent the best their breed has to offer.
So this year for its 140th, I sought out the Podengos and Chihuahuas, and had a blast mingling with, photographing and getting my fill of the two breeds, both now family members in our own home. I also learned something interesting, especially with a couple of the Chihuahua breeders. They’re into rescue, too, one of them in a very big way. So, we never know the whole story until we ask, and we can’t always judge a book by its cover. Come discover the best of the best of both breeds with me, including the #1 Chihuahua in the history of the breed – Sonnito! Here then, Part Two of my Westminster coverage.
Kawa Bunga! Podengo Power!
There’s nothing like a pack of Podengos. Their effervescence dazzles, and it gives me the goosebumps! I think the Podengo tribe is an awesome one. Ours are a quirky, funny, charming and fearless breed and, because they’re also a rare breed, I don’t get to see many of them.
This year, the Best in Breed field was big (yay!) and I got to see some old friends like Carol Houlihan, who brought Houla’s U.R. So Beautiful (aka Betsy), Karen Oglesby with her baby, Biss Gold Gran Ch. Pirata de Viamonte CMCA (aka Pirata) and Sandy Gillen with Grand Ch. Windshift Teasel at Happy Hobbits (aka Teasel).
But, I also made new friends. Falcao’s Hard Rock (aka Rocky), Tahtitavaan David (aka David), GCH Anevan the Captain (Captain & Pirata’s son), GCH Annevan the Doctor (aka the Doctor and the Captain’s son), JBS Something To Talk About, Houla’s Generation Excellent, CH Bonsai Noble Adventurer (aka Vasco, and son of the Captain), GCH Radical de Viamonte, Brokenroad Marco Polo of Prestige and PhaerErin Agustinho CMTT (aka Augie). And, they were all so cute; I had no idea who would walk away with the Best in Breed prize.
But, it was Augie who swept it, and the little guy, handled by John S. Fitzpatrick DDM, also his owner, stood tall and patient as his picture was taken with the judge, alongside his plaque and ribbon. Cutie pie, Teasel, placed second.
I got to spend time talking with John Monday night, as he waited for the Hound Group to assemble. We talked dog health and he was quite knowledgable about great natural supplements for joint care. Both our Podengo, Sophie, and our Chihuahua, Anabelle, have medial luxating patellas which, if not address through special kinds of exercise (water therapy is great) and the proper supplements, could result in early onset arthritis. So, I got some wonderful information from John, and wanted to thank him here.
Have you ever seen a group of the cutest little tushes shimmying around a ring? Tushes and ears in procession. For my first Chihuahua dog show experience, I took it all in. To be a Chihuahua show dog handler, you have to get down to their eye level. So, outside of the turn around the ring or the table inspection by the judge, handlers were sitting down on the astroturf with their little charges, positioning their bodies just so and coaxing them to stay engaged, alert and happy.
Grand Champion Sonnus Filho (Sanchez), aka Sonnito, the #1 Chihuahua in the history of the breed, led the pack in the run around the ring. I’d met the handsome, 4 year old little champ in the benching area before the event and talked with professional handler, Erika Lanasa. Sonnito is from Mexico, and he’s a big champion. Earning 32 Bests in Show in just over a year, from February 2014 to May 2015, Sonnito has become the winningest Chihuahua of all time. The Mexican-bred dog, Multi-BIS/ Multi-BISS MEX/AM GCH Sonnus Filho (Sanchez), captured 93 Group Firsts in 2014, finishing the year ranked No. 1 in the Toy Group, a first for the breed. Describes Erika, “Sonnito shines at dog shows with his outgoing, affectionate nature and beautiful breed type.”
What was extra special about this day for Sonnito? It was to be his last U.S. competition. Co-owner Romulo Sanchez, also the breeder, was going to focus on showing Sonnito more in Mexico.
In a fitting finish to his U.S. career, Sonnito trotted away with the Best in Breed prize. It was kind of obvious, although there were some pretty darn cute Chi’s in that ring. But, none of them looked like Sonnito. He is a gorgeous cream color (like my babies :-)) and has the most beautifully shaped head.
Here’s a pic of Sonnito, flanked by Romulo and Erika. Look at how he has such a sense of self, with that expression in his eyes! I wonder if Romulo is a doggy daddy or just the owner of a champion? I hope he’s a doggy dad.
Meet Me at MSG
The big show; the heralded, world-famous competition to choose the most perfect representation of a breed, a class of breeds and then, the one dog that exemplifies the epitome of that breed, more than all the others. I’ve been coming to the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show since I was a little girl. Each February, it was a tradition; my mom and dad and I would dress up (in those days, you dressed to go to an evening event), they’d drive me in from Long Island and we had dinner and made a night of it. But, for me, the sheer excitement and joy of entering the Garden, visiting with the dogs and breeders backstage and then seeing that green astroturf with the different breed boxes all lined up, ready for the first group competition…my adrenaline was pumping! Like you, I’ve been an animal “nut” my whole life.
So, here I was at the 140th year of the event. Not up in a cushy seat or any seat, for that matter. I was someplace a whole lot better. I was standing ringside, with the other photographers, covering the event. What a rush to be right there, as the dogs are run, tabled, primped and heralded by adoring fans! It’s like having a place on the field at the big game.
I was mainly there to see and support Podengo, Augie. Neither Augie, nor the other members of the Hound Group, disappointed. Each dog, who’d won Best in Breed that morning, was stunning. Each strutted their stuff with the sense of purpose and power of a runway super model. And, I loved every minute!
Augie didn’t place, and that was ok. Just four short years ago, the Portuguese Podengo Pequeno had never shown at Westminster; they had just been added into the AKC in the Hound Group in 2012. So, even though they’re a primitive breed, for this show, they’re still new.
A very beautiful Borzoi named Ch. Belisarius Jp My Sassy Girl (aka Lucy), ran away with the prize. Breeder Kyoko Ozeki is also her handler, and owner Mei Ozeki was so overcome with joy, she couldn’t keep from laughing as the formal pictures were being taken.
As I hustled out of the Garden and into the cold night air, I felt the afterglow of that big night. I was leaving to go back to Florida the next morning, unable to cover the final night this year. But, friends I had met in the photo “pit” did me a solid. Here’s a great pic of C.J., the German Shorthaired Pointer, who took the big Best in Show honor. What a stunner, right? You can see the Borzoi box in the background, like a link between nights for me.
Love or hate breeders and dog shows, there’s only one Westminster. As a dog lover of the highest order, being around them makes my day, whether they came from champion stock or were found roaming the streets. And, while I would never buy a dog again, as long as the breeder is a responsible one, I think they have a place at the table for those unwilling to adopt.
Like a fashion show filled with the most gorgeous of models, these, too, are the supermodels of their breeds. And I, for one, love seeing them strut! See you next year!
Stay tuned for my coverage of a real New York Fashion Week runway show, featuring the dogs as the stars and the gorgeously dressed models as their accessories. A not to be missed event!
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