The 138th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show is well under way today, with “Best of Group” winners in several of the breed categories — including Hound, Toy, Herding, and Non-Sporting — prepping for tonight’s trip around the “Best in Show” ring.
With this year’s premier pooch yet to be decided, DogTime.com takes a look back at the lives and legacies of several winners past.
Last year’s winner, monkey-faced champion Affenpinscher Banana Joe, entered retirement in the Netherlands after his exciting victory, but the pint-sized pooch is still inspiring a veritable Affie frenzy here in the states.
“We just can’t keep up with the supply and demand,” Carpenter tells the Wall Street Journal. “I’ve got a big, long list of people with no idea when I’ll have a pet puppy.”
“Anyone who had ever even said ‘Affenpinscher’ in their lives got phone calls from people who wanted one,” echoes Jude Daley, president of the Affenpinscher Club of America.
WKC’s 2012 champion, crowd-favorite Pekingese Malachy, won his “Best in Show” title on his second trip to the big show. Following a press tour and a string of comparisons to a troll doll, a mop, and Jersey Shore’s Snooki, Malachy’s handler and co-owner Michael Fitzpatrick promised the fluffy Peke would “chase squirrels and […] be pampered,” which is exactly what little Malachy is doing today.
Hickory, decorated Scottish Deerhound and 2011 Westminster “Best in Show” pick, followed up her victory by becoming a mom. In late 2011, Hickory welcomed nine healthy puppies before getting back to her favorite activity — chasing bears on her family’s Virginia farm.
In 2007, the flawless English Springer Spaniel Felicity’s Diamond Jim — better known as James — brought home the bacon. But while he excelled in the show ring, the gentle Springer spent the bulk of his time helping others, visiting Alzheimer’s patients and pediatric oncology centers.
“It was during these visits that his quiet gentleness allowed those he was with to connect with him on a very deep level,” his profile reads. “He always seemed to know instinctively who needed him most.”
After his big WKC win, James became a goodwill ambassador for the causes close to his heart, helping to raise thousands of dollars for the Alzheimer’s Association and the Ronald McDonald House Charities.
Sadly, James was diagnosed with advanced stage lymphoma in early 2011, succumbing to the disease shortly after, but he will always be remembered for his good deeds and caring personality.
But perhaps the top of the top dogs, the show star who still delights his fans the most, is Uno, the regal Beagle who took the “Best in Show” title in 2008. Uno was the first and only Beagle to earn top honors at America’s biggest dog show.
“Uno is easily the most popular Westminster winner in my 25 years,” show dog owner, handler, breeder, former judge and television host David Frei tells CBS News. Frei is the longtime co-host of the WKC Dog Show and returns once more for this year’s festivities. Though it’s been six years since his big win, Frei says Uno is unforgettable.
Today, Uno spends his time with owner Caroline Dowell on their 200-acre ranch outside of Austin, Texas. At nearly 9-years-old, Uno’s face is a bit whiter and the black patches of fur on his sides have faded. But Dowell says Uno is just as peppy as he’s always been. When he’s not running around the ranch, Uno is busy visiting hospital patients as a therapy dog.
“He’s beginning to get gray, but he’s not an old, sit-around Beagle,” she says. “He says in really good shape.”
Unlike most champion show dogs, Uno was never used for breeding. The handsome Beagle boy is sterile, Dowell explains.
“It has never bothered me a bit,” she says of the lack of puppies. “To tell you the truth, it was a blessing in disguise. I just wanted him as a pet.”
There may not be any little Unos running around, but it turns out anyone can purchase an Uno of their very own. For only $20, Uno fans can buy a custom Uno the Beagle bobblehead, with all proceeds benefitting Frei’s therapy dog charity, Angel on a Leash.
“I groaned when I saw the first mock-up,” Dowell says of her famous dog’s bobblehead likeness. “But the finished product, I think the bobblehead of Uno is a pretty good one. It looks like him.”