February 16 and 17 is the Westminster Kennel Club’s 139th annual dog show. In its 100-plus years, event’s had a fair share of dogs having accidents while presenting, yapping contestants, and other stereotypical “fails” that seem like something straight out of Christopher Guest’s Best In Show. Sometimes, however, truth is stranger than fiction. Here are a few examples of both delightfully and disturbingly bizarre things that have happened during or because of the Westminster Dog Show:
Rufus the Bull Terrier: Triple-crowned therapy dog
When most people think of dog shows, they think of small Poodles and Terriers with over-the-top haircuts. The stereotype exists for a reason: Dogs from the Terrier group have won Best in Show a whopping 46 times. However, in 2005, a nonconventional beauty, a Bull Terrier named Rufus, did the unthinkable. The then 5-year-old dog won the National Dog Show Presented by Purina, the Morris & Essex Kennel Club show, and, the following year, the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show — a triple crown not achieved by many. A Bull Terrier had only won the Westminster one other time prior to this in 1918.
To top it off, Rufus, whose registered name is Rocky Top’s Sundance Kid, was one of the busiest therapy dogs in the nation. After retiring from show biz, the Bull Terrier aced his good citizen test and therapy dog test and has made rounds at Ronald McDonald Houses, senior citizen centers, and local hospitals. Rufus passed away in August of 2012, but a dog with both stunning looks and personality is worth remembering.
Lawsuit: Veterinary hospital sued for destroying Poodle sperm samples
Yes, you read that right. For people involved in dog shows, love for their dogs isn’t just based on affection from their pups — it’s based on breeding value.
Linda Blackie and Miram Thomas sued a Pennsylvania veterinary hospital that accidentally destroyed over a hundred sperm samples from their prize-winning Poodles. The samples were collected and cryogenically frozen but accidentally defrosted in 2009.
One of these Poodles, a dog registered as Whispered On A Carousel, was named best in show at the Westminster Dog Show back in 1991. Blackie and Thomas sought $300,000 in damages, claiming the specimen was highly valuable for breeding. Mt. Nittany Animal Hospital, on the defense, argued the quality of the sperm samples was “moderately good to extremely poor,” and believed the damages were not worth that much.
How does a jury decide how much dog semen is worth? Blackie and Thomas must have made a pretty good case, because the women were awarded more than $200,000 for their troubles.
Foul Play: Cruz the Samoyed poisoned
Not all of these stories are lighthearted, however. In 2011, a 3-year-old Samoyed named Cruz who competed in the Westminster Dog Show mysteriously passed away days after participating in the event. The dog’s co-owner, Lynette Blue, and handler, Robert Chaffin, believed there was foul play.
Cruz was competing in the Rocky Mountain Cluster Dog Show in Denver, Colorado, when he became violently ill and began vomiting up blood. Blue and Chaffin rushed him to emergency care and despite doctors’ best efforts, the fluffy white Samoyed was unable to be rescued. Veterinarians who studied the causes of Cruz’s death concluded that his rapid deteriorating health could be due to ingesting mouse or rat poison. They also said it takes three to five days for symptoms of this type of poisoning to manifest. If he was poisoned, it was when he was at the Westminster Dog Show.
After retracing their steps, Blue and Chaffin couldn’t help but shake the feeling that maybe someone gave it to Cruz while he was in his cage and they were away.
Scarily enough, this is not the first instance of dog poisoning at the Westminster Dog Show. In February of 1895, the New York Times reported eight dogs in the competition were killed by poison.