Bichon Frise Wins Best In Show

Former "American Idol" contestant Sanjaya Malakar and Petra Nemcova arrive for the Bloomberg News Party of the Year in Washington on April 21, 2007. The Bloomberg News party followed the White House Correspondents' dinner. GETTY IMAGES/Joshua Roberts

A snow white powder puff known as a Bichon Frise strutted past 2,500 other dogs to win best-in-show at the 125th Westminster Kennel Club competition Tuesday night.

Special Times Just Right!, called J.R. by handler Scott Sommer, finished out a stellar career with his 98th lifetime best-in-show title.

This victory came in America's most prestigious show, and the little dog celebrated by beating his paws in the air, as if banging on a piano.

Sommer began shampooing his dog five hours before judge Dorothy Macdonald picked him as top dog. The 3-year-old J.R. is now headed to retirement, and he might celebrate his favorite way by chewing up Sommer's credit cards.

"He's pretty smart. He's loving it," Sommer said. "He knows he did good."

Said Macdonald: "He's as close to perfection as you can get."

Seven dogs made it to the final judging, although many in the crowd of about 15,000 at Madison Square Garden figured it would be between J.R. and a dominant Kerry Blue Terrier named Torum's Scarf Michael.

J.R., the first Bichon Frise to win at Westminster, carried himself like a champion throughout the two-day event, breezing in the best-of-breed competition Monday and then taking the best-in-group among non-working dogs.

J.R., prompted by Sommer's liver and chicken treats, showed off a haughty walk every time he got to go around the ring past his competition.

His eyes, two lumps of coal on an otherwise snowball-shaped head, lit up when the James Mortimer Memorial Sterling Silver Trophy was presented.

There is no prize money for the win, and runner-ups are not chosen. The victory ensures big dollars in J.R.'s breeding future and more success for owners Cecelia Ruggles, Eleanor McDonald and Flavio Werneck. Sommer and his assistants, wearing crisply pressed shirts and huddling on cellphones as best-in-show approached, also should continue to do quite well.

Terriers had won 42 of the previous 92 best-in-show awards at Westminster.

The Kerry Blue, commonly called Mick by handler Bill McFadden, had beaten out J.R. in other competitions. The 5-year-old dog had also won England's most decorated show, Crufts, in 2000.

A Shih Tzu, Charing Cross Ragtime Cowboy, represented the toy group for the second straight year.

Also reaching the final was a Standard Schnauzer, Charisma Jailhouse Rock (working dogs), a Flat-Coated Retriever, Flatford Zeus the Major God JH (sporting), a Bloodhound, Ridge Runner Unforgettable (hound) and a Pembroke Welsh Corgi, Coventry Queue (herding).

A day earlier, actress Glenn Close turned the corner and walked down a backstage aisle, right past the Chow Chows, Chinese Shar-Peis and Cavalier King Charles Spaniels.

She barely paused to look at the Dalmatians. Then again, neither have the judges when it's come to best-in-show.

Because when it comes to many of the most popular pet breeds Dalmatians, Beagles, achshunds and every variety of Retriever they're all in the Westminster doghouse.

As in, none of them have ever won the top prize at this event.

That surprised the five-time Oscar nominee who starred as Cruella De Vil in the movies "101 Dalmatians" and "102 Dalmatians."

"Really?" wondered Close, whose aunt judged best-in-show in 1973 and picked a poodle. "Dalmatians are highly intelligent and full of energy. They're very flashy dogs."

"It probably has a lot to do with timing," she said.

To veteran Dalmatian breeder, owner and handler Rick Miller of Rochester, Minn., the timing never has been right.

"They have about as much chance of winning here as you and I do of beating Tiger Woods this weekend," Miller said.

Often, the Terriers rule at Westminster.

There have been 13 Wire Fox Terrier winners and seven Scottish Terriers. Several breeds were tied at four, including three other varieties of Terriers, along with Boxers, Cocker Spaniels and Standard Poodles.

Those stats made sense to Wire Fox handler Lance Deloria of Greenville, S.C.

"They're fancy, they're impressive to watch and they command attention," he said. "They usually jump into show very well."

And that makes them stand out more than others, apparently. Certainly their well-groomed beards attract attention usually, the tassled-and-teased dogs do catch eyes in the ring.

"Maybe the judges see a Dalmatian and say, `Oh, there's another Dalmatian,"' Deloria said.

Sadly, Cheryl Snedaker-Sims of Madison, N.H., had to agree.

"Good family dogs get shafted," said the owner-breeder-handler of Longhaired Dachshunds.

Nearby in the backstage area, little Ch. Lanbur Pajama Party was sound asleep in her crate, a brown ear flipped up over her head. The 13-inch Beagle did not seem to mind the long odds her breed faced.

"A beagle will win eventually. Someday," said her owner, Mike Walsh of Bridgewater, Mass. "How could you deny those pleading, mascara eyes?"

©2001 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed
  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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