NEW YORK: After endless primping, cheers and more than a little drool, the Westminster Dog Show culminated on late Tuesday with a triumph for a German Shepherd named Rumor.
The champion was crowned after an extensive judging finale during which Rumor, a crowd favorite, was paraded with six other contenders including a majestic Irish Setter named Adrian, and a ground-hugging Pekingese furball named Chuckie.
The win marks just the second Westminster crown for a German Shepherd, a breed known for its "quality and nobility," said Thomas Bradley 3rd, the final arbiter of the proceedings. "She is just magnificent," Bradley said of the bright-eyed winner.
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Tuesday capped the 141st instalment of Westminster, an annual February ritual that, along with Fashion Week, helps New Yorkers survive a mid-winter slog of frigid temperatures, transit delays and cranky half-sick colleagues. Madison Square Garden was nearly at capacity on Valentines Day, with bursts of fervent applause for popular breeds like the Golden Retriever and St. Bernard, and knowing laughs as handlers used treats to try to coax silence from yappy contestants.
Nearly 2,800 dogs from 200 breeds competed this year. Judges separate the elite from the field by assessing how the dog compares with official breed standards.
Does the beagle's snout do justice to the hound breed's zealous sniff instincts? Do "ratter" terriers look like they would actually catch vermin? Beyond that, to garner the top prize, an ambitious canine is one who knows to "bring it" when it counts most.
Rumor, who is five years old, is a natural performer, said her owner and handler, Kent Boyles. She had been favored to win Westminster last year, but finished runner-up in the Best in Show finale. After last year's disappointment, the dog didn't compete for almost a year, while Boyles contemplated whether she was ready for motherhood.
Sitting out of the ring didn't sit well with Rumor, who watched her housemates travel to shows. "She hated it at first, she'd go nuts" he said. "She was barking and carrying on."
Eventually Rumor adjusted to life on the sidelines - but Boyles, who loves German Shepherds for their exceptional intelligence and capacity for empathy, began to consider one last try at Westminster.
After winning, Boyles told a television interviewer that "there are puppies in the future" for the champ.
The selection of Rumor once again relegated Patricia Trotter to bridesmaid status after a lifetime of championing the Norwegian Elkhound breed, a mid-sized, grayish breed originally bred to hunt moose.
On Tuesday, Trotter beamed as she prepared to present her dog, Duffy, which triumphed on Monday in the Hound category over beagles, fox hounds and a whippet, among others. "It feels like old times," said the 81-year-old Trotter.
Duffy was bred from the sperm of the son of a prior Westminster finalist that was frozen in a sperm bank for 17 years until a suitable partner could be located. "Yes for science!" she exclaimed.
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For Laurel Cain Denk, a California veterinarian, just bringing her two-year old Tibetan Mastiff to New York was a goal that helped her get through cancer treatments.
"He's going to be a pain," she said, speaking beside the 135-pound giant named Kalhant shortly before presenting the dog in the Working category. Alas, Kalhant did not advance. "But he's going to have fun and I'm going to have fun," Cain Denk said. "This is really one of the best moments of my life."
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