Best dog! Pekingese named Wasabi wins Westminster show
TARRYTOWN, NY (AP) – Flavor of the Year at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show: Wasabi.
A Pekingese named Wasabi took home the best of the show on Sunday night, notching a fifth victory for this unique toy breed. A whippet named Bourbon repeated as a finalist.
Waddling in a small but powerful round in the ring, Wasabi landed the most prestigious award in American dogdom after winning the great U.S. National Kennel Club Championship in 2019.
“He’s got a sense of the show. He matches the breed standard. He has that little extra something, that shine, that sets a dog apart,” said Wasabi master and breeder David Fitzpatrick, who guided the dog. Peke’s grandfather, Malachy, to the Westminster title in 2012.
How is Wasabi going to celebrate?
“He can have a filet mignon. And I’ll have some champagne,” said Fitzpatrick, of East Berlin, Pa., Laughing.
Wasabi topped a group of finalists that also included Mathew the French Bulldog, Connor the Old English Sheepdog, Jade the German Shorthair Pointer, Striker the Samoyed and a West Highland White Terrier named Boy. A total of 2,500 champion dogs participated in the show.
He has undergone big changes this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, leaving New York City for the first time since the show’s founding in 1877. This year’s show was held outdoors in an estate in suburban Tarrytown, in about 25 miles north of where the top ribbon is typically shown in Madison Square Garden, and it happened in June instead of February.
A sign of the days of the pandemic, some handlers wore masks – although those vaccinated were allowed to do without them – and the show was closed to the public.
Striker entered the show as the top ranked American dog, with over 40 best wins since January 2020. And Bourbon had also won the AKC National Championship.
The show was bittersweet for Jade’s manager and co-owner, Valerie Nunes-Atkinson. She guided Jade’s father, CJ, to a Westminster victory in 2016 – and lost it last September, when the 7-year-old suddenly died of a fungal infection.
“The good part is that he left an incredible legacy,” said Nunes-Atkinson, of Temecula, Calif. She said that Jade “had my heart” from birth.
Boy had come a long way to Westminster – from Thailand, where one of his owners was watching from Bangkok, according to manager Rebecca Cross.
“He always makes us laugh,” said Cross, of Gettysburg, Penn.
For many dog owners, just getting to Westminster is a pleasure – even for all-time baseball leader Barry Bonds, who was cheering on a miniature schnauzer he owns with his sister Cheryl Dugan.
The dog, Rocky, did not win his breed, but the slugger said he was proud of Rocky simply for qualifying for the Champions Only Show.
“We won because we got here. That’s all that matters,” Bonds told Fox Sports. “I’ve been in a lot of playoffs, I’ve been in the World Series and I’ve never won. But for 22 years, I kept trying.
Bonds, 56, holds baseball’s career home run record at 762, though his feat was clouded by allegations of steroid use – he denied knowingly knowing them.
While the semi-finals and finals were held in an air-conditioned tent, the early stages of the competition took place on the grass of an estate called Lyndhurst.
Douglas Tighe, who has looked after a Brittany named Pennie in second place in the sports group, says he only accepts her if his dogs are distracted by birds and other outdoor attractions.
“Let them have fun,” said Tighe, of Hope, NJ. “That’s what it’s about.”
This is also what it is for Kole Brown. At age 9, he showed off a bull terrier named Riley on Sunday alongside his parents, Kurtis Brown and U.S. Air Force Captain Samantha Brown, and other family bull terriers.
“I have a lot of fun with this sport,” said Kole, of San Antonio, Texas. “Every time I step in the ring I have a smile on my face.”