Westminster Dog Show 2012: Pekingese wins Best in Show

February 15, 2012

Malachy, a four-year-old stub-faced Pekingese, was named Best in Show at the 136th annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show on Feb. 14, defeating a Dalmatian, a dachshund, a German shepherd, a Doberman pinscher, an Irish setter and a Kerry blue terrier to become “America’s Dog.” The Associated Press reports:

“He saved all his energy for the ring today,” handler David Fitzpatrick said.

The 4-year-old Malachy won his 115th overall best in show title. The crowd clearly was on his side, hollering his name at Madison Square Garden.

Fitzpatrick gave his 11-pound champ a bit of help — he carried him onto the green carpet for the final lineup, shortening the long walk around the ring. Malachy’s pink tongue popped out from his black face, his eyes sparkling like black diamonds as he soaked in the cheers.

“No other dog moves like this,” Fitzpatrick said. It’s true, as a Pekingese is supposed to move with a “slow and dignified” gait.

Malachy chilled out after his win, resting his silver and white coat on a cool pack. He had plenty of time to get ready, having won the toy group Monday night.

Malachy’s unusual look inspired a series of articles using colorful descriptions of the dog’s stubby legs and squished-in face. The Style Blog catalogued some of the best: Writers called Malachy “Cousin Itt’s pet,” “a slow-moving hairball,” and, strangely, “Just like Mitt Romney.” The blog also volunteered a list of the strangest-named dogs in the competition, among them: “Gossip Girl,” “Captain Crunch,” and “Jungle King Mufasa.” He also may have come face-to-face with some celebrity competitors backstage — Martha Stewart’s dog, a Chow Chow named Ghengis Khan, was also a Westminster winner.

Malachy’s win surprised a few — especially those who find the ungainly Pekingese a little less graceful than his competitors. But Malachy wasn’t being judged part-for-part against the other breeds, but rather, his own breed standard. The Style Blog explains:

In dog shows, breeds are judged against the breed standard, a written description of the ideal dogs of that breed, written by the breed’s national club. The winner is the dog that best fits the mold that its own breed has set.

The Pekingese Club of America, established in 1909, offers up a long description of what makes an ideal Pekingese, a breed that dates to ancient China. “The Pekingese is a well-balanced, compact dog of Chinese origin with a heavy front and lighter hindquarters. Its temperament is one of directness, independence and individuality. Its image is lionlike, implying courage, dignity, boldness and self-esteem rather than daintiness or delicacy,” says the club.

Malachy would have received high marks for his wide skull, heart-shaped ears that lie flat against his head, wide nostrils, “moderately bowed” forelegs, coarse coat and “unhurried, dignified, free and strong” gait. Pekingese breeds can be docked points for obvious styling of the dog’s coat and can be disqualified if they weigh more than 14 pounds.

Westminster was visited by two protests — one by PETA, and the other by “Dogs for Romney,” a protest to draw attention to the fact that former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney once strapped his dog to a roof rack of a car for a 12-hour drive.

Protest spokeswoman Kitty Hendrix said the Dogs Against Romney Web site that organized the demonstration has about 25,000 members. The protesters held signs that said “Mitt is Mean” and “Dogs Aren’t Luggage” and “I Ride Inside.”

The Romney campaign did not respond to requests for comment.

The Westminster Kennel Club event is the most prestigious dog show in America and draws 2,000 entries. Hendrix said her group didn’t want to interrupt Westminster.

“We’re just using this as a backdrop,” she said.

A few curious passers-by stopped to talk to the protesters, but none of the champion dogs walked by.

“Dogs don’t vote!” hollered one man in a hurry.

Though Malachy will retire after his big win, there are a few dogs to watch out for next year: Six new breeds were entered into Westminster this year. The new breeds included the xoloitzcuintli, the Entlebucher mountain dog, the Norwegian lundehund, the American English coonhound, the Finnish lapphund and the Cesky terrier. Though none of them won their groups, the unusual look of some of the new dogs, such as the xolo, brought them a lot of attention in the telecast.

“They are exotic,” Xolo owner Jose Barrera said. “You can’t take her for a walk around the block without someone stopping you to ask, ‘What is that, how do you spell that?’”

Commonly known as a Mexican hairless, and featuring oversized batlike ears, they’re pronounced “show-low-eats-QUEEN-tlee.” That’s according to Amy Fernandez, an expert who’s written books about the breed.

“We go around with little cards at shows telling people how to say it. Otherwise, you would lose your voice doing it every time,” she said.

Maura Judkis covers culture, food, and the arts for the Weekend section and Going Out Guide.
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