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Newfoundland Is Top Dog At Westminster

By Lisa de Moraes
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 11, 2004; Page C01

NEW YORK, Feb. 10

Josh, a charismatic 155-pound slobbering Newfoundland, was named best in show Tuesday night at the 128th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.

He beat out 2,624 entries, among them the six other semifinalists: Stumpy, the perpetually tail-wagging Sussex spaniel; Coco, the precocious redheaded Norfolk terrier; Les, the gigantic hairball, aka Pekingese; Kevin, a smiling, bright-eyed Welsh corgi; Bunny, the bouncy Ibizan hound; and Miki, the semi-naked standard poodle.

Handler Michelle Ostermiller poses with Josh, a Newfoundland, after he earned best in show. (Gregory Bull - AP)

Upon figuring out that he was top dog, Josh did what he does best: bark long and loud.

Josh, 5 years old, is formally known as Ch Darbydale's All Rise Pouchcove -- and who came up with that name? He was a real crowd-pleaser among the Madison Square Garden showgoers, and his win was no surprise. The judge chosen to pick this year's best in show had named Josh best dog in the working group last year.

That said, the crowd also shouted enthusiastically for several other semifinalists during Tuesday night's competition, and the air was electric as the judge took forever to make up his mind.

"Newfoundland!" shouted someone in the audience, breaking the tense stillness.

"Donald Trump!" shouted someone else. The Donald, decked out in a light blue shirt, lavender tie and his trademark lousy combover, was one of several celebrity sightings.

On Monday Josh won the working dog competition, one of four groups judged on Day 1 of the show -- a day that featured a lot of dogs that looked like meringues, topiaries and something the cat coughed up.

But on the second day the show knuckles down, with dogs that look like dogs: Labrador retrievers, spaniels, setters, collies, pointers.

Forty-three golden retrievers were entered in that breed competition, 34 Labrador retrievers. The derby for best American water spaniel had only one dog, who was given best in breed but only after being put through its paces by the judge and receiving enthusiastic applause from the audience.

Afterward, all of the dogs could be seen backstage under the bleachers in "benching" hell.

Westminster is one of few benched dog competitions left in the country. Dogs being judged each day at Westminster must show up early, and when not in the ring amusing the spectators, they must sit in their designated spots in row after row of benches crammed into an area under the bleachers. Dogs that aren't trotted out until late in the afternoon have to get into their bench area early in the morning; dogs that compete early must spend the rest of the day on the bench. Even the lucky dogs who were named best in their four groups on Monday -- Les the Pekingese, Coco the Norfolk terrier, Miki the standard poodle, and Josh the Newfoundland -- had to return to the bench Tuesday so the public could see them in their kennels. Row after row of four-legged JonBenets in cages, petted, prodded and photographed.

Tuesday, like Monday, the benching area quickly became stifling; the dogs are uncomfortable, despite the many portable fans their handlers have brought to try to keep them cool. Les the Pekingese was sitting in his kennel on an ice pack. Several rows away, Irish wolfhounds were panting hard.

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