The competition was ruff, but it didn’t matter: Miss P, 4-year-old beagle extraordinaire, took down all comers at the Westminster Dog Show.
“She is a princess,” handler Will Alexander told the Associated Press.
But P’s royal bearing didn’t prevent her from totally humiliating all members of the species Canis lupus familiaris that dared enter Madison Square Garden to challenge her for Best in Show. Those with their eyes on the prize included a Skye terrier, a standard poodle, an English springer spaniel and a shih tzu owned by former kidnapping victim and pardoned bank robber Patty Hearst.
Who let these dogs out? They may as well have been goldfish.
“She never let me down,” Alexander said. “She didn’t make any mistakes.”
Here are five things you absolutely need to know about Miss P — call name “Peyton,” official champion’s name “Tashtins Lookin for Trouble” — the mysteriously quiet beagle who, like Michael Corleone, takes out the competition with nary a word before establishing a global empire.
1. This was an upset.
The AP said the crowd “seemed to loudly gasp” when P’s name was announced as winner at MSG. That’s because beagles, like the Philadelphia Eagles, are rarely in the spotlight.
Indeed, the first time — and last time — a beagle took Westminster was in 2008, when Uno, P’s great-uncle, stormed the competition, breaking the breed’s losing streak that began in 1907.
“Uno is easily the most popular Westminster winner in my 25 years,” television host David Frei told CBS last year.
Before P’s win, the Christian Science Monitor said her triumph, like Uno’s, would be a victory for the common pooch.
“Uno’s win stands as a beacon, not just for beaglekind, but for normal dogs in general,” it wrote. “Westminster seems dominated by breeds bred for show, not for petting. No Labrador has ever won – maybe they try too hard. Dalmatian, ditto. Chihuahuas are perhaps too small for the judges to see. Dachshunds are too busy looking for a bigger dog to try and bully. They’ve never won either.”
2. Miss P made Sunny Obama’s cousin look like a total dog.
That Portuguese water dog in the final-seven ring looked suspiciously like an occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. This was Matisse — Sunny O.’s cousin.
The New York Daily News ran down the gene pool.
“The 3-year-old presidential pooch, a Portuguese water dog, and Matisse, who is the same age and breed and the odds-on favorite to take home Best in Show Tuesday, come from the same bloodline,” the paper wrote. “The pair of puppies share a grandfather — Carlo the Portuguese water dog — but have different grandmothers and different parents, making them first-cousins.”
But this is America. Odds-on favorite? Sorry, Matisse.
3. But Miss P is Canadian.
Though she conquered New York City, P is from north of the 49th parallel, dividing her time between Milton and Enderby, British Columbia. She’s co-owned by American breeder Eddie Dziuk and mother-and-daughter Canadian team Lori and Kaitlyn Crandlemire, who were thrilled at the win.
“I’m speechless,” said Lori Crandlemire.
The Crandelmires said Miss P will have plenty of time to relax — now that she’s won the big one, they will be retiring her from competition.
4. Miss P’s new title doesn’t come with any cash.
Though the costs of competing at Westminster — grooming, boarding, Kongs — can run up to $100,000 per year, there’s no immediate payoff. While sponsorships and breeding fees can help lower the cost of being the boss, that doesn’t always work out. Uno, for example, is sterile.
There are consolation prizes, as the AP explained: “appearances [on] morning TV shows, a meeting with Donald Trump, lunch at prominent Manhattan restaurant Sardi’s and a walk-on part in the Broadway hit musical ‘Kinky Boots.’ ”
5. Miss P does not know she won the Westminster Dog Show.
While she is a sentient creature, Miss P does not know she won a contest at Madison Square Garden in front of 18,000 canine enthusiasts. Indeed, she does not know what a “dog” is in the same way, say, a 4-year-old human does, and certainly could not comprehend the more advanced concept of a “dog show.” NPR dug into this topic with a 2011 piece: “I Sniff, Therefore I Am. Are Dogs Self-Conscious?”
The public radio broadcaster’s conclusion: Though dogs have a sense of what one researcher called “mine-ness” — that is, they can differentiate their own urine from that of other dogs — this doesn’t mean they are self-aware in a way that might be recognized by Rene Descartes, the Renaissance French philosopher who popularized that incandescent chestnut: “Cogito ergo sum.” NPR:
Stanley Coren, in his popular book How Dogs Think, Understanding the Canine Mind, wonders whether “mine-ness” equals a “sense of I-ness (as when Tarzan is saying ‘Me Tarzan. You Jane.’)” He doesn’t think so.
“The experimental test for that quality of self-awareness in dogs does not yet seem to have been worked out,” he says.
Fortunately, one need not be self-aware to enjoy the fruits of smashing the competition at Westminster: Treats and more treats, followed by breeding.