Hail, Snoopy! Beagle wins Westminster
By BEN WALKER, AP National Writer
NEW YORK - Start dancin', Snoopy. You're out of the Westminster doghouse. At long last, a beagle is America's top dog. Baying and barking to his heart's delight, Uno lived up every bit to his name Tuesday night, becoming the first of his breed to win best in show at the nation's biggest canine competition.
"He's a people's dog, a merry little hound," handler Aaron Wilkerson said.
A sold-out crowd at Madison Square Garden that called and chanted Uno's name stood and roared when he was picked as numero uno. He got right into the act, jumping on Wilkerson and confirming his other title: noisiest in show.
Years from now, it'll be known as the "ah-roo!" heard 'round the ring.
The only breed consistently among the nation's most popular dogs for nearly 100 years, a beagle had never won in the 100 times the Westminster Kennel Club had chosen a winner. That changed when judge J. Donald Jones pointed to this nearly 3-year-old package of personality.
No longer an underdog make that an Underdog Uno beat out two neatly primped poodles, a top Sealyham terrier, a sleek Weimaraner, a lively Australian shepherd and a sprightly Akita.
"He's perfect, he was a 10," Jones said. "He does cuteness well."
Precocious as he was precious, Uno celebrated by chewing on the microphones of reporters who tried to interview his winning crew. Those had to suffice for the yellow, soft duck that's his favorite toy.
His tri-colored image certainly drew a nationwide following, and that will surely prompt a spike in beagle adoptions. Wilkerson had one bit of advice for anyone planning to get one as a pet.
"Better have a fence," he said.
More than 169 breeds and varieties were represented at the 132nd Westminster show, and the event brought 2,627 entries.
Among the fan favorites early Tuesday evening were a Neapolitan mastiff that lumbered around the ring, a Chihuahua that spun in circles and a miniature pinscher that plucked a piece of food off the green carpet without missing a beat.
No hound of any kind had won at Westminster since 1983, and a toy poodle that began the night with 108 best in show prizes stood in Uno's way.
Formally known as K-Run's Park Me in First, Uno came into this competition wagging his white-tipped tail with 32 best in show ribbons overall. He already had become the first beagle to win the hound group since 1939.
Uno breezed in the 15-inch beagle category Monday morning, then took the group several hours later. So while other dogs tried to reach the final ring Tuesday, Uno went on a brisk walk around Manhattan and took a nap beneath his warm, fuzzy blanket.
But when it came time to show, Uno was as ready as ever. He looked around and soaked up the cheers while parading around the ring, the ovation becoming more thunderous with every step.
When he made his final stop in front of Jones, Uno went to town. Rather than rely on his golden brown, pleading eyes, he began baying over and over.
Even when he walked away to let other dogs be judged, Uno kept going. Quite a win it was for Eddie Dziuk of Columbia, Mo., and his three co-owners.
"When it came for the judge to pick, I couldn't even watch," Dziuk said.
Chances are, millions at home were tuned to their televisions.
"My sister called me today and said she's always turned off the dog show on TV because she's tired of all those poodles winning," Jon Woodring, one of Uno's co-owners, said in the afternoon. "But she watched last night. I think Uno winning would show that an everyday dog can do it."
Longtime dog expert David Frei, the paw-by-paw announcer for USA Network's coverage of Westminster, went even further earlier.
"If he wins best in show, I'll rent him an apartment in New York City because I'll be traveling with him all year, so many people will want to see him," he said. "If he won, it would be the greatest thing for our show."
Better get that first rent check ready Uno is here to stay.
"We knew he was going to be No. 1. I didn't know he'd do it this fast," Wilkerson said.