February 11, 2009 in Nation/World

Once ill and retired, spaniel is best in show

Associated Press
 
Associated Press photo

Stump, a Sussex spaniel, won best in show at the 133rd annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York, on Tuesday.
(Full-size photo)

NEW YORK – This old dog taught Westminster a new trick.

At 10, a Sussex spaniel called Stump became the oldest best in show winner at America’s top canine competition, coming out of retirement last week and taking the big prize Tuesday night.

“He hasn’t slowed down a bit,” expert handler Scott Sommer said. “I thought it would be fun.”

A nearly full crowd at Madison Square Garden cheered loudly when judge Sari Tietjen pointed to the new champion at the Westminster Kennel Club. Perhaps the fans knew Stump’s backstory – he left the show ring in 2004 and later nearly died from a mysterious medical condition. The vets at Texas A&M saved him.

“It was miraculous,” Sommer said.

Then again, maybe folks just liked rooting for the old guy. In human years, he’s almost 70!

Sommer said Sussex spaniels can live to be 15. Never before had a dog from this breed won the show. The previous oldest winner was an 8-year-old Papillon in 1999.

With floppy ears and a slow gait, the golden-red Stump beat out a sparkling final field. Sommer guided him past a giant schnauzer that was the nation’s top show dog, a favored Brussels griffon, a Scottish deerhound named Tiger Woods, a standard poodle with 94 best in show wins, a Scottish terrier and a puli.

Nearly 2,500 dogs were entered at Westminster. Last year’s champion, a beagle named Uno, was perhaps the most popular winner ever.

But with a bounce in his step, Stump is sure to win over plenty of people while he reigns for a year and gets extra playtime with his green Grinch toy.

“He really is retired this time,” Sommer said.

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