NEW YORK (NYTIMES) - Siba, a black standard poodle with a meticulously groomed coat and a taste for chicken, won best in show at the 144th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show on Tuesday (Feb 11) night at Madison Square Garden, defeating a final group of contenders that included a wildly popular golden retriever and two repeat best-in-show contestants.
Siba is the fifth standard poodle to win the show’s top prize and the first since 1991. The last poodle to take top honours was a miniature, Surrey Spice Girl, in 2002.
“She knows she’s special,” Siba’s handler, Ms Chrystal Murray, said on Monday when she advanced to best in show, and on Tuesday the best-in-show judge, Mr Robert Slay, agreed.
Ms Murray said she liked poodles because they do not shed and are thus hypo-allergenic. And Siba, despite her prim appearance, she said, was just a family dog who “knows when to tone it down and sleep on the couch”. Siba has only one regular requirement: She prefers chicken. When Ms Murray couldn’t find any, she turned to the closest available option: chicken sandwiches from a nearby McDonald’s.
The only thing fancy about the winner, it seemed, was her haircut and her full name: GCHP CH Stone Run Afternoon Tea.
Daniel, a golden retriever, was the clear crowd favourite in the final judging. Representing one of the most popular breeds in America, Daniel was attempting to become the first golden to take the top prize in a competition that was first held a decade after the Civil War. The crowd chanted his name as Mr Slay contemplated his decision.
Two of the finalists, Bono the Havanese and Wilma the boxer, had won their groups to advance to best in show for the second year in a row. But both came up short again.
Vinny, the wire fox terrier, was hoping to deliver a second straight title – and a record 16th overall – for his breed. He may have been hurt by recent history: A wire fox terrier had won last year, drawing groans from a terrier-weary crowd.
Bourbon, a sleek whippet seeking his breed’s first title since 1964, won the runner-up prize, reserve best in show.
After winning the top prize, Siba and Ms Murray posed in the middle of the arena for photos. As Ms Murray answered questions, Siba reclined on the small raised platform in the middle, surrounded by her trophies and ribbons, as regal (and coifed) as Cleopatra and completely unperturbed by the fuss around her.
Photographers tried to get her to look at them by shouting her name, but it did not work. The champion was relaxing.
“She always knows when she’s won,” Ms Murray said.