2009-02-18 / Columnists
Pets, Pets, Pets
You're never too old be a winner. Ten-yearold Stump proved this at the 133rd Westminster Kennel Club (WKC) Dog Show as the first of his breed but more important- the oldest dog ever to win at the Garden.
At his crowning moment, Stump- Champion Clussexx Three D Glincy Glee- sat up waving to the adoring crowd, demonstrating that BIS (aka "Best in Show") savoir faire. No need to teach old dog new tricks when attitude is second nature.
Later on, Stump's handler Scott Sommer, told the press that although Stump was entered by December like the other 2500 champions, a week ago before the show he was still deciding whether to bring Stump from Houston. He hadn't spent the year campaigning him or getting the Spaniel ready for Westminster-the Academy Awards of dog shows. Despite this handler confession, the BIS judge said Stump was in fabulous shape and everything you would want in the breed.
Stump had been retired since 2005. Actually the laid-back Spaniel spends much of his time lounging on the couch with JR, the Bichon Frise who won Westminster's BIS in 2001. JR is now eleven years old and accompanied his buddy Stump to New York City to appear Saturday with four other BIS alumni at a benefit for Westminster's Angel on a Leash therapy dog program.
Sommer also hesitated flying Stump since he exceeds the size limit and would be shipped in cargo. (This will no longer be an issue since Mid West Airlines became the official air carrier for Uno last year's winning Beagle. Mid West offered to fly Stump as a VIP in the cabin now too.)
Stump's success is more remarkable because he nearly died. In 2005, right after the Eukanuba Championship, the Spaniel spent 19 days in intensive care at Texas A & M, undergoing all sorts of tests and supportive care for a sudden illness that was never diagnosed. Scott said that Stump was completely shaved from the middle back. Yep, winning Westminster four years later is quite a comeback, but the reigning king of canines seemed unfazed by his triumph. He rested his chin on his breeder's towel while cameras exploded around him.
As for breed background: Westminster was a founding force when the AKC (American Kennel Club) was established in 1884. There were Field Spaniels and Cavalier Spaniels but no Sussex entered in the first Westminster in 1877. However, Sussex Spaniels are an old breed. They competed in England in the 1860s, and were among the first 9 breeds registered with the AKC stud book in 1884. The original 9 breeds-Pointers; Chesapeake Bay Retrievers; English, Irish and Gordon Setters; Clumber, Cocker, Irish Water and Sussex Spaniels- were all sporting breeds.
Today Sussex Spaniels are less common, ranked 147 out of 161 breeds in popularity. Eleven, including a son of Stump, were listed in this year's WKC show catalog. (Stump's pups - Root, Forest and Myrtle- follow the tree name theme.) Few folks outside a field trial or show ring have seen a Sussex. Not a complaint- that's a good thing. As Sommer mentioned, the gene pool is small and the puppies are not hardy. Newborns must be monitored constantly. This should protect the breed's renewed "fame" from the profiteering puppy millers. Unlike the ever popular Beagles, we should not be seeing Sussex pups in pet stores or discarded in the shelters. That's also good news.
The only bad point is a personal grudge. Stump comes from the same kennel that bred the Clumber Spaniel who "stole" Best in Show from my Afghan's half sister at WKC in 1996. It has been 13 years and I still can't get over the blow. Guess it's time to move on. Stump's wonderful victory showcases the great potential of all senior dogs. Shelters are full of loving, older companions just waiting for someone to let them shine. Stump lit the senior spotlight for every one of them.
For Adoption: This week two mature dogs at Babylon Town Shelter (643-9270) Lamar St. W. Babylon are hoping Stump's luck rubs off on them. Poor Panda, the Border Collie mix in Cage 15, is back for his third stay. He spent months in the shelter 2 years ago until a friend of his out of state family recognized his picture in the paper. The family, new to LI, ran down to redeem "Bandit" that day but next time he showed up as a stray their phone was disconnected. After several more months, he was adopted again. Lost or discarded this time, and there's another phone dead end. Panda/Bandit/Patcheshe answers to many names- likes to play, loves people, but prefers to be an only dog. "Tyra" in Cage 42 is an older Rottie mix who needs a home without cats.
Cats: "Bailey" a 1 yr. friendly buff & white guy in the lobby; "Yum Yum" the agreeable 14 year old longhaired gray gal in C-5. Her owner entered assisted living.
Dogs: a male Sharpei Cage 16; male Min Pin; "Sarge"- the white Pit mix in Cage 1 with incredible ball drive; "Keira"- a sweet, special needs blue Pit abuse case in Cage 37.
• Last Hope Bowl-a-thon** Sun. Feb. 22 from 4 pm to 6 pm at Massapequa Bowl, 4235 Merrick Road- $25 donation entitles each person to 2 hours of bowling, shoe rental, refreshments. Call 631-385- 4945 or 631-205-5069.