NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Other dogs came to play, Swagger came to win.
Kept in peak form by running up 15 flights of stairs at his hotel, the old English sheepdog that nearly won at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show last year bounded to an early victory Monday.
“‘You never know when you get in the ring,” co-owner and handler Colton Johnson said. “Tonight could be different, you never know.”
PHOTOS: Westminster Dog Show
A 135-pound bloodhound won the hound group and a miniature pinscher took the toy group Monday night at Madison Square Garden. The nonsporting and herding winners were being picked later.
Sporting, working and terrier dogs will compete Tuesday. The Best in Show will be chosen shortly before 11 p.m.
There were a total of 2,845 entries for America’s top dog show. They were eligible in 190 breeds and varieties, and all of them drew support.
“Basset!” shouted one fan during a break. “Pug!” another one yelled later.
Along with Swagger, among the other breed winners earlier in the day was an Australian shepherd who lives with Tampa Bay Rays catcher Ryan Hanigan. Of the 44 entered, his Copperridge What’s Your Dream won.
“It’s incredible that she went from my No. 1 bed buddy to best of breed at Westminster!!!” Hanigan wrote in a text message.
Prime contenders to walk off with the prized silver bowl are Sky the wire fox terrier, Matisse the Portuguese water dog, Riley the Irish water spaniel and the Fifinator, a Doberman that has her own Facebook page.
Three new breeds were welcomed to the show this year — the Chinook, the Portuguese podengo pequeno and the rat terrier.
Swagger was a mere rookie when he came from Colorado Springs, Colo., to Westminster last February. At about 21 months old, he had competed in just three dog shows, but quickly became a crowd pleaser. Cheers filled the Garden when he romped around the ring, his full coat of white-and-gray fur shading his eyes.
Swagger finished second, behind champion Banana Joe the affenpinscher. The little monkey-faced dog is now retired, and 97-pound Swagger is ready to rule. He’s taken about 30 titles at other events around the country since then, co-owner Debbie Burke said.
“He’s much more confident,” co-owner Ron Scott said. “He loves this, he loves to show.”
Other things Swagger enjoys: chewing ice cubes, jogging with Johnson and playing with youngsters.
“The kids just lay all over him, he doesn’t mind,” Scott said. And if their fruit roll-ups occasionally wind up in Swagger’s hair, well, he’s all right with that.
Swagger beat out four other old English sheepdogs Monday afternoon in the breed round held on the Pier 94 exhibition space on the Hudson River. Taller and fuller than the rest, the dog with the official name of Bugaboo’s Picture Perfect was a clear pick.
Spectators stood four-deep to watch him in action, more than at the other adjacent rings. Fans called out his name and shot video and pictures on their cell phones during his 15-minute judging.
Mary Moorhouse and her mother, Julie, were in town from Owensboro, Ky. They spotted Swagger backstage in a grooming area and followed him to the ring, not even knowing his history.
“It’s his personality,” Julie said. “He’s smiling. He’s proud. He’s confident.”
As WCBS 880’s Paul Murnane reported, the event looked like madness and chaos to an outside observer.
Bill McFadden, the past handler of a Best in Show champion, told WCBS 880’s the show is “madness and chaos.”
Judges are looking for very specific measures of breed.
“How their body’s supposed to be shaped, how they’re supposed to move,” McFadden explained.
A beagle named Alysia didn’t seem to have a trace of nervousness before her turn in the competition, Murnane reported.
“I know what she will do and she knows what she won’t do,” handler Kim Brown said. “I have learned her limits and she learns mine.”
The 138th annual All Breed Dog Show is being held at piers 92 and 94 and at Madison Square Garden through Tuesday. For more information, click here.
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