Scottish deerhound wins Westminster dog show

Posted Feb. 15, 2011, at 10:07 p.m.
Last modified Feb. 16, 2011, at 12:20 a.m.

NEW YORK — A Scottish deerhound that loves to chase wild animals caught his biggest prize yet, winning best in show Tuesday night at the Westminster Kennel Club.

A 5-year-old named Hickory pulled a huge surprise at Madison Square Garden, bounding away with the title of America’s top dog.

Judge Paolo Dondina of Italy picked Hickory from a best-of-seven final show ring that truly sounded international — there was a Pekingese, Portuguese water dog, Chinese shar-pei, smooth fox terrier, bearded collie and black cocker spaniel.

A couple of those pooches on the green-carpeted ring with Hickory were among the country’s top show dogs in 2010. Hickory wasn’t on that list, but he got to wag his long tail at the end after becoming the first kind of his breed to win the purple-and-gold ribbon and shiny silver bowl.

“People who own, breed, show dogs dream of this day,” handler Angela Lloyd said.

Sitting high up in section 118, Linda Melvin kept her eyes fixed on the Gordon setters competing on the floor at Madison Square Garden. A seat away, her daughter fixated on her cell phone.

Krista Piller was busy posting on Facebook: “Wants a big dog to win the WKC dog show this year.”

“I’ll be putting up more, too,” Piller said.

From the stands, to the green-carpeted rings to backstage, people were a-twitter Tuesday — iPads, Blackberries, Droids and then some at an event that started in 1877. Signs of social media were everywhere at the Westminster Kennel Club show.

Proving, in fact, that it is indeed possible to teach an old dog show new tech tricks.

“It is now uploaded!” exclaimed Lorraine Shore of Sequim, Wash.

In town with a pair of German pinschers, her peeps worldwide could see on YouTube how her favorite pooches fared.

“From Germany to Australia to California, people are waiting for my postings,” she said. “People who have never been here, now they’ve experienced Westminster.”

Among the owners showing early Tuesday: Brig. Gen. Rhonda Cornum, an Army surgeon who was shot down from a helicopter during the Persian Gulf War and briefly held as a prisoner of war. She was at the Garden showing a Gordon setter.

Cornum was clear on which was more difficult, ascending in the show ring or in the military.

“No question, it is dogs,” she said.

David Frei, now in his 22nd year of hosting the Westminster telecast, hoped to have time to answer on air questions that dog fans submitted through Twitter and Facebook.

Some were basic: Why has a golden retriever never won? Why do handlers hold treats for dogs in their mouths?

Others, a little more specific: “My standard poodle is a reading therapy dog and I was wondering why he can’t help me in math? I know that he notices if he doesn’t get the same amount of dog biscuits as the other dogs.”

“You’re watching TV and working on your laptop and we want to be interactive with what’s going on live,” Frei said.

Westminster has 60,000 friends on Facebook, and Susi Szeremy of the kennel club’s social media team said 4,000 more joined during Monday night’s telecast. There are about 2,400 followers Tweeting along — litters of twitters.

Many dog fanciers follow along on Westminster’s website. Piller and her mom drove up from near Annapolis, Md., to see the show for the first time and tracked the results from the road on Facebook.

Ken Roux of Dixon, Ill., made it easy for anyone to keep track of his Boston terrier at the 135th Westminster event. Hoss won a best of breed award Monday.

Roux put a tag with a QR code, a sophisticated set of small squares randomly appearing in a larger square, on top of his dog’s crate. The pattern is more than an inch square, and anyone pointing a smartphone at the pattern is automatically taken to Hoss’ website.

Brook Berth, an assistant to Hoss’ handler, said she’d heard only one other dog at Westminster had the QR tag, which stands for “quick response.” The new technology allows people to instantly access the dog’s history and contacts.

“I noticed a lot of people taking pictures,” Berth said. “It’s just so convenient. You don’t have to worry about people writing down information or passing out cards. They have it all right away.”

The fancy bar codes could become Westminster’s trendy bark codes.

“This is the test area,” Berth said. “So far, it seems to be a big hit.”

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