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Feb. 15 (Bloomberg) -- An irresistible ball of fur named Malachy became the fourth Pekingese since 1960 to win best of show at New York’s Westminster Kennel Club dog pageant.
“He’s a charismatic little guy,” Lisa Croft-Elliott, a veteran dog-show photographer, said last night at a post- competition party at Madison Square Garden. “He’s like your favorite pair of bedroom slippers.”
Malachy bested six others in the finals, including a Dalmatian and a Wirehaired Dachshund, both of which would’ve been the first of their breeds to win the 135-year-old event. Malachy was chosen by judge Cindy Vogels, a 60-year-old breeder who owns two Pekingese herself at her home in Greenwood Village, Colorado. He’s the first winning Pekingese since 1990.
“He’s a super dog who had a stupendous night,” Vogels told reporters as Malachy lay quietly on a table before them.
His handler and part-owner, David Fitzpatrick, was asked whether the 11-pound (5 kilograms) champ has feline traits, given that he loosely resembles a Persian cat.
“He’s not like a cat at all,” he said. “He’s like a Pekingese.”
Pekes, as dog fanciers call them, are of Chinese origin, dating back to the eighth century. The name’s derived from Peking, the city now known as Beijing. They aren’t supposed to be delicate or dainty, according to the American Kennel Club, which publishes standards by which purebreds are measured.
“Their image is lion-like, implying courage, dignity, boldness and self-esteem,” said the AKC’s website.
Fleet of foot they aren’t. While Malachy’s competitors raced around the ring at the Garden, he and Fitzpatrick ambled glacially in an eclipsed semi-circle.
“Their gait should be slower,” Fitzpatrick told reporters. “Their gait should be dignified.”
Malachy was the No. 2-ranked show dog in American Kennel Club competition last year and a Westminster finalist. He bowed at the 2011 Westminster to a Scottish deerhound named Hickory. In an upset early yesterday, last year’s No. 1-ranked dog, a Black Cocker Spaniel named Beckham, lost in the first round to another Black Cocker Spaniel.
“It was a shock to everyone,” Croft-Elliott said of Beckham’s early exit.
The other finalists were a German Shepherd, Irish Setter, Doberman Pinscher and Kerry Blue Terrier. The Irish Setter, named Emily, was attempting a Kim Clijsters-like comeback. As the 2009 U.S. Open tennis champion had earlier given birth to a daughter, Emily had had a litter of 15 and a year’s layoff.
The two-day event began with 2,077 purebreds in 185 breeds and varieties, including G.K., owned by Martha Stewart and selected top Chow Chow.
In an interview last week, Vogels said she’s often tougher in the ring on breeds she knows well. To avoid the perception of a conflict of interest, she said she curtailed dog breeding when she began judging in the mid-1990s.
Malachy, a four-year-old grandfather, will retire to Fitzpatrick’s home in Pennsylvania and play with his favorite toy, a squeaky rat. Commercials are not enticing for the champ with 115 best in shows nationwide.
“He’s worked hard enough over the past two years,” Fitzpatrick said.
--Editors: Mark Beech, Jim Ruane.
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