National

A comeback at tonight’s Westminster dog show?

By BEN WALKER

Rumor, who just missed winning at the Westminster Kennel Club in 2016, came back to score a big victory Monday, Feb. 13, 2017, beating out favored Preston the puli in the herding group. (File photo)
Rumor, who just missed winning at the Westminster Kennel Club in 2016, came back to score a big victory Monday, Feb. 13, 2017, beating out favored Preston the puli in the herding group. (File photo) File photo

This year, three breeds are competing for the first time in the Westminster Kennel Club dog show: The American Hairless Terrier, Pumi and the Sloughi. Meet the people who are showing two of the breeds.

She’s no longer a Rumor at America’s top dog show.

A German shepherd called Rumor who just missed winning at the Westminster Kennel Club last year came back to score a big victory Monday night, beating out favored Preston the puli in the herding group.

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To the cheers of the crowd at Madison Square Garden in New York, Rumor joined a miniature poodle, a Pekingese and a Norwegian elkhound in the best-of-seven final ring. She'll face three more group winners still to be picked Tuesday night, right before the champ is chosen.

Rumor was the nation’s No. 1 show dog last year when she came to the Garden. But she fell short when a German shorthaired pointer named CJ won in a surprise, and it was thought that Rumor would retire.

Asked about the chances of 5-year-old Rumor adding to her 103 career championship ribbons, handler and co-owner Kent Boyles said, “I have no idea. … You never know.”

“Really good competition,” Boyles said, adding that he was “pretty nervous.”

Nearly 2,800 dogs across 202 breeds and varieties were entered. Plenty of them were early crowd favorites at the mostly filled Garden, if not winners.

A toy fox terrier just wanted to stand still. A papillon lived up to its name – “butterfly,” in French – by fluttering around. And a sloughi, one of three new breeds at this year’s show, kept yawning.

Preston came in with 95 total wins, known for a black, corded coat so thick that it’s often hard to see any of his features. It’s also hard to handle – his hair takes up to five hours to dry, helped by a couple of industrial carpet blowers that create a “swirly, tornado effect,” handler and co-owner Linda Pitts said.

In an upset, Duffy the Norwegian elkhound took the hound group. She topped Lucy the borzoi, second overall at Westminster last year, and Gia the greyhound, champ of the National Dog Show televised last Thanksgiving Day.

Hound judge Polly Smith perked up some ears, too. In an interview shown on the scoreboard, she started out, “This bitch epitomized type.” That’s the proper term for a female dog – predictably, it drew laughs and guffaws from the crowd.

Chuckie the Pekingese won the toy group. Not yet 2, he already has a legacy as his pop Malachy won Westminster in 2012. A black miniature poodle pranced off with nonsporting group.

The top of the sporting, working and terriers will be picked Tuesday night, followed immediately by best in show.

How to watch the dog show

Today, Tuesday, Feb. 14

▪ Judging is being live streamed free from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. CST on the WKC website and Fox Sports Go. No TV provider login is needed.

▪ Selected live coverage of breed judging and other prelims will be broadcast from 1 to 3 p.m. CST on Nat Geo Wild.

Group competitions in sporting, working and terrier breeds will be shown live on FS1 from 7 to 10 p.m. CST. It will also be live streamed on Fox Sports Go with a TV provider login.

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