Opinion: Charming Stump Wins Over Crowds, Judges
Veteran dog comes out of retirement with record-breaking performance
By Sandy Robins
updated 11:14 p.m. PT, Tues., Feb. 10, 2009
NEW YORK – For two years running, an underdog has become the top dog at the Westminster Dog Show, and broken a number of other Westminster records in the process.
At 10 years old, Stump, a Sussex Spaniel, is the oldest ever to be crowned Best in Show. Further, he is the only Sussex spaniel ever to claim the coveted title and came out of retirement to do so.
Throughout the two-day event which marked the 133rd dog show, there didn’t seem to be a firm crowd favorite. John Avello, Las Vegas’ famous oddsmaker, had listed a Brussels Griffon as his top favorite at 10-1. He was followed by a Welsh Corgi at 12-1, an Affenpinscher (14-1), a Sealyham Terrier (15-1) a Poodle (16-1), a Scottish Terrier (18-1), a Giant Schnauzer (20-1), a Scottish Deerhound (22-1), a Harrier (25-1), and a Bichons Frise (28-1).
Stump was listed at 400–1.
However, by the time the winners of the groups had been chosen, the Welsh Corgi, the Affenpinscher, the Sealyham Terrier, the standard Poodle, the Harrier and the Bichons Frise were out of the running. The crowd to some extent was still rooting for Lincoln, the Brussels Griffon, whose owners and friends were lobbying for support by handing our pins of the dog sporting a top hat a la President Lincoln.
But the moment Stump plodded onto the green carpet to take part in the Sporting Group he instantly charmed the crowd, who clapped enthusiastically as he lumbered alongside his handler Scott Sommer. And when he made it back in the final lineup for Best in Show, the crowd’s enthusiasm had been cemented in place. He was their dog.
The spaniel is no newcomer to the green carpet at Madison Square Garden, as he won the sporting group back in 2004 prior to going into retirement to become a full time house pet, lounging on the bed with his favorite toy, and hanging out with his best buddy JR, the Bichons Frise that won Westminster back in 2001.
“They may be two old-timers but they are both really great for their age,” commented a beaming Sommer, of Houston, at the press conference held immediately after the event. JR actually made a special appearance of past Best in Show winners at a glamour charity benefit prior to the dog show.
So what made Sommer decide to stage a comeback on the green carpet for Stump?
“It was a last minute decision. He is in fabulous shape and looked so great that I thought what the heck. Also he’s a very rare breed.”
And it seems that Best in Show judge Sari Brewster Tietjen shared his sentiments when she made him her choice, also admitting that her decision was a very last minute one.
“He represents a breed that is hard to find. I didn’t know who he was until I stepped into the ring and he was everything you would want in a dog. I simply couldn’t say ‘no’ to him.”
Sommer went on to comment that his dog’s name was appropriate for the breed’s natural plodding manner.
“He has two sons named Root and Forest and a daughter named Myrtle, he added, still beaming ear-to-ear with his surprise success.
So what did he do to prepare beforehand?
“Nothing. They are a very easy breed and don’t require complicated grooming.”
And when he was asked what it was like to be back on the green carpet with Stump, he added, “It was like going for a walk with my pet. It was fun. Neither of us was nervous.”
After the press conference, Stump was whisked off to attend a special Westminster Kennel Club event and then Sommer was hoping the dog would be able to get a good few hours’ sleep before the busy schedule planned for him went into high gear.
On the first day of his reign he will visit all the major talk shows in New York with special appearances on Fox and Friends, the Today Show and dog-friendly Martha Stewart. He will also stop by Grand Central Station where a live television satellite feed is scheduled to take place to beam him into homes across America. He will also be the guest of honor at a lunch hosted by the Metropolitan Dog Club.
Then it’s back home to Texas, flying first class in his own seat on Midwest Airlines, a special perk for all Westminster winners.
Last year’s winner Uno had a very heavy schedule of appearances around the country as the spokes dog for Westminster.
“I doubt Stump will be able to keep up with that hectic pace,” commented Sommer. ‘But we will wait and see.”
© 2009 NBC Sports.com Reprints
© 2009 NBCSports.com