NEW YORK - Good ol’ Snoopy, a champion at last.
Barking and baying up a storm, Uno lived up to his name Tuesday night by becoming the first beagle to win best in show at the Westminster Kennel Club.
The nation’s new top dog was clearly the fan favorite, and drew a roaring, standing ovation from the sold-out crowd at Madison Square Garden when he was picked.
Uno got right into the act, jumping up on handler Aaron Wilkerson and confirming his other title: noisiest in show. Years from now, he’ll be known for the “ah-roo” heard ’round the ring.
“He’s a people’s dog, a merry little hound,” Wilkerson said.
The only dog consistently listed among America’s most popular breeds for nearly 100 years, a beagle had never won in the 100 times Westminster picked a winner. That changed when judge J. Donald Jones pointed to this nearly 3-year-old package of personality.
Uno was numero uno, beating out two perfect poodles, a top Sealyham terrier, a sleek Weimaraner, a lively Australian shepherd and a sprightly Akita.
“We knew he was going to be No. 1. I didn’t know he’d do it this fast,” Wilkerson said.
Uno celebrated by chewing on the microphones of reporters who tried to interview his winning crew. Those had to suffice for the yellow, soft duck that’s his favorite toy.
“He’s perfect, he was a 10,” Jones said. “He does cuteness well.”
More than 169 breeds and varieties were represented at the 132nd Westminster Kennel Club event, and the competition brought 2,627 entries.
Barks echoed around Madison Square Garden as the crowd cheered its favorites, among them a Neapolitan mastiff that lumbered around the ring, a Chihuahua that spun in circles and a miniature pinscher that plucked a piece of food off the green carpet without missing a beat.
Formally known as K-Run’s Park Me in First, Uno came into this competition wagging his white-tipped tail with 32 best in show ribbons overall. Yet he was surely an underdog — make that an Underdog — because no beagle had even won the hound group since 1939.
But Uno fixed that, breezing in the 15-inch breed judging on Monday morning and taking his group several hours later. So while other dogs tried to reach the final ring Tuesday, Uno spent the day going on a brisk walk around Manhattan and taking a nap underneath his warm, fuzzy blanket.
But when it came time to show, Uno was as precocious and precious as ever.
With fans calling out his name and clapping, he soaked in the cheers as he paraded around the ring, the cheers becoming more thunderous with every step. And when he made his final stop in front of Jones, Uno went to town, baying over and over.
Even when he returned to sidelines as other dogs were judged, Uno kept going. Quite a win it was for Eddie Dziuk of Columbia, Mo., and the other three co-owners.
“My sister called me today and said she’s always turned off the dog show on TV because she’s tired of all those poodles winning,” Jon Woodring, one of the other co-owners, said earlier in the day. “But she watched last night. I think Uno winning would show that an everyday dog can do it.”
Longtime dog expert David Frei, the paw-by-paw announcer for USA Network’s coverage of the Westminster Kennel Club show, went even further.
“If he wins best in show, I’ll rent him an apartment in New York City because I’ll be traveling with him all year, so many people will want to see him,” he said. “If he won, it would be the greatest thing for our show.”
Better get that first rent check ready — Uno is here to stay.
No hound of any kind had won at Westminster since 1983, and a toy poodle that began the night with 108 best in show prizes stood in Uno’s way.
It was an upset in the show world, where wire fox terriers usually wobble off with the prize ribbon. Sort of like the boy-next-door becoming president — that’s how it was to see an everyday backyard pet earn the silver bowl.
With pleading, golden-brown eyes, Uno certainly looked like the picture of man’s best friend.
Exactly why beagles hadn’t done better at shows was somewhat of a mystery. Some say that they’re so common, they don’t stand out in the ring. Others say they’re hurt by being an “honest dog” — as in, they’re not a masterpiece carved with a pair of clippers.
Jones did not realize he’d made history by choosing the first beagle at Westminster.
“I had no idea,” he said.
Westminster Dog Show
Take a look at some of the pooches and their handlers as they participate in the 2008 dog show.
Feb. 12, 2008: See the final moments and celebration of the beagle Uno winning best in show at the Westminster Dog Show.
Take a look at some past Best in Show winners at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.