NEW YORK – America’s top dog is a German shorthaired pointer named CJ, but the runner-up is Lucy, a borzoi who traveled all the way from Chiba Prefecture.
The 4-year-old was one of 18 borzois entered for the 140th Westminster Kennel Club on Tuesday night at a nearly packed Madison Square Garden. She was named 2016 Reserve Best in Show.
Owner Mai Ozeki said she was shocked when the dog advanced to the finals: “I’m almost having a heart attack,” Ozeki said.
Lucy, registered name Belisarius Jp My Sassy Girl, has the characteristically narrow head and long, silky coat of a borzoi. Images of the award presentation showed her standing erect with her tail tucked neatly between her legs.
There was a moment of doggy drama as judge Dr. Richard Meen from Canada began to announce his choice, and German shepherd handler Kent Boyles took a step toward the prized silver bowl. He heard “German” and the “sh” to start the second word, but that was as far as he got.
The 3-year-old CJ, registered name Vjk-Myst Garbonita’s California Journey, bested 2,751 other entries in 199 breeds and varieties to win the nation’s most prestigious dog competition.
“It’s exactly like what I imagined,” co-owner, breeder and handler Valerie Nunes-Atkinson said.
CJ certainly comes from championship stock. His grandmother, Carlee, was one of two previous German shorthaired pointers to win Westminster, taking the title in 2005.
“He’s never done anything wrong,” Nunes-Atkinson said.
CJ also topped a Skye terrier, German shepherd, bulldog, shih tzu and Samoyed. There is no prize money for the win, but there are valuable breeding rights in the near future and a legacy in dogdom forever.
Charlie the Skye terrier finished second at Westminster last year to Miss P the beagle. Rumor the German shepherd was ranked as the No. 1 show dog in the country last year and had won 101 times.
“Vegas odds were not with us,” Nunes-Atkinson said.
As Meen studied each of the final seven dogs, he held up his hands like a picture frame to focus on their expression.
CJ “took me back into the past for what they were bred to do,” Meen said. “He floated around the ring beautifully.”
The fan favorite earlier in the night was a large Leonberger named Dario, who wanted a treat and kept gnawing at his handler’s suit pocket all the way around the ring.
This was the 18th overall best in show win for CJ, whose initials stand for his path from the West Coast — quite a California Journey, it was, from the city of Temecula.
Earlier in the day, Nunes-Atkinson explained what made CJ so special.
“He has that extra sparkle,” she said. “He’s an old soul.”
Nunes-Atkinson became the first owner, breeder and handler to win Westminster since 1983.
CJ definitely has his rituals. Before romping around the ring, he usually bows down and sneezes.
After the victory, Nunes-Atkinson kept kissing the dog she calls “the Prince” while looking into his golden, winning eyes.
CJ won best of breed earlier in the day, then took the sporting group.
Meen, a psychiatrist, was asked whether he had ever treated dogs.
“No, they’re perfect,” he said. “People are a mess.”