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A strange and wonderful assortment of dogs makes up an all-breed dog show. Some are new and almost unknown, like the Rhodesian ridgeback; others, such as the beagle and the collie, are familiar companions in any suburban neighborhood. But the versatile poodle, acceptable in the show ring in several solid colors and available in three handy sizes—toy, miniature and standard—was both the most and the best last week at the Westminster Kennel Club's 80th Annual Dog Show at Madison Square Garden in New York. The tri-sized poodles had 192 representatives present and from their ranks emerged the dog of utmost quality, a white toy named Wilber White Swan.
A member of the toy group had never before captured a best-in-show at the Westminster. Wilber White Swan's precedent-setting victory was sweetened by the fact that the toy poodle has been recognized as a breed by the American Kennel Club only since 1942. His larger relatives had already attained the honor, a standard poodle having been picked in 1935 and a miniature in 1943. Seemingly a newcomer, the toy poodle actually has been a European favorite for centuries, and now in this country the bred-down dog is enjoying a wave of popularity, along with his still-unrecognized particolored cousins (SI, Sept. 6, '54).
For the winner and for the 2,559 other dogs entered in the show (108 breeds), the Westminster was, as always, a hectic and tension-filled 48 hours. During the breed eliminations casual crowds ebbed and flowed around the 12 rings; some dogs left panic puddles on the Garden floor; and a distraught woman, a leash in her hand, rushed to the edge of one ring only to discover her dog no longer attached.
To sort, eliminate and finally select the best-of-breeds and, ultimately, the best-in-show, 45 judges deliberated during more than 25 hours. As the choices narrowed, experience as well as quality began to tell: of the six finalists for best-in-show, five were veteran campaigners which had been considered good bets before Westminster opened (SI, Feb. 13).
For the 20,000 who attended the show this was a notable and well managed spectacle; for the 200,000-odd who saw it on TV it was slightly less, thanks to the frantic insertion of commercials at critical moments. Even the commercials, however, could not quite spoil the grand climax in which the six superb finalists circled the floor at various speeds, inviting the scrutiny and approval of Judge Paul Palmer. The Bloodhound, Ch. Fancy Bombardier, lumbered magnificently beside his owner-handler, Tom Sheahan; the English setter, Ch. Rock Falls Colonel, moved with the floating grace and assurance of a dog which has brought Owner William T. Holt "best" awards in 100 shows; Mr. and Mrs. John Wagner's boxer, Ch. Baroque of Quality Hill, the only bitch in the final competition, strode assertively beside Handler Phil Marsh; Pennyworth and Clair-dale Kennels' white imported standard poodle, Ch. Alfonco von der Goldenen Kette, pranced proudly next to Robert Forsyth; Mrs. Robert Choate's Sealyham terrier, Ch. Robin Hill Brigade, marched beside Handler Joseph Thompson; and Mrs. Bertha Smith's white toy poodle trotted gaily along with Handler Anne Hone Rogers. By the time each dog had been studied both at parade and pose, a genuinely electric air of excitement had been generated. As Judge Palmer, a tall man, completed his final inspection, a ringsider guessed: "A big man like that probably can't stand small dogs."
But Palmer walked to the table, signed the book and returned with the rosette for the toy.
Ch. Wilber White Swan, who is known as "Peanuts" at home in Beth-page, posing proudly at the moment of presentation, suddenly dove to the floor in panic as Anne Hone Rogers shrieked her delight. Both regained their poise in time to accept the customary homage. This continued for some time, but finally the last flashbulb popped and, tired but triumphant, Anne Hone Rogers left the floor carrying six pounds of Peanuts in a large silver bowl.