Dalmatians Rarely Win Best-in-Show


Tuesday, February 13th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6


NEW YORK (AP) — Glenn Close turned the corner and walked down the aisle, right past the Chow Chows, Chinese Shar-Peis and Cavalier King Charles Spaniels.

She barely paused to look at the Dalmatians. Then again, neither have the judges when it's come to best-in-show at the Westminster Kennel Club.

In fact, going into Tuesday night's final competition, many of the most popular pet breeds never had won the top award at America's most prestigious dog show.

Dalmatians, Beagles, Dachshunds and every variety of Retriever — all in the Westminster doghouse.

And that surprised the Oscar-nominated actress who starred as Cruella De Vil in the movies ''101 Dalmatians'' and ''102 Dalmatians.''

``Really?'' wondered Close, whose aunt judged best-in-show in 1973 and picked a poodle. ``Dalmatians are highly intelligent and full of energy. They're very flashy dogs.''

``It probably has a lot to do with timing,'' she said.

But to veteran Dalmatian breeder, owner and handler Rick Miller of Rochester, Minn., the timing never has been right.

``They have about as much chance of winning here as you and I do of beating Tiger Woods this weekend,'' Miller said.

The Dalmatian that won best-of-breed Monday lost out a few hours later in best-in-group among non-sporting dogs. That winner, a Bichon Frise named Special Times Just Right!, was expected to take on a Kerry Blue Terrier named Torum's Scarf Michael for the top prize at Madison Square Garden.

Often, the top dog is a Terrier. The group has dominated Westminster, taking 42 of the 92 best-in-show trophies.

There have been 13 Wire Fox Terrier winners and seven Scottish Terriers. Several breeds were tied at four, including three other varieties of Terriers, along with Boxers, Cocker Spaniels and Standard Poodles.

Those stats made sense to Wire Fox handler Lance Deloria of Greenville, S.C.

``They're fancy, they're impressive to watch and they command attention,'' he said. ``They usually jump into show very well.''

And that makes them stand out more than others, apparently. Certainly their well-groomed beards attract attention — usually, the tassled-and-teased dogs do catch eyes in the ring.

``Maybe the judges see a Dalmatian and say, `Oh, there's another Dalmatian,''' Deloria said.

Sadly, Cheryl Snedaker-Sims of Madison, N.H., had to agree.

``Good family dogs get shafted,'' said the owner-breeder-handler of Longhaired Dachshunds. ``I get disappointed, and everything I feel goes down the lead to the dog.''

Nearby in the backstage area, little Ch. Lanbur Pajama Party was sound asleep in her crate, a brown ear flipped up over her head. The 13-inch Beagle did not seem to mind the long odds her breed faced.

``A beagle will win eventually. Someday,'' said her owner, Mike Walsh of Bridgewater, Mass. ``How could you deny those pleading, mascara eyes?''

Labrador Retrievers, the No. 1 registered dog with the American Kennel Club, also have been shut out at Westminster. So have Golden Retrievers.

``The problem with Labs is there's too much variety in the breed,'' handler Keith Ferrin of Wurtsboro, N.Y., said. ``We're overbred. There's no one dog out there that has put it all together.''

Still, longtime Dalmatian handler Sarah Nightengale of Finchville, Ky., held out hope that one of her black-and-specials might one day win at Westminster.

``It would take the right kind of judge and an exemplary dog,'' she said.

Nightengale also noticed that Close breezed by the Dalmatians after checking out dog collars on sale.

``She's probably seen enough of them,'' she said.