Miniature Poodle Seizes Victory at Westminster Dog Show Marking Handler’s Farewell Triumph

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In a regal showdown of fur and charm, a petite black miniature poodle named Sage staged an unanticipated victory Tuesday night at the distinguished Westminster Kennel Club dog show. This surprising triumph held a dual significance for veteran handler, Kaz Hosaka. Not only did it signify the finale of his illustrious career spanning 45 long years, but it also marked his last performance at this renowned canine competition, promising to be a fitting farewell to his eventful journey.

This victory of Sage became the 11th major win for the breed at the competition, a feat second only to the wire fox terriers. Before this, the last miniature poodle to solo the prestigious trophy was Spice, who, too, was trained by Hosaka in 2002.

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Speechless and awestruck by Sage’s win, the usually eloquent handler was reduced to a few choice phrases in the ring: “No words. So happy – Exciting”.

Strutting with unmistakeable panache, Sage exhibited sheer grace and athleticism, the inky black poodle dazzled. Hosaka, teary-eyed, lovingly added that Sage gave a simply terrific “performance for me”.

Emerging as the top dog, the poodle surpassed six other finalists to claim the ‘best in show’ title. Not far behind was Mercedes, the German Shepherd, and a formidable contender whose handler was the seasoned Kent Boyles.

Commendably, the final face-off also consisted of some of America’s finest canine personalities. Joining Sage and Mercedes were Comet, a Shih Tzu and reigning champion of the American Kennel Club National Championship last year, and Monty, a giant Schnauzer who was a contender at the last year’s Westminster finals. The competition also saw Louis, an Afghan hound, Micah, a black cocker spaniel, and Frankie, a creatively-colored bull terrier.

While Sage spun magic inside the ring, outside it, a minor controversy interrupted the otherwise seamless event. A protestor demanding a boycott of breeders was swiftly restrained by the security personnel. According to the reports from the police and animal rights organization PETA, three demonstrators were arrested with their charges being currently deliberated.

Competing in such coveted championships, where each dog already holds a title, distills the final outcome to the finest subtleties. Even the most acclaimed canines are judged upon their stand-out performances at the prestigious USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, the competition’s chosen venue.

Rosalind Kramer, the astute ‘best in show’ judge, poignantly remarked that the lineup was “excellent, glorious” and paid tribute to all the competitors, praising the challenge of the selection.

To Katie Bernardin, handler and co-owner of Monty, “sharing the ring with such amazing talent is an honor in itself”. Monty, described Bernardin, was a “true stallion” in spirit and physicality, and showed great dedication to the sport.

Dogs first compete within their breed under this format. The winner then partakes in a challenging ‘group’ round. The best of each of these rounds finally reach the ultimate showdown. Here, the triumphant canine earns not just the trophy but also a place in the illustrious legacy of the competition.

The Westminster dog show is varied not only in competition but also in crowd participation and fan favorites. This year, Harry, a friendly Lagotto Romagnolo, and Fletcher, an adorably athletic Vizsla, demanded raucous cheers as they pranced around the ring.

From dreaming giants like Sebastian, the playful Great Pyrenees, Emilio, the disciplined Doberman pinscher, to underdogs like Stache, the Sealyham terrier who won last year’s National Dog Show, every participant with their distinct personalities, contributed to the unique allure of the Westminster show.

The championship, established in 1877, has evolved from purebred judging to a more inclusive, interactive event over the past decade. This year was no exception, with its first non-purebred agility competition winner, Nimble, a spirited border collie-papillon mix.

Kramer summed up the essence of the event in her final remarks, attributing the success and spirit of the show to “every dog, whether it’s a house dog or a show dog. Because you make our lives whole.”