CJ named top dog at Westminster dog show

Posted at 12:28 AM, Feb 17, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-17 00:28:48-05

Now appointed America's top dog — CJ, the German shorthaired pointer.

CJ won best in show at the 140th Westminster Kennel Club on Tuesday night, beating a couple of top favorites at a nearly packed Madison Square Garden.

There was a moment of drama, too.

As judge Dr. Richard Meen from Canada began to announce his choice, 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 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 came 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.

A borzoi called Lucy finished second.

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, 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."

Also on display:

CATWALK TO DOGS WALK: This is Fashion Week in Manhattan, and the models are strutting less than a block from the Garden. But don't expect to see any of them venturing from the runway over to the ring.

Even though designer Valentino famously brings his pugs everywhere, most of the fashionistas are pretty busy. Instead, watch what the top handlers wear on the green carpet.

As a rule, the pooches are supposed to be the stars, so no glitzy couture or loosey-goosey garments.

Michelle Scott is among the very best; she's twice won best in show at Westminster.

"It has to be comfortable. It has to be professional. And I like bright colors," she said.

As for the models on the catwalk, would they be dressed for success with the dogs?

"Oh, they're all so beautiful," Scott said. "But those high heels and short, little outfits. I don't think that would work."

Most dog owners brought their own lucky clothes. From hats to sweaters to jewelry, there were many breeds and varieties of pooch apparel on parade around the rings.

Erik Schimmelfing of Raleigh, North Carolina, came to town with a T-shirt featuring a picture of a basset hound that covered his torso.

"This was the first article of clothing in my suitcase," he said.

UNO FLAP: Try to imagine Derek Jeter being ejected from Yankee Stadium on Old-Timers' Day. That's sort of what happened Monday night to Uno the beagle, widely acclaimed as the most popular winner in Westminster history.

CNBC wanted to show Uno in the opening segment of its telecast, and quietly brought the dog to the TV tower in the ring. But Uno wasn't registered to be in the building and Westminster officials didn't know he was there until they heard him barking.

Now almost 11, the 2008 winner and his handlers were escorted by security out of the Garden as "any undocumented dog would've been," Westminster President Sean McCarthy said.

A spokesman for NBC Sports said it was "a misunderstanding."


AP freelance writer Ginger Tidwell contributed to this report.