It was a fight to the finish, but Scottish Deerhound Hickory was named Best in Show Tuesday night at the Westminster Kennel Club dog show in New York City.
Five-year-old Hickory, full name GCH Foxcliffe Hickory Wind, was a bit of a surprise choice; though the regal pup glided through the ring at Madison Square Garden, fan favorites like the bearded collie and Pekingese earned more applause. But it didn't stop judge Paolo Dondina from naming the pooch – the first ever Scottish Deerhound to win Best in Show – top dog.
"It was not an easy win," Dondina told reporters after the show. "It was a super win because all the other [dogs] were Best in Show winners in many places. I found the standard of the dogs and the presentation absolutely superb." But what stood out about Hickory – whom he called a "well-balanced" dog – was her beauty and showmanship. "I'm very happy," he said of his decision.
A Final Victory
Hickory's handler, 31-year-old Angela Lloyd, said the victory took a minute to sink in. "You question that you heard it correctly," she joked. But she knew her dog's honor was well deserved. "She went in there tonight, she showed like she's never shown before. She was solid and steady," Lloyd said. "Even [despite] all of the lights and cameras and the noise and the spotlights, she came right through it."
Asked if she ever doubted her dog, Lloyd simply said no. "I thought she was this worthy before," she said.
Lloyd, a breeder's daughter who won Westminster's junior championship in 1998, told reporters that with the title behind her, Hickory is now officially retired. The "docile" dog will head to Flint Hill, Va., where she'll live on a farm with breeders Dr. R. Scott and Cecilia L. Dove.
"I'm going to miss the nose nudge in the middle of the night," Lloyd shared, explaining Hickory's cutest habit. "She's always making sure that I still know she's very important."
Hickory beat out a Pekingese, Chinese Shar-Pei, bearded collie, black cocker spaniel, Portuguese water dog (no, not Bo!) and smooth fox terrier to win her title.
The Westminster Dog Show was established in 1877 and is the second longest continuously held sporting event in the U.S., just a year behind the Kentucky Derby, the club says. This year the Boykin spaniel, Leonberger, cane corso, Icelandic sheepdog, bluetick coonhound and redbone coonhound were eligible for competition for the first time. The show, which aired live on the USA Network Tuesday, has been televised since 1948.Did the best dog win? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!Read more about Westminster on PEOPLEPets.com:Schmitty the Weather Dog Provides the Forecast for Westminster VisitorsBehind the Scenes at Westminster 2011