A Westminster wow: Bichon frise becomes America’s top dog

The white puff ball took home the top prize

Flynn the bichon frise won best in show at the Westminster Kennel Club on Tuesday night, a choice that seemed to surprise almost everyone in the crowd at Madison Square Garden.

Fans who had been loudly shouting for their favourites fell into stunned silence when judge Betty-Anne Stenmark announced her decision.

No matter, the white powder puff was picked and walked off as America’s top dog.

Guided by expert handler Bill McFadden, Flynn beat out Ty the giant schnauzer, Biggie the pug, Bean the Sussex spaniel, Lucy the borzoi, Slick the border collie and Winston the Norfolk terrier.

“It feels a little unreal,” McFadden said. “I came in expecting nothing except hoping for a good performance, and I think I got it.”

Underdogs and upsets are way more than norm on the green carpet of the Garden — inside dog fanciers indeed fancied Flynn, but the people sitting in the stands was obviously pulling for other dogs.

Ty came into this competition as the nation’s No. 1 show dog last year and finished as the runner-up. He endeared himself to the crowd by jumping up and putting his front paws around handler Katie Bernardin after winning the working group earlier in the evening. Slick and Lucy also drew applause.

Cheers of “Let’s go, Biggie!” bounced all arena for the popular pug. And Bean was a clear crowd favourite, the way he sat up straight on his hind legs and begged judges for the biggest treat in dogdom.

Almost 6, Flynn posted his 42nd career best in show victory in what is almost certainly his last show before retiring.

The famed JR was the only other bichon to win Westminster, in 2001. McFadden has enjoyed success at the Garden, having guided Mick the Kerry blue terrier to the title in 2003.

Flynn won’t get much rest before beginning his victory lap. Wednesday’s schedule includes visits to the morning TV news shows, a steak lunch at Sardi’s, a trip to the top of the Empire State Building, and he’s been invited for a walk-on part at a Broadway hit “Kinky Boots.”

The Westminster-winning team gets no prize money. Instead, there’s a shiny bowl, lucrative breeding fees and, most of all, a lifetime of memories.

The 142nd Westminster event attracted 2,882 entries in 202 breeds and varieties. Among those who didn’t quite make the cut: face-licking Spicy Nacho the miniature bull terrier who drew laughs, just not the judge’s look.

Flynn made a goodwill gesture toward Stenmark upon meeting her, offering his paw as if to shake hands when she went down the line to review the final seven dogs.

His full name is Belle Creek’s All I Care About is Love, and this champion from the nonsporting group delivered a few minutes before it became Valentine’s Day.

“He has my heart,” McFadden said. “He is pure joy.”

The fans seemed to like Flynn, too, only they hollered a lot more for several others.

“He kept wagging his tail and that sold himself to me,” Stenmark said.

Ben Walker, The Associated Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

City of Abbotsford not ready for legal pot

Municipalities must wait for feds, province to pass laws

Fire at abandoned home for second time in over a month

Crews called out early Monday morning to blaze in Abbotsford

New mural in Abbotsford represents openness and community growth

Piece led by group passionate about youth development and promoting the arts

RCMP warns public after woman allegedly groped in Newton

Officers appealing for any information that may lead to a suspect identification

Police investigate sexual assault in Abbotsford

Man grabs woman by shoulders and makes sexual comments

VIDEO: Is Abbotsford ready for legal pot?

City council has many concerns

Rachel Notley to skip premiers conference to focus on pipeline deal

Kinder Morgan has ceased all non-essential spending on the Trans Mountain pipeline project until it receives assurances

B.C. tech company will power Uber Elevate

Moli and Uber announce research and development partnership.

UPDATE: Woman dies in ocean accident near Tofino hours before daughter’s wedding

“We are so thankful to everyone who helped our mom.”

Olympian sues USA Swimming, saying it failed to protect her

Ariana Kukors Smith alleges her former coach Sean Hutchison began grooming her for sexual abuse at the age of 13

Defence minister thanks troops for B.C. flood relief work

Harjit Sajjan says not only was military response quick, support from locals has been ‘tremendous’

Arrest made in last week’s double shooting in East Van

Carleton Stevens, 37, is charged with attempted murder and remains in custody

Couple survives being buried in mudslide on B.C. highway

The couple, from Saskatchewan, were en route to Nelson when a tree fell in their path

‘So grateful:’ Injured Bronco hockey player glad he’s alive, works on recovery

Ryan Straschnitzki was badly hurt in the accident: a spinal injury, broken ribs, a broken collar bone, and punctured lung

Most Read