NEW YORK (AP) — Primped and poised, Siba the standard poodle owned the ring.
Even with the crowd at Madison Square Garden chanting for popular golden retriever Daniel, the statuesque Siba strutted off with Best in Show at the Westminster Kennel Club on Tuesday night.
Adorned with black puffs and pompoms, the 3-year-old Siba from Allentown, Pennsylvania, was the absolute picture of what many see as the epitome of a show dog.
Not everyone shared that view. As judge Bob Slay studied Siba in the best-of-seven final ring, a fan shouted out: “No way, Slay, no way!”
Slay stuck by what he saw.
“She’s beautiful and has that something,” said Siba’s handler, Chrystal Murray-Clas.
Bourbon the whippet finished second. Daniel was clearly the crowd favorite — a golden retriever has never won at Westminster — and his fans chanted his name as Slay deliberated.
Bono the Havanese, Wilma the boxer, Conrad the Shetland sheepdog, and Vinny the wire fox terrier also made the final grouping.
Poodles come in three sizes and this was the 10th time one of them has become America’s top dog, the first since 2002. A standard last won in 1991.
Siba put on an entertaining performance in the nonsporting group judging Monday night, doing the downward dog yoga pose before circling the ring. A day later, she was again at her best.
She won’t get much rest, either. Siba was set to hit the Wednesday morning TV shows, eat lunch at famed Manhattan restaurant Sardi’s, pose on the observation deck of the Empire State Building and perhaps walk onto the stage at the Broadway musical “Beetlejuice.”
The Westminster winner receives no prize money in a sport where owners can spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on their precious pets. Instead, the reward is a silver bowl, lucrative breeding potential and a lifetime of bragging rights in dog lore.
And in canine competitions, the poodles often rule.
But this is true, too: In the world of dogdom, there’s nothing that polarizes people like a poodle. Especially the big standard size, with their fancy coifs that would put the supermodels now in New York City for Fashion Week to shame.
“I don’t care for the cut. I understand it’s for function, to keep their joints warm, but it’s not for me,” Carol Sebastian, of Aberdeen, New Jersey, said Tuesday.
Longtime dog expert David Frei disagreed: “I always say, don’t let the haircut fool you. This is a smart, athletic, active dog that was originally developed in Germany as a water retrieving dog.”
With a more simple trim, he figured, “the world could unabashedly root for them. In the meantime, I will anyway.”
Siba was showing for the last time, set to retire after this event.
“She had the something extra at a young age,” Murray-Clas said.
Longtime handler Clint Livingston said he saw Siba two years ago at a show in York, Pennsylvania, and predicted a great future.
“I fell in love with her,” Livingston said.
He also understands the poodle predicament.
“They’ve been glamorized and for them, it’s a beauty pageant,” he said. “But underneath all that hair and everything, there’s structure and function.”
How did Siba prepare for the nonsporting group judging Monday night at the Garden? A gourmet meal? Nope. She scarfed down a grilled chicken sandwich from a handy McDonald’s.
And there was no reason to change the winning formula.
Tuesday night, she went back for what became a most happy meal.