Snakebit! Bullmastiff heals, heads to Westminster Dog Show

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NEW YORK — Whatever got a piece of gentle Titus in the North Carolina brush, it was trouble.

Co-owner Cassandra Carpenter reckons it was a pygmy rattlesnake. Veterinarian Jess Hunter figures it could’ve been a copperhead.

No matter, when Titus’ back left leg turned red, purple and black and suddenly blew up like a tennis ball last March, nobody was dwelling on whether this 3-year-old bullmastiff would someday walk in the Westminster Kennel Club dog ring.

“I thought he was going to lose a leg, or maybe even worse,” Carpenter said. “His show career didn’t mean anything at that point.”

Thanks to some fast, fine care on and off the vet’s table, the future for Titus wasn’t totally snakebit.

Nearly each of the 2,630 entries at America’s most prestigious pooch pageant is in flawless condition. There’s self-assured Thor the bulldog and fluffy Bono the Havanese, plus a bevy of fancy-cut poodles, perfectly primped Pekingnese and elegant borzoi.

They’ll come from 204 breeds and varieties, aiming to succeed King the wire fox terrier as the nation’s top dog when the winner is picked Tuesday night at packed Madison Square Garden.

Competition begins Saturday with the agility event that’s open to mutts and everyone else. Breed judging for beagles, whippets and the newly welcomed Azawakh in the purebred portion of the show starts Sunday.

Among the rows and rings will be Titus – he’s the one with the large, dark scar on his ankle.

Just making it this far, considering his episode less than a year ago, was quite a step.

“It could’ve been really bad,” said Carpenter, a longtime vet tech.

She is Titus’ co-owner, breeder and handler from Stuart, Florida, and was visiting one of her mentors in the canine world when something went terribly wrong. Only a few months after he’d started his show career, too.

Titus had gone out toward some trees for a bit and came back fine, or so it appeared. But over the next couple of days, there were problems with the 120-pound, fawn-colored steed with the wrinkly face and happy disposition.

“He had a high fever, he wasn’t his usual bright, cheery, happy-go-lucky self. And his thigh started swelling up,” Carpenter said.

As the symptoms quickly got worse, and away from her regular vet, she scrambled to find help. That’s when she connected with “a country vet who I liked and trusted.”

That was Hunter, in Kannapolis, North Carolina. Her initial thought?

“His leg looked terrible,” she said. “His leg was pretty gross.”

As for what exactly caused the trauma, no telling.

“Sometimes, a dog’s not talkin’,” Hunter said.

Over the next several hours, Hunter and vet tech Tonya Waters lanced the wound, cleaned it and put Titus on the road to recovery.

“He started looking better before he left the clinic,” Hunter said. “It was pretty dramatic.”

Said Carpenter: “I thought we’d have to do skin grafts. It looked like someone had come with an ice cream scooper and scooped out some of the skin.”

That wasn’t necessary, though other measures were. He needed a drain and bandages to keep the healing process in motion, and wore a lampshade-style collar to ensure he wouldn’t cause any setbacks.

Despite the injury, Titus never lost his stride. By late last June, he slowly made his way back into the ring. Last November, he posted his biggest victory yet, winning best of breed in the National Dog Show televised by NBC on Thanksgiving Day.

Next up, tail-wagging Titus is among 16 bullmastiffs entered Tuesday morning at Westminster. Carpenter will guide him into the ring.

Hunter expects to be working with other animals and pets at that time. She might, however, break away for a few minutes to tune in.

“To be honest, I don’t think I’ve ever watched a dog show all the way through. But I might keep an eye on Titus. My eyeballs will go to that back left leg,” she said. “Yep, I’d say that leg is looking pretty good now.”

Elsewhere around the rings:

WHY DOES MY POOCH NEVER, EVER WIN?

It’s doggone not fair, is it? You faithfully watch Westminster every year with the best, sweetest, most loyal golden retriever of all time in your lap, and yet the judge always points to someone else.

Same for Labs, dachsies, Chihuahuas and Dalmatians. They’re also in the Garden doghouse. Between all of those popular breeds, their combined total of top prizes here is zero. Not a single best in show win.

Meanwhile, wire fox terriers have won 15 times, with Scottish terriers next at eight.

One theory among retriever rooters: They’re too common. It’s tough for them to stand out among a snazzy bichon frise or a pert Yorkie.

But how ’bout letting them take a bow wow, right?

THE ROOKIE

Loosely called African greyhounds, the Azawakh breed makes its Westminster debut. They’re sleek and slender – with their ribs showing and hip bones protruding, they often draw concerned looks from passers-by who worry the dogs are hungry. But that’s the proper configuration for this breed.

“I’ve had people call animal control on me. I’ve become friends with animal control in Philadelphia,” said Azawakh owner Aliya Taylor, a veteran of the city’s police force. “They know me. They’re like, ‘you’re fine.”‘

MEOW, NOW

Manchester terriers, miniature pinschers and Maltese will split attention with another big event in town – while the dogs hit the green carpet at the Garden, models strut the catwalk at Fashion Week.

To someone like Michelle Scott, it’s imperative to have a handle on what to wear. She’s won two best in show ribbons at Westminster, guiding a German shorthaired pointer and a Newfoundland to victory.

Scott picks outfits that don’t distract from her dogs. She likes the style of supermodels, but flouncy, bouncy couture – think Heidi Klum on the runway, with an Afghan hound – is a no-no.

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

Scottish Deerhound makes history, wins Best in Show again at 2021 National Dog Show

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The Scottish Deerhound has won Best in Show again at the 2021 National Dog Show, making it the first repeat champion in the competition’s history.

Claire the Scottish Deerhound beat out hundreds of dogs representing 180 breeds and varieties recognized by the American Kennel Club. She completed the same feat last year as well. First, she won the Hound Group in a field of 29 breeds. She then competed against the other six group winners before taking home the top honor. The Pyrenean Shepard, winner of the Herding Group, was named Reserve Best in Show.

Hear from Claire’s handler Angie Lloyd about the victory:

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Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2021 National Dog Show will only allow fully vaccinated spectators, which is a change from the previous event. Last year, the competition was held without spectators, vendors, sponsors or media. Judging followed strict safety guidelines, including social distancing, wearing masks and monitoring temperatures of all participants. The competition was also limited to 600 dogs, a 70% decrease from the nearly 2,000 who compete in a regular year. Read more about the National Dog Show’s vaccination policy for the 2021 edition.

The Kuvasz won the Working Group; the Bulldog won the Non-Sporting Group; the Lakeland Terrer won the Terrier Group; and the Affenpinscher won the Toy Group; and the German Shorthaired Pointer won the Sporting Group.

This year, one breed made its National Dog Show debut. The Biewer Terrier (pronounced like beaver), which competed in the Toy Group, originated in Germany as a tri-colored Yorkie.In 2007, Mars Veterinary geneticists studying the DNA from 10 Biewer Terriers determined that it was a bonafide breed, stemming from the dominant traits of four others – Yorkshire Terrier, Maltese, Havanese and Bichon Frise – making it the first breed ever to be recognized as purebred as a result of a genetic study. The breed is long-haired and tri-colored with a soft-silky coat and its feathered tail curled over its back.

Related: Full list of breeds at 2021 National Dog Show

NBC televised the 2021 National Dog Show directly after the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade for the 20th straight year. Every year, more than 20 million people tune in for the event, which was commentated by longtime hosts John O’Hurley and David Frei. Mary Carillo also returned for more commentary, analysis and behind-the-scenes looks at one of the oldest dog shows in the world.

Full list of breeds at the 2021 National Dog Show

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For its annual TV special “The National Dog Show Presented by Purina,” NBC records the judging, examination and walk of all breeds and varieties competing in the annual event so that dog lovers and aficionados can get a close-up look at their breeds of interest.

The exclusive video generates heavy interest from enthusiasts around the world with a total of 160 breeds and varieties featured with backdrop audio of the breed description from PA announcer Wayne Ferguson, President of the Kennel Club of Philadelphia.

Related: Download the 2021 National Dog Show program,

Groups

Best In Show | All Group Winners

Herding Group | Winner

Hound Group | Winner

Non-Sporting Group | Winner

Sporting Group | Winner

Terrier Group | Winner

Toy Group | Winner

Working Group | Winner

 

Herding Group (All Dogs | Winner)

Australian Cattle Dog

Australian Shepherd

Bearded Collie

Beauceron

Belgian Laekenois

Belgian Malinois

Belgian Sheepdog

Belgian Tervuren

Bergamasco

Berger Picard

Border Collie

Briard

Canaan Dog

Cardigan Welsh Corgi

Collie (Rough)

Collie (Smooth)

Finnish Lapphund

German Shepherd Dog

Miniature American Shepherd

Old English Sheepdog

Pembroke Welsh Corgi

Polish Lowland Sheepdog

Puli

Pumi

Pyrenean Shepherd

Shetland Sheepdog

Spanish Water Dog

 

Hound Group (All Dogs | Winner)

Afghan Hound

American Foxhound

Azawakh

Basenji

Basset Hound

Beagle (15 inches)

Bloodhound

Borzoi

Bluetick Coonhound

Cirneco dell’Etna

Dachshund (Longhaired)

Dachshund (Smooth)

Dachshund (Wirehaired)

Greyhound

Ibizan Hound

Irish Wolfhound

Norwegian Elkhound

Otterhound

Petit Basset Griffon Vendeen

Pharaoh Hound

Plott

Portuguese Podengo Pequeno

Redbone Coonhound

Rhodesian Ridgeback

Saluki

Scottish Deerhound

Sloughi

Treeing Walker Coonhound

Whippet

 

Non-Sporting Group (All Dogs | Winner)

American Eskimo

Bichon Frise

Boston Terrier

Bulldog

Chinese Shar-Pei

Chow Chow

Coton de Tulear

Dalmatian

French Bulldog

Keeshond

Lhasa Apso

Löwchen

Poodle (Miniature)

Poodle (Standard)

Schipperke

Shiba Inu

Tibetan Spaniel

Tibetan Terrier

Xoloitzcuintli

 

Sporting Group (All Dogs | Winner)

Barbet

Brittany

Chesapeake Bay Retriever

Clumber Spaniel

Cocker Spaniel (ASCOB)

Cocker Spaniel (Black)

Cocker Spaniel (Parti-Color)

Curly-Coated Retriever

English Cocker Spaniel

English Setter

English Springer Spaniel

Field Spaniel

Flat-Coated Retriever

German Shorthaired Pointer

Golden Retriever

Gordon Setter

Irish Red & White Setter

Irish Setter

Irish Water Spaniel

Labrador Retriever

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever

Nederlandse Kooikerhondje

Pointer

Spinone Italiano

Sussex Spaniel

Vizsla

Weimaraner

Welsh Springer Spaniel

Wirehaired Pointing Griffon

 

Terrier Group (All Dogs | Winner)

Airedale Terrier

American Staffordshire Terrier

Australian Terrier

Bedlington Terrier

Border Terrier

Cairn Terrier

Cesky Terrier

Colored Bull Terrier

Glen of Imaal Terrier

Irish Terrier

Kerry Blue Terrier

Lakeland Terrier

Miniature Bull Terrier

Miniature Schnauzer

Norfolk Terrier

Norwich Terrier

Parson Russell Terrier

Rat Terrier

Russell Terrier

Scottish Terrier

Sealyham Terrier

Skye Terrier

Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier

Staffordshire Bull Terrier

Welsh Terrier

West Highland White Terrier

White Bull Terrier

Wire Fox Terrier

 

Toy Group (All Dogs | Winner)

Affenpinscher

Biewer Terrier

Brussels Griffon

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

Chinese Crested

English Toy Spaniel (B&PC)

English Toy Spaniel (KC&R)

Havanese

Italian Greyhound

Japanese Chin

Long Coat Chihuahua

Miniature Pinscher

Papillon

Pekingese

Pomeranian

Pug

Smooth Coat Chihuahua

Toy Fox Terrier

Toy Manchester Terrier

Toy Poodle

Yorkshire Terrier

 

Working Group (All Dogs | Winner)

Akita

Alaskan Malamute

Bernese Mountain Dog

Black Russian Terrier

Boxer

Bullmastiff

Cane Corso

Doberman Pinscher

Dogo Argentino

Dogue de Bordeaux

German Pinscher

Giant Schnauzer

Great Dane

Great Pyrenees

Greater Swiss Mountain Dog

Komondor

Kuvasz

Leonberger

Mastiff

Neapolitan Mastiff

Newfoundland

Portuguese Water Dog

Rottweiler

Saint Bernard

Samoyed

Siberian Husky

Standard Schnauzer

Tibetan Mastiff

Related: What to know about the National Dog Show

NBCSports.com also includes highlights from the TV special and behind-the-scenes video, capturing all the backstage canine energy of one of the country’s oldest and most well-known dog shows.

The two-hour special airs on Thanksgiving Day, November 25, following the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade for the 19th straight year. It annually attracts a total audience of more than 20 million people as America’s most prominent and widely-viewed showcase for the sport.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the National Dog Show will only allow fully vaccinated spectators. Read more about the National Dog Show’s vaccination policy for the 2021 edition.

Watch NBC’s coverage of the National Dog Show on Thanksgiving day, November 25, directly after the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade from 12-2 p.m. local time on NBC, NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app.