Dayton Daily News

Whiskey revving up action at dog show

Whippet favorite to replace bichon frise Flynn as top dog.

- By Ben Walker

NEW YORK — Sleek and aerodynami­c, Whiskey the whippet is dashing through the dog show world.

He’s among the fastest breed of pooches on the planet, and his rise has been rapid: Coming off big wins televised on Thanksgivi­ng Day and New Year’s Day, he’ll now try for dogdom’s Triple Crown starting Monday at the Westminste­r Kennel Club.

“He does his best at these high-profile rings,” owner-breeder-handler Justin Smithey said. “He knows how to turn it off, lay down and wait till it’s his turn. And then he just goes.”

So let’s make this fawnand-white whippet the favorite to get picked Tuesday night and succeed Flynn the bichon frise as America’s top dog.

There more than 2,800 entries, including popular Biggie the pug, a Lhasa apso from Hawaii who surfs with his owner and the nation’s No. 1-ranked qualifier last year, Grant the black cocker spaniel.

They come in 203 breeds and varieties, with the grand basset griffon Vendeen and the Nederlands­e kooikerhon­dje ready to make their debuts on the green carpet of Madison Square Garden.

Jil Walton says she’ll be rooting hard for Whiskey — “I really, really want that whippet to win!” she said.

See, she once brought a whippet to the Garden, too.

Remember hers? Sweet, gentle Vivi?

A lot of dogs have left Westminste­r with a legacy — Uno the baying beagle, heady Rufus the colored bull terrier, ol’ Stump the Sussex spaniel — but few will ever match the lore of Vivi.

It was 2006, a day after the 3-year-old won an Award of Merit, an honorable mention for whippets. Set to get loaded at John F. Kennedy Internatio­nal Airport for a flight back to Los Angeles, she suddenly broke loose from her crate and took off.

Vivi bolted onto the runaway and airport workers gave chase, on foot and in cars.

No luck.

Similar to greyhounds but smaller, whippets have tremendous accelerati­on and can sprint at 35 mph and up. In full flight, Vivi couldn’t be caught, escaping through a fence and disappeari­ng into the marshland.

More than 100 volunteers looked, thousands of fliers were posted. Pet psychics tried to communicat­e with her, a reward was offered. Dog owners all over the country worried and wondered: Where’s Vivi?

Plenty of tips poured in during those early winter days and nights, supposedly she was seen in several parts of New York City. But none of those reports checked out.

As far as anyone knows, Vivi was never seen again.

“When I think about Vivi’s Westminste­r, I still run a million scenarios through my head and end up getting sad,” Walton, Vivi’s co-owner, said this week. “But overall, Vivi’s story did touch people and I was lucky enough to be touched by them as well.”

And, a wishful thought. “My silly hope is that my girl ended up happy on someone’s couch,” she said.

Smithey, who figures he’s competed at Westminste­r about 15 times, grew quiet at the mention of Vivi. “So sad, that was,” he said. Whiskey has already won the National Dog Show and the prized AKC event. Only Sadie the Scottish terrier in 2010 and Sky the wire fox terrier in 2014 have taken those two and Westminste­r.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United States