Prime Peke! Wasabi the Pekingese wins Westminster dog show

A Pekingese named Wasabi nabbed U.S. dogdom’s most prestigious prize after winning the big American Kennel Club National Championship in 2019.TAP TO UNMUTE

June 14, 2021, 5:13 AM PDTBy The Associated Press

TARRYTOWN, N.Y. — The flavor of the year at the Westminster Kennel Club dog show: Wasabi.

A Pekingese named Wasabi won best in show Sunday night, notching a fifth-ever win for the unmistakable toy breed. A whippet named Bourbon repeated as runner-up.

Waddling through a small-but-mighty turn in the ring, Wasabi nabbed U.S. dogdom’s most prestigious prize after winning the big American Kennel Club National Championship in 2019.

“He has showmanship. He fits the breed standard. He has that little extra something, that sparkle, that sets a dog apart,” said Wasabi’s handler, breeder and co-owner, David Fitzpatrick. Show judge Patricia Trotter said simply: “What’s not to like about this dog? … He stood there as though he was a lion.”

Fitzpatrick, of East Berlin, Pennsylvania, guided the Peke’s grandfather Malachy to the Westminster title in 2012. Still, he said, “I just don’t always think lightning is going to strike twice.”

How will Wasabi celebrate?

“He can have a filet mignon. And I’ll have Champagne,” Fitzpatrick said with a laugh.

The Pekingese dog "Wasabi" wins Best in Show at the 145th Annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show June 13, 2021, at the Lyndhurst Estate in Tarrytown, N.Y.
The Pekingese dog “Wasabi” wins Best in Show at the 145th Annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show June 13, 2021, at the Lyndhurst Estate in Tarrytown, N.Y.Timothy A. Clary / AFP – Getty Images

The 3-year-old Pekingese, meanwhile, was “pretty nonchalant about the whole thing,” his handler said. Indeed, Wasabi laid down on the dais, occasionally looking up as if to see what the fuss was all about, as Fitzpatrick spoke before a cluster of reporters and cameras.

It was a poignant win that came after one of his co-owners, archaeologist Iris Love, died last year of COVID-19. Besides Fitzpatrick, the dog is also co-owned by Sandra Middlebrooks and Peggy Steinman.

Wasabi — the name derives from his mother, Sushi — came out on top of a finalist pack that also included Mathew the French bulldog, Connor the old English sheepdog, Jade the German shorthaired pointer, Striker the Samoyed, and a West Highland white terrier named Boy. Altogether, 2,500 champion dogs entered the show.

It underwent big changes this year because of the coronavirus pandemic, moving out of New York City for the first time since the show’s 1877 founding. This year’s show was held outdoors at an estate in suburban Tarrytown, about 25 miles north of where the top ribbon is usually presented at Madison Square Garden, and it happened in June instead of February.

In a sign of the pandemic times, some handlers wore masks — though vaccinated people were allowed to go without — and the show was closed to the public.

“It’s a miracle that they even had this show,” Fitzpatrick said.

Striker went into the show as the top-ranked U.S. dog, with more than 40 best in show wins since January 2020. And Bourbon had also won the AKC National Championship.


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The show was bittersweet for Jade’s handler and co-owner, Valerie Nunes-Atkinson. She guided Jade’s father, CJ, to a 2016 Westminster best in show win — and lost him last September, when the 7-year-old died unexpectedly of a fungal infection.

“The good part about it is: He’s left an incredible legacy,” said Nunes-Atkinson, of Temecula, California. She said Jade “had my heart” from birth.

Boy had come a long way to Westminster — all the way from Thailand, where one of his owners was watching from Bangkok, according to handler Rebecca Cross.

“He always makes us laugh,” said Cross, of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

David Fitzpatrick holds his Pekingese "Wasabi" after winning the Best in Show at the 145th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show at Lyndhurst Mansion in Tarrytown, N.Y., on June 13, 2021.
David Fitzpatrick holds his Pekingese “Wasabi” after winning the Best in Show at the 145th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show at Lyndhurst Mansion in Tarrytown, N.Y., on June 13, 2021.Mike Segar / Reuters

For many dog owners, just making it to Westminster is a thrill — even for baseball’s all-time home run leader, Barry Bonds, who was cheering on a miniature schnauzer he owns with sister Cheryl Dugan.

The dog, Rocky, didn’t win his breed, but the slugger said he was proud of Rocky simply for qualifying for the champions-only show.

“We won because we got here. That’s all that matters,” Bonds told Fox Sports. “I’ve been to a lot of playoffs, and I’ve been to the World Series, and I’ve never won. But for 22 years, I kept trying.”

The 56-year-old Bonds holds baseball’s career home run record with 762, though his feat was clouded by allegations of steroid use — he denied knowingly taking them.

While semifinal and final rounds were held in a climate-controlled tent, earlier parts of the competition unfolded on the grass at an estate called Lyndhurst.

Douglas Tighe, who handled a Brittany named Pennie second place in the sporting group, says he just goes with it if his dogs get distracted by birds and other attractions in the great outdoors.

“Let them have fun,” said Tighe, of Hope, New Jersey. “That’s what it’s all about.”

That’s what it’s about to Kole Brown, too. At age 9, he showed a bull terrier named Riley on Sunday alongside his parents, Kurtis Brown and U.S. Air Force Capt. Samantha Brown, and some of the family’s other bull terriers.

“I have a lot of fun with this sport,” said Kole, of San Antonio, Texas. “Every single time I go into the ring, I have a smile on my face.”

10 thoughts on “Prime Peke! Wasabi the Pekingese wins Westminster dog show

  1. Depends on one’s ‘idea’ of dog. To some persons this dog is a freak who needs his own full time personal beautician.

  2. while I do not like most breeders who don’t give a damn about their dogs, I do appreciate quality breeders striving to keep top qualities of the breed. There are many breeds I like, but I always rescue my dogs.

    • Breeders only care about looks; their manipulation has caused problems in hips, temperament and breathing, just to name a few of their dr frankenstein egocentric practices.
      They force breed the mom dogs and then sell their babies to the highest bidder.
      They are blood- money profiteers whose victims end up in ” purebred” rescues and shelters.
      They ” cull”( aka kill) puppies who dont “meet standards”.
      Its a good thing there arent standards for them or they would be “culled ” too.
      Another example of anthropocentric mindset and speciesism.
      They can go straight to hell.

  3. I get it….Puppy mills are truly horrible and the dogs are unhealthy with the females being bred over and over for the money. They certainly do not care about breed standards and sell pups who are unhealthy. Old English Bulldogs have suffered horribly at the hands of breeders even the supposedly good ones. German Shepherds are bred to have that ridiculous hind end slouch that ensures they will get hip dysplasia. I do believe however that there are a few “good” breeders out there who genuinely care about the breed. They might import studs and females from Europe to bring healthier stock here.They don’t kill puppies based on standards, but sell pet quality and show quality. But truly, most purebreds come from puppy mills and backyard breeders. I also blame the people who want purebreds and buy from these folks without doing any research or buy online without seeing the parents. It’s up to the buyers to do the research, but many do not. Meanwhile, millions of dogs (and cats) are euthanized every year in shelters or all because folks have to have a purebred. Then you have to go into the horrors of how the millions of dogs end up in shelters. It’s a nightmare for sure, and it falls on the idiot humans who perpetrate this horror. A truly reputable breeder screens potential buyers; they don’t overbreed the females and in fact sell them to good homes when their breeding is over usually by age 4.
    I have to grit my teeth when my friend says she would never get a dog from a shelter. they flew to Finlad to get Bracco Italiano and I went with her to a breeder when she got her Harlequin Great Dane and she met the parents, the breeder did not overbreed the Danes and she had imported some European bloodlines.She only had one litter when we were there. Anyhow, it’s a complex issue…

    • Thousands of dogs in shelters and rescues are killed everyday.
      And yet the ego-centric and profit-driven
      “responsible” breeders bring more and more into this world.
      People are dumping their “purebred” dogs who they bought from ” responsible” breeders at shelters and rescues all the time.
      And the people who buy from these Animal slavery operations are keeping them are complicit in this misery.
      So-called ” responsible” breeders indeed.
      Would we condone this if it was done to human beings?
      Would you like it done to you?

  4. Believe me, 98% of breeders in this country are only out for profit shitheads. the amish have puppy mills; In Texas and parts of the southwest there are so many Cattle dog breeders that the shelters are filled with Cattle Dogs. My last dog was a Cattle Dog rescue from here in WA state whose owner dumped him un neutered. Most rural people rarely if ever have their dogs spayed and neutered. Most people get breeds they no nothing about…but when have most folks taken the time to do the research, or try to get a specific breed from specific breed rescue groups, instead of from a breede. To reiterate, most breeders are out for the quick buck; a few are concerned with the continuation of a specific breed and breed to a much higher standard and do not over breed. These are few and far between to be sure. And kudos to the rescue groups who fly and drive shelter dogs to new owners all over the country. My current dog was a stray from California and driven by a rescue group to a rescue near me in Seattle.But too many dogs, you bet and it’s even worse if possible in other countries.

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