We all jumped for joy this morning when we opened the Washington Post and saw that Stump, a 10-year-old Sussex Spaniel, won Best in Show at the Westminster Kennel Club show at Madison Square Garden last evening. That’s because we have a 12-year-old Sussex Spaniel, Lilly, who we consider our Best in Show every day of the year.
Lilly came to us after life as a show dog, having won all the competitions her breeder thought possible. The weekend before Thanksgiving in 2000 we went to a dog show to begin to get an idea of what type of breed we may want. Like President Obama, I had been promising Andrew and Claire that we’d get a dog once we found a permanent home in Washington. As seven-year-olds, they were searching the Internet nightly for information, and Claire would often bring printouts with pictures and information about a certain breed’s “kid friendly virtues” to the dinner table.
Sussex Spaniels were not on our radar screen, but as we stepped into the main building at the show we saw a group of dogs we didn’t recognize getting ready for their moment in the sun. After asking, we found out they were Sussex Spaniels, and all four of us were hooked from the beginning. On our way to our car, we saw a woman putting two dogs into the back of her Volvo wagon and we walked over to talk. It turns out she raised Sussex Spaniels, and one of the dogs she was loading up was Lilly, who had just competed in her last show. To cut to the chase, we exchanged phone numbers, did our homework, and returned the next day and brought Lilly home with us. It has been a wonderful eight years with Lilly at the heart of everything we do.
Lilly is friendly with us all, but she is devoted to Candice, which is a trait for these dogs. They latch onto one family member and never leave their side. Since Candice was the one around all the time when she first arrived, Candice was the chosen one. Lilly will play nice with me because she knows I take her out in the morning, and Andrew and Claire both have their dog responsibilities that Lilly relies on. But when Candice is out of the house, Lilly can usually be found by the back door (or more likely asleep on the couch near the back door), waiting for Candice’s return.
Stump is a repeat winner at Westminster, so we know what will happen next. I’ll be walking Lilly the next few weeks, and we’ll get stopped almost every day by someone asking, “Is that a Sussex Spaniel?” We’ll say yes, Lilly will lick their hand (if offered nicely), and we’ll have made a new friend. It is a good thing we had Lilly scheduled for a trip to the Groomery today – she’ll need to look good for her turn on the green carpet.
Congratulations Stump, from Sussex Spaniel owners everywhere. You’re best in show at MSG, but in our house you’d lose to Lilly.
More to come…