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Westminster winner Stump the Sussex spaniel has connections in the dog-show world

February 11, 2009 |  5:35 pm

Westminster winner Stump the Sussex spaniel checks his trophy for possible snacks America's new favorite canine senior citizen, Westminster champ Stump the Sussex spaniel, seemed at first an unlikely Best in Show winner.  The long, low spaniel -- 10 years old and having survived a severe illness that nearly killed him (he was saved by vets at Texas A&M University, where he spent 19 days) -- came out of retirement and beat the No. 1 show dog in the nation (giant schnauzer Spirit) and other front-runners including Lincoln the Brussels griffon.

Appearances aside, Stump -- plain-looking though he may be (he really does look a lot like the tree stump after which he was named) -- was actually groomed for stardom from birth.  Stump's co-breeder, Doug Johnson of Clussexx kennels, also bred Brady, the Clumber spaniel who took Best in Show in 1996.  His handler and co-owner, Scott Sommer, also handled Special Times Just Right (also known as J.R.), the Bichon Frise who won Westminster in 2001.  Stump and J.R. are housemates now.

His triumphant turn at Westminster marked his first dog show in more than four years; his preparation for the big comeback consisted of little more than a practice spin around Sommer's driveway.  "To bring a dog into the Garden who hasn't been showing, [Sommer] was a little insane," said judge Sari Tietjen, who gave Stump the nod for Best in Show.

That aside, Tietjen said she didn't recognize Stump or realize how old he was.  "He's just everything that you'd want in the breed, and I couldn't say no to him," she said in an interview.  As for Stump?  He's now officially retired -- again -- and Sommer says retirement will stick this time. 

"Stump's going to travel back to Houston and kind of stay there," the owner-handler told the New York Times. "He doesn’t travel that much."

-- Lindsay Barnett

Photo: It's not that kind of bowl, Stump! Credit: Chris McGrath / Getty Images

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