ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
The English Springer spaniel, according to the American Kennel Club, looks the part of a dog that can go and keep going under difficult hunting conditions. At his best, he is endowed with style, symmetry, balance and enthusiasm. The head is impressive without being heavy. Its beauty lies in the combination of strength and refinement. Feet are round or slightly oval. They are compact and well-arched, of medium size with thick pads and well-feathered between the toes.
I'm editing, for purposes of brevity, the description of the attributes of an English Springer spaniel that's much longer than that. And last night, a dog named James matched that description so well that he was declared not just the Best in Breed and Best in Class by the Westminster Kennel Club at Madison Square Garden, but he won the big one.
Unidentified Man#1: Tonight's (unintelligible) belongs to an English Springer spaniel.
Unidentified Man#2: Springer Spaniel, (unintelligible) Williams, Best in Show.
SIEGEL: And as we often do, we have called David Frei, voice of the SuperBowl of the canines, the four-legged equivalent of the Masters Tournament. Mr. Frei is at the day-after Westminster ritual at Sardy's, which David you ought to explain to us right now. What happens?
Mr. DAVID FREI (Westminster Kennel Club): Well, it's an annual luncheon that the Dog Fanciers Club of New York holds. And we culminate it by feeding chopped sirloin on a silver platter to the Best in Show dog, James, who cleaned that platter off very quickly.
SIEGEL: Now, what is so impressive about this year's Best in Show, James, the English Springer spaniel?
Mr. FREI: Well, it could be attitude or charisma or showmanship, whatever you want to call it, but it's that little something extra that makes the judge have his divine moment of inspiration while James is standing in front of him. And James put on a great show last night.
SIEGEL: Now, James is, by my informal count, the third Springer spaniel to be Best in Show since 1993. Does that make this an age of ascendancy for Springer spaniels?
Mr. FREI: Yes. I mean, they're great dogs. They're wonderful show dogs. They're big moving dogs in the ring and very pretty. And if they're built right, as they say, the engineers and the artist both in the judges have found the dog, then yes. But is it a continuing pattern or is it just something that happened? I don't know. I think it's just something that happens.
SIEGEL: Now, should a judge, whether in the breed competition or the group competition or Best in Show, should a judge take into account at all that in this case, the dog is, sort of the equivalent of the Miss America who is working for world peace, that is, he's a therapy dog - he's worked with Alzheimer's patients, he's a terrific animal doing good works?
Mr. FREI: No, it doesn't make a difference. We don't list their resume and all their philanthropic activities. But, you know, it does make you feel good, and it also, I think, goes to show that these are real dogs being shown by real people. And they do great things like that in their community, but does not figure at all in the dog show judging.
SIEGEL: Well, David Frei of the Westminster Kennel Club, thank you very much for talking with us once again.
Mr. FREI: You're very welcome, Robert.
SIEGEL: And convey our congratulations to James, the English Springer spaniel.
Mr. FREI: I'll do that.
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