Buddy Holly, Westminster's Best in Show Winner, Is Going Out on Top
About 13 hours after the crowning achievement of his career, Buddy Holly the Petit Basset Griffon Vendéen was enjoying two things: a silver plate of chicken and retirement.
The 6-year-old PBGV won Best in Show at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show on Tuesday night in Queens, N.Y. It's the first-ever win for his rare breed, a victory so huge he doesn't have anything left to achieve in the show ring.
"He's retired," owner and handler Janice Hayes tells Daily Paws. "It doesn't get any better in this country."
Case and point: As the Best in Show winner, Buddy was treated to his (plain) chicken lunch at Tavern On the Green late Wednesday morning after his whirlwind morning-show tour. He seemed to really enjoy it.
For Hayes, who lives with Buddy in Palm Springs, Calif., winning Tuesday night fulfilled a dream she'd had since she was 9. That's worth missing out on one night's sleep.
"The adrenaline keeps you going," she says.
How Buddy Holly Won
Buddy Holly—whose name breeder Gavin Robertson said refers to his friendly nature—first won his breed Monday. The judge decided he fit the breed standard better than the other two PBGVs who showed up to compete, so he moved on to the Hound Group.
That was a bigger challenge, but not unlike what Buddy Holly had seen before. Originally from England, he competed in the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Australia in recent years, winning his breed at Crufts in 2018. He entered the Hound ring Monday with 34 other members of the group, all dogs who'd also won their breeds. Judge Edmund Dziuk sent him through.
"He's just special. He's just one of those dogs. He has the 'It Factor,'" Hayes told the FOX broadcast.
Buddy had most of Tuesday off as breed judging continued during the day. He was one of seven dogs—pared down from more than 2,500—in the Best in Show ring that night at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Among them were Winston the French bulldog (last year's National Dog Show winner) and giant schnauzer Monty, whose father won Reserve Best in Show in 2018.
After 19 minutes of evaluation, Judge Elizabeth Sweigart named Buddy the Best in Show winner. Hayes lowered her head to Buddy's before collapsing back onto her heels, later saying she was "overwhelmed" at the achievement.
"He's beautiful. He's beautiful," Sweigart told Hayes as they embraced.
It was Hayes's third time showing at Westminster. She told reporters afterward that she'd always known she'd have a Westminster winner. It was just a matter of when.
"He truly just did everything I asked him tonight," Hayes said. "He did it. I didn't care if he walked out with a ribbon or not 'cause he showed how I dreamed he would show. And I've run that through my head at least 1,000 times a day, and he did exactly what I wanted."
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A Rare Breed in the Spotlight
About five hours after his midnight press conference, Buddy began his media tour, visiting Good Morning America, Fox and Friends, and Today before appearing before even more cameras at Tavern On the Green.
A well-socialized dog, Buddy had no problem with all the flashing photos and microphones. In fact, he reveled in it, at one point removing the windscreen from an Entertainment Tonight reporter's microphone with his mouth.
His TV appearances are the first time some Americans have seen a PBGV. The French hound is rare in this country, ranking No. 154 on the American Kennel Club's list of popular breeds.
"We've [spent] a long time really getting this breed to be noticed, and it's fantastic to put them on the map," Hayes says.
The PBGV is likely a descendent of the larger Grand Basset Griffon Vendéen. They'll weigh up to 40 pounds or so and can live for 14–16 years.
As Buddy demonstrated over his time at Westminster, they're quite active little guys and gals. They're sweet but stubborn, and Hayes mentioned that they're not the dog for everyone. You have to spend more time training them than, say, a golden retriever.
They also take longer to exit the puppy stage. The other dogs in the Best in Show ring were around 3 and 4 years old, half the age of Buddy. He had to wait longer to mature, though he still has his independent streak. (He tried to eat some nearby flowers during his winner's press conference.)
"His naughtiness is a little more under control," Hayes says.
As for the breed's pronunciation, Hayes says it helps to know a little French: pa-teet ba-say gri-fon vond-de-on. If you're like me and are afraid of butchering that, PBGV works great.
"The fact that people know those letters is huge for us," Hayes says.