The oddest thing happened at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show on Tuesday night.
When the Best in Show judge announced that a fluffy, 5-year-old bichon frise named Flynn was the nation’s top dog, fans in the crowd at Madison Square Garden seemed shocked.
“Fans who had been loudly shouting for their favorites fell into stunned silence when judge Betty-Anne Stenmark announced her choice,” the Associated Press reported.
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It got worse. Some people booed — in the crowd and on Twitter where social media unleashed unkind opinions of Stenmark’s choice.
Flynn was only the second bichon to win Best in Show in Westminster history. He bested a handsome field that included Ty the giant schnauzer, Biggie the pug, Bean the Sussex spaniel, Lucy the borzoi, Slick the border collie and Winston the Norfolk terrier.
Ty, the nation’s No. 1 show dog last year, was the runner-up.
Last year, a “magnificent,” statuesque German shepherd named Rumor won Best in Show, sharp contrast to a dog that calls to mind a fluffy cloud or powder puff.
German shepherds are second only to Labrador retrievers on the American Kennel Club’s list of most popular dog breeds in the United States.
The bichon frise is No. 45 on that list.
But Best in Show at Westminster, no matter what viewers at home might believe or hope, is not a popularity contest.
Fans had latched themselves onto the compelling story of Biggie the pug, competing on behalf of his cousin Rumble, a champion dog who died unexpectedly last summer.
The Madison Square Garden crowd laughed and cheered loudly for Bean when he stood on his hind legs and begged his handler for a trick. Awwww.
As Best in Show judge, Stenmark’s job was not to compare the dogs to one another. It wasn’t Flynn vs. Biggie vs. Bean vs. Slick.
Stenmark, who by tradition spent the two-day show sequestered from news of it and participants to avoid undue influence, judged each dog against the standard of their individual breeds — a written description of the ideal specimen of that breed.
“You’re put on the spot,” Dennis McCoy, another judge at Westminster, told For The Win. “The pressure is you walk into that ring and have seven outstanding dogs and you’ve got to figure out which one, to you, is the epitome of his or her breed. It’s a lot of pressure, but it can also be a lot of fun.”
Flynn stood out as the “perfect example” of a bichon, Gail Miller Bisher, communications director for the Westminster Kennel Club, told ABC News.
“He has the dark round eyes that create the beautiful expression of a bichon,” she said.
Some people cheered Flynn’s win.
And others ...
Flynn visited Good Morning America on Wednesday where more was divulged about the surprise winner, who will now retire and move to Michigan to live with his owners.
Flynn is a clown. He loves a good belly rub. He loves to roll in the snow.
And, he’s related to the first bichon frise, named JR, who won Best in Show.
His handler, Bill McFadden, seemed just as surprised as a lot of people about their win.
“I knew he showed really good but so did all the others,” McFadden said, when asked if he thought Flynn would win.
“It was really an awesome lineup, beautiful dogs. So, no, I did not know. I just knew we did a good job.”