How Wasabi, Winner of the Westminister 2021 Dog Show, Uses Retirement

EAST BERLIN, Pa. – For a short time shining last summer, Wasabi Mpekingese was America’s most celebrated dog, with all his hair and beauty when he posed for his best show at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.

But the new champion will be crowned on Wednesday, when the 2022 competition ends in Lyndhurst, a mansion in Tarrytown, NY Which raises questions: What has happened to the former champion? Once the dog reaches the peak of success, what does he do next?

A recent visit to rural Pennsylvania found GCHG CH Pequest Wasabi, as he is officially known (the letters represent his winning credentials), settled at home, already retired at the age of 4. Saying hello, he did not run, but he moved at a deliberate pace, his delicate locks blowing like wheat blown by the wind.

Do not rush to Pekingese. If there is one thing about Wasabi, it is that you are not his boss. “If I throw the toy at him, he will go and get it, but he will not return it,” said David Fitzpatrick, a herdsman, co-owner and co-owner of the Wasabi. “He knows I’ll bring him.”

Wasabi was the best dog in the country in 2021 and has won 50 best shows under his collar. Along with his Westminster crown, he won the best show at the American Kennel Club National Competition in 2019 and at last year’s Morris & Essex Kennel Club Dog Show, a once-in-a-lifetime event where human participants wear gentle dress. early costume of the 20th century. These three titles make the Wasabi a truly rare dog, the same dog as the Grand Slam winner in tennis.

But she has not used this time to wear a small tiara or take the Miss America style championship across the country. The life of the Wasabi is the same as it was, an endless schedule of sleeping, eating, eating, snuggling and leaning. If he seems unchanging and successful, it is because winning Westminster is more glorious than profit.

Famous dogs can get free food – Fitzpatrick, 65, is an ambassador for Purina’s Pro Plan brand, meaning he collects points that can be exchanged for food discounts and other benefits. But no money is being exchanged in Westminster, unless we are talking about the cost of transporting, maintaining, feeding and accommodating a participant. And unlike, say, horse racing, the winners do not order much, or anything, in stud fees.

Still, Wasabi has given birth to six children. (Fitzpatrick took two of them out, in a small flower basket. They refused to give their opinion, as they were only a few weeks old, but they opened their eyes for a moment.) The dog comes out of the wrong stock: His grandfather Malachy won best in the show Westminster in 2012; his nephew Fortune Cookie is taking part in the show this year.

Even when he was a child himself, just a little bit of emotion, Wasabi seemed to be planning big things.

“I knew when he was 4 months old,” Fitzpatrick said. “He just had a lot of presence, ‘Hey, look at me’ attitude. And then when we put him in charge – sometimes it’s hard to get them to move – he took it like a bat from hell.”

Not everyone immediately appreciates the subtle Pekingese influence. When they are resting on the floor, they can look like attractive hair extensions scattered about. Their flowing feathers, which rise to the rock on their tails and then descend to the ground, have a way of hiding their feet, so they appear to be moving through levitation, rather than circling. Their minute faces give nothing.

During last year’s show, social media analysts compared Wasabi to, among other things, the naughty, Furby and Cousin Itt from “The Addams Family.” New York magazine called him a “good cotton ball.”

“People always make fun of Pekingese – ‘Why is your dog so slow?’ or, ‘Your dog looks like smoke,’ ”Fitzpatrick said.” People will say things in front of my face. I say, ‘You will not appreciate Mpekingese. They have fascinated people with good taste for hundreds of years. ‘ It goes over their heads. “

Some participants enthusiastically ran into the ring last year; Wasabi was handed over to Fitzpatrick, named after the king. But the judge of the best show, Patricia Craige Trotter, saw the quality of the dog star right away.

“This evening could not be denied,” Trotter said by phone. According to the rules of the show – that the winner is the dog that includes the full version of its kind – Wasabi was a fugitive champion.

Part of it was how he closely adhered to Pekingese standards, approaching Peke’s peak with his pear-shaped body, elegant coiffure, high-set tail, leonine subtle face, walking with his front half heavier than half his back. He actually resembled a “little lion,” as the parenting intended, Trotter said.

And the part was je ne sais quoi of a true champion. Wasabi has a confident personality, a royal attribute that speaks volumes about the good nature of his descendants in the Chinese empire many centuries ago, Trotter said.

“They’re not just a small fur fly ball,” he added. “This little herd was honored in a Chinese court, and he pointed out to me that he had such respect.”

Fitzpatrick said he favored the Pekingsese for their high-stakes views and proudly refused to be looked after, to lower their knives, to pick up sticks, to look after livestock, to run for help, to do simple things or to do whatever it takes to “work for a living,” as he did. . put it.

“Spaniels are very poor, they cling to you, they bow to you,” he said in a figurative sense. “Gold restorers – they’re always there, and they make lovely animals, but that’s not a character I like. I wouldn’t like it anyway for anyone.”

On the contrary, he said, “Wasabi has been trained to be a loving dog. He will come when he is called, but otherwise he does nothing but walk in leadership. I do not want my dogs to do anything but enjoy their little life. ”

Dan Sayers, editor-in-chief of Showsight Magazine, which covers the world of dog shows, said it took some expertise to identify what made Pekingese the best.

“I have to admit, Pekingese is a genre that I do not fully understand,” he said. “A dog with small legs and a lot of hair, what you and I see is that he looks like a ball of hair.

“But I have visited David and sat on his floor and played with his dogs, and they are 100 percent dogs,” he continued. “They can move and run back and forth and jump and be fun and funny. They are definitely more dogs than we think they are.”

It was clear at the end of the visit that Wasabi was his own dog. As the most successful celebrities, he incorporates an interesting combination of closeness and mysteries, revealing himself enough to make fans more hungry. One minute he bends over his back, his claws fluttering in the air happily; the next one leans down in exhaustion, muttering “I want to be alone” from behind his thick hair curtain.

“He loves people when they visit; he thinks everyone is here to see him, ”Fitzpatrick said. “He doesn’t have to win a dog show to feel special. He always feels special.”

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