Beagle's show win could boost pet's popularity

February 13, 2008 5:07:46 PM PST
A frisky beagle named Uno walked away with best in show at the Westminster dog show.Uno's breeder and one of his co-owners are from downstate Belleville.

And the big win has given a boost to every dog owner who fell in love with Snoopy in the Peanuts cartoons and decided to get a beagle.

Three-year-old Uno lived up to his name Tuesday night at the Westminster Kennel Club show, becoming the first ever beagle in the 132 years of the competition to be given top honors. Not only was it exciting for the sold-out crowd at Madison Square Garden, it was a thrill for Uno's breeders in downstate Belleville, where the regal beagle has his roots.

They watched the competition with Uno's cousins. Although Uno took Westminster by storm, he's not a novice to the show ring..

"He's as good as you're going get in a beagle," said Francine Schwartz, dog show judge.

Scwhartz judges hounds for many dog shows and had a chance to cross paths with Uno several months ago. She says aside from meeting the breed standards, he also has that star quality.

"He's outstanding. When he's in the ring, even with the other beagles, you just know he's there," said Schwartz.

The beagle is the only dog consistently listed as one of America's favorite breeds for the past 100 years. And some local owners say they can't think of owning any other kind of dog.

"They always seem like the classic dog. When I think of a dog, I think of a beagle," said beagle owner John Baker.

Baker and Erin Costello adopted Winnie more than a year ago. She was in good company Wednesday at Wiggley Field, where a few dogs seemed to be at least part beagle.

But animal behavior experts say that while beagles have a great temperament and can make you melt with those soulful eyes, it's important to do research on the breed to make sure the dog is right for you.

"The biggest complaint people have is, 'when I take him for a walk, he doesn't pay attention to me. He's sniffing, he picks things up.. I have to take him to the vet because he ate something.' They're still very much a working dog," said Karen Okura, anti-cruelty society.

As for Uno, he'll be working and possibly winning more dog shows for months to come.