When Stump the Sussex spaniel took home top honors at the Westminster dog show recently, another champion awaited him at his hotel room. J.R., the bichon frise who won best in show in 2001, shares the same owner and handler as Stump, Houston’s Scott Sommer. But J.R. isn’t jealous of Stump’s win, Sommer says. “He probably had a little conversation with Stump and told him to keep up the family name.”
Maybe it’s something in the water, but Texas has been faring pretty well lately in the ring at Madison Square Garden. Uno, the charismatic beagle who won the Best in Show title last year, resides on a ranch outside Austin, and Sommer is quick to point out that Lonesome Dove, a.k.a. Lacey, the wire-haired fox terrier named champion in 1992, came from the same kennel as both Stump and J.R. She went on to become the second-most winning dog of any breed, with 216 Best in Shows under handler Michael Kemp, the previous owner of the kennel now run by Sommer.
Stump, the long-bodied, short-legged spaniel, his coat a rich brown like the tree part from which he gets his name, is by all accounts immune to the excitement surrounding his win, indulging unperturbedly in his favorite pastime: sleeping. He probably needs the rest—as the oldest dog ever to win Best in Show, ten-year-old Stump (that’s about seventy in dog years) has become an icon of sorts for both owners of older canines and older humans alike, even posing recently for AARP, according the Houston Chronicle. “I’m glad that the older guy is getting a little attention,” says Caroline Dowell, Uno’s owner, who owns other beagles as old as sixteen. “I think there has been a tendency on the part of the public to think that a ten-year-old dog is over the hill, and when it comes time to go to a shelter to pick a dog, people think they have to have puppies.”
Before his win, Stump spent the past five years leading a low-key existence at his home outside Houston after a life-threatening illness caused him to quit competition. He emerged from retirement just days before the show, his only preparation for Westminster a literal turn about the driveway. His win doesn’t augur a return to the show world, however. He’s back in retirement again, and there’s no national tour planned, à la Uno’s “Beagle Across America” tour last year, which saw the pup everywhere from the White House, where Laura Bush presented him with a collar, to the baseball diamond at a Cardinals game in St. Louis, to aboard the “Peanuts” float at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. “He can’t keep up with what Uno did. Stump’s too old for that,” says Sommer.
Dowell agrees the two Texas champions are very different. “Uno has the personality of a rock star. Stump has the personality of the dog that everybody wants to pick up and snuggle and hug and pat and kiss. And I don’t think Stump aspires to be a rock star,” she says. Despite their hometowns, there’s no beef between Uno and Stump. “That wouldn’t be the Texas way,” Sommer says.