A Westminster wow: Bichon frise becomes America’s top dog

NEW YORK (AP) — Flynn the bichon frise won best in show at the Westminster Kennel Club on Tuesday night, a choice that seemed to surprise almost everyone in the crowd at Madison Square Garden.

Fans who had been loudly shouting for their favorites fell into stunned silence when judge Betty-Anne Stenmark announced her decision.

No matter, the white powder puff was picked and walked off as America’s top dog.

Guided by expert handler Bill McFadden, Flynn beat out Ty the giant schnauzer, Biggie the pug, Bean the Sussex spaniel, Lucy the borzoi, Slick the border collie and Winston the Norfolk terrier.

“It feels a little unreal,” McFadden said. “I came in expecting nothing except hoping for a good performance, and I think I got it.”

Underdogs and upsets are way more than norm on the green carpet of the Garden — inside dog fanciers indeed fancied Flynn, but the people sitting in the stands was obviously pulling for other dogs.

Ty came into this competition as the nation’s No. 1 show dog last year and finished as the runner-up. He endeared himself to the crowd by jumping up and putting his front paws around handler Katie Bernardin after winning the working group earlier in the evening. Slick and Lucy also drew applause.

Cheers of “Let’s go, Biggie!” bounced all arena for the popular pug. And Bean was a clear crowd favorite, the way he sat up straight on his hind legs and begged judges for the biggest treat in dogdom.

Almost 6, Flynn posted his 42nd career best in show victory in what is almost certainly his last show before retiring.

The famed JR was the only other bichon to win Westminster, in 2001. McFadden has enjoyed success at the Garden, having guided Mick the Kerry blue terrier to the title in 2003.

Flynn won’t get much rest before beginning his victory lap. Wednesday’s schedule includes visits to the morning TV news shows, a steak lunch at Sardi’s, a trip to the top of the Empire State Building, and he’s been invited for a walk-on part at a Broadway hit “Kinky Boots.”

The Westminster-winning team gets no prize money. Instead, there’s a shiny bowl, lucrative breeding fees and, most of all, a lifetime of memories.

The 142nd Westminster event attracted 2,882 entries in 202 breeds and varieties. Among those who didn’t quite make the cut: face-licking Spicy Nacho the miniature bull terrier who drew laughs, just not the judge’s look.

Flynn made a goodwill gesture toward Stenmark upon meeting her, offering his paw as if to shake hands when she went down the line to review the final seven dogs.

His full name is Belle Creek’s All I Care About is Love, and this champion from the nonsporting group delivered a few minutes before it became Valentine’s Day.

“He has my heart,” McFadden said. “He is pure joy.”

The fans seemed to like Flynn, too, only they hollered a lot more for several others.

“He kept wagging his tail and that sold himself to me,” Stenmark said.

Copyright © 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

Handler Bill McFadden works with Flynn, a bichon frise, before Flynn was named Best in Show at the 142nd Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018, at Madison Square Garden in New York. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)
Handler Bill McFadden works with Flynn, a bichon frise, before Flynn was named Best in Show at the 142nd Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018, at Madison Square Garden in New York. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)

Bill McFadden shows Flynn, a bichon frise, in the ring during the non-sporting group during the 142nd Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, Monday, Feb. 12, 2018, at Madison Square Garden in New York. Flynn won best in the non-sporting group. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
Bill McFadden shows Flynn, a bichon frise, in the ring during the non-sporting group during the 142nd Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, Monday, Feb. 12, 2018, at Madison Square Garden in New York. Flynn won best in the non-sporting group. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

Handler Bill McFadden reacts as Flynn, a bichon frise, is named Best in Show at the 142nd Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018, at Madison Square Garden in New York. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)
Handler Bill McFadden reacts as Flynn, a bichon frise, is named Best in Show at the 142nd Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018, at Madison Square Garden in New York. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)

Faggia, a Bergamasco, competes in the herding group during the 142nd Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, Monday, Feb. 12, 2018, at Madison Square Garden in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
Faggia, a Bergamasco, competes in the herding group during the 142nd Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, Monday, Feb. 12, 2018, at Madison Square Garden in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

Lucy, a borzoi, is shown in the ring during the Hound group competition during the 142nd Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, Monday, Feb. 12, 2018, at Madison Square Garden in New York. Lucy won best in group. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
Lucy, a borzoi, is shown in the ring during the Hound group competition during the 142nd Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, Monday, Feb. 12, 2018, at Madison Square Garden in New York. Lucy won best in group. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

Betty, a Komondor, competes in the working group during the 142nd Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018, at Madison Square Garden in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
Betty, a Komondor, competes in the working group during the 142nd Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018, at Madison Square Garden in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

Cami, a toy poodle, competes in the Toy group during the 142nd Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, Monday, Feb. 12, 2018, at Madison Square Garden in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
Cami, a toy poodle, competes in the Toy group during the 142nd Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, Monday, Feb. 12, 2018, at Madison Square Garden in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 13: A Neapolitan Mastiff competes in the working group on the final night of the 142nd Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show at The Piers on February 13, 2018 in New York City. The show is scheduled to see 2,882 dogs from all 50 states take part in this year's competition. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY – FEBRUARY 13: A Neapolitan Mastiff competes in the working group on the final night of the 142nd Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show at The Piers on February 13, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Bean, a Sussex spaniel, competes in the sporting group during the 142nd Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018, at Madison Square Garden in New York. Bean won best in sporting group. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
Bean, a Sussex spaniel, competes in the sporting group during the 142nd Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018, at Madison Square Garden in New York. Bean won best in sporting group. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

Porsche, a miniature pinscher, competes in the Toy group during the 142nd Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, Monday, Feb. 12, 2018, at Madison Square Garden in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
Porsche, a miniature pinscher, competes in the Toy group during the 142nd Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, Monday, Feb. 12, 2018, at Madison Square Garden in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

Handler Ernesto Lara leads Winston, a Norfolk terrier, in the ring during the terrier group competition during the 142nd Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018, at Madison Square Garden in New York. Winston won best in the terrier group. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
Handler Ernesto Lara leads Winston, a Norfolk terrier, in the ring during the terrier group competition during the 142nd Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018, at Madison Square Garden in New York. Winston won best in the terrier group. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

Sophia Rogers waits to enter the ring with her dog, a great Dane named Captain Crunch, during the 142nd Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
Sophia Rogers waits to enter the ring with her dog, a great Dane named Captain Crunch, during the 142nd Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

German shorthaired pointers wait to enter the ring during the 142nd Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
German shorthaired pointers wait to enter the ring during the 142nd Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 12: Green the Chow Chow sits in the grooming area at the 142nd Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show at The Piers on February 12, 2018 in New York City. The show is scheduled to see 2,882 dogs from all 50 states take part in this year's competition. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY – FEBRUARY 12: Green the Chow Chow sits in the grooming area at the 142nd Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show at The Piers on February 12, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 12: Robin the Maltese gets groomed backstage at the 142nd Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show at The Piers on February 12, 2018 in New York City. The show is scheduled to see 2,882 dogs from all 50 states take part in this year's competition. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY – FEBRUARY 12: Robin the Maltese gets groomed backstage at the 142nd Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show at The Piers on February 12, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Handler Esteban Farias hugs Biggie, a pug, after he won the Toy group competition during the 142nd Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, Monday, Feb. 12, 2018, at Madison Square Garden in New York. Biggie won best in group. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
Handler Esteban Farias hugs Biggie, a pug, after he won the Toy group competition during the 142nd Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, Monday, Feb. 12, 2018, at Madison Square Garden in New York. Biggie won best in group. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

Russell terriers named Dom, right, and Demi relax in the benching area during the 142nd Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
Russell terriers named Dom, right, and Demi relax in the benching area during the 142nd Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Chesapeake Bay retrievers compete during the 142nd Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
Chesapeake Bay retrievers compete during the 142nd Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Kristen Falterman grooms her Wire Fox Terrier named Spiffy during the 142nd Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
Kristen Falterman grooms her Wire Fox Terrier named Spiffy during the 142nd Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Miniature schnauzers greet one another in the ring during the 142nd Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
Miniature schnauzers greet one another in the ring during the 142nd Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Kate Murray grooms a west highland white terrier named Pumpkin during the 142nd Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
Kate Murray grooms a west highland white terrier named Pumpkin during the 142nd Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Evangeline Wendt, 7, right, visits with a golden retriever named Tank during the 142nd Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
Evangeline Wendt, 7, right, visits with a golden retriever named Tank during the 142nd Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Kacie Davis lays her head on a Wirehaired Vizla named Durham during the 142nd Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
Kacie Davis lays her head on a Wirehaired Vizla named Durham during the 142nd Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

In this Monday, Feb. 12, 2018, photo, Kim Brown, holds Bazinga, a basenji, in the benching area before competing during the 142nd Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, at Madison Square Garden in New York. “He likes it when I do a little fresh garlic and a little bit of Maldon salt flakes” with organic chicken breast, Brown says.  (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
In this Monday, Feb. 12, 2018, photo, Kim Brown, holds Bazinga, a basenji, in the benching area before competing during the 142nd Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, at Madison Square Garden in New York. “He likes it when I do a little fresh garlic and a little bit of Maldon salt flakes” with organic chicken breast, Brown says. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

In this Monday, Feb. 12, 2018, photo, Emmy, a harrier, keeps her eyes on a treat offered to her by handler Mike Gowen in the benching area before competing in the 142nd Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, at Madison Square Garden in New York. Owners and handlers know how to cater to the eclectic tastes of show dogs competing this week. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
In this Monday, Feb. 12, 2018, photo, Emmy, a harrier, keeps her eyes on a treat offered to her by handler Mike Gowen in the benching area before competing in the 142nd Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, at Madison Square Garden in New York. Owners and handlers know how to cater to the eclectic tastes of show dogs competing this week. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

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Handler Bill McFadden works with Flynn, a bichon frise, before Flynn was named Best in Show at the 142nd Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018, at Madison Square Garden in New York. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)
Bill McFadden shows Flynn, a bichon frise, in the ring during the non-sporting group during the 142nd Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, Monday, Feb. 12, 2018, at Madison Square Garden in New York. Flynn won best in the non-sporting group. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
Handler Bill McFadden reacts as Flynn, a bichon frise, is named Best in Show at the 142nd Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018, at Madison Square Garden in New York. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)
Faggia, a Bergamasco, competes in the herding group during the 142nd Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, Monday, Feb. 12, 2018, at Madison Square Garden in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
Lucy, a borzoi, is shown in the ring during the Hound group competition during the 142nd Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, Monday, Feb. 12, 2018, at Madison Square Garden in New York. Lucy won best in group. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
Betty, a Komondor, competes in the working group during the 142nd Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018, at Madison Square Garden in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
Cami, a toy poodle, competes in the Toy group during the 142nd Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, Monday, Feb. 12, 2018, at Madison Square Garden in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 13: A Neapolitan Mastiff competes in the working group on the final night of the 142nd Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show at The Piers on February 13, 2018 in New York City. The show is scheduled to see 2,882 dogs from all 50 states take part in this year's competition. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Bean, a Sussex spaniel, competes in the sporting group during the 142nd Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018, at Madison Square Garden in New York. Bean won best in sporting group. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
Porsche, a miniature pinscher, competes in the Toy group during the 142nd Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, Monday, Feb. 12, 2018, at Madison Square Garden in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
Handler Ernesto Lara leads Winston, a Norfolk terrier, in the ring during the terrier group competition during the 142nd Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018, at Madison Square Garden in New York. Winston won best in the terrier group. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
Sophia Rogers waits to enter the ring with her dog, a great Dane named Captain Crunch, during the 142nd Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
German shorthaired pointers wait to enter the ring during the 142nd Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 12: Green the Chow Chow sits in the grooming area at the 142nd Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show at The Piers on February 12, 2018 in New York City. The show is scheduled to see 2,882 dogs from all 50 states take part in this year's competition. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 12: Robin the Maltese gets groomed backstage at the 142nd Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show at The Piers on February 12, 2018 in New York City. The show is scheduled to see 2,882 dogs from all 50 states take part in this year's competition. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Handler Esteban Farias hugs Biggie, a pug, after he won the Toy group competition during the 142nd Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, Monday, Feb. 12, 2018, at Madison Square Garden in New York. Biggie won best in group. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
Russell terriers named Dom, right, and Demi relax in the benching area during the 142nd Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
Chesapeake Bay retrievers compete during the 142nd Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
Kristen Falterman grooms her Wire Fox Terrier named Spiffy during the 142nd Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
Miniature schnauzers greet one another in the ring during the 142nd Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
Kate Murray grooms a west highland white terrier named Pumpkin during the 142nd Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
Evangeline Wendt, 7, right, visits with a golden retriever named Tank during the 142nd Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
Kacie Davis lays her head on a Wirehaired Vizla named Durham during the 142nd Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
In this Monday, Feb. 12, 2018, photo, Kim Brown, holds Bazinga, a basenji, in the benching area before competing during the 142nd Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, at Madison Square Garden in New York. “He likes it when I do a little fresh garlic and a little bit of Maldon salt flakes” with organic chicken breast, Brown says.  (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
In this Monday, Feb. 12, 2018, photo, Emmy, a harrier, keeps her eyes on a treat offered to her by handler Mike Gowen in the benching area before competing in the 142nd Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, at Madison Square Garden in New York. Owners and handlers know how to cater to the eclectic tastes of show dogs competing this week. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

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