Columbia resident Eddie Dziuk knew from the very beginning that Uno was a one-of-a-kind beagle.
“He has a great personality and temperament,” Dziuk said. “And it comes through in the ring and that’s what gives him an extra edge.”
Dziuk, chief operating officer of the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals in Columbia, is one of four owners of Uno, a two-year-old 15-inch beagle who competed Tuesday night for Best in Show at the Westminster Kennel Club dog show in New York City.
On Monday, Uno was the first beagle since 1939 to win the hound group at the Westminster Kennel Club show. Tuesday he was the first beagle ever to win best in show. America’s top dog competition has presented best in show 100 times and a beagle has never before won.
But Dziuk said he’s not surprised about the beagle's success on Monday. Uno’s record, which includes 32 best in show titles from other competitions, shows he’s a judge favorite. In December, Uno won the hound group at the AKC/Eukanuba show in Long Beach, Calif., and finished 2007 as the sixth-ranked show dog in the nation.
Dziuk entered into a shared ownership of Uno last March with breeder Kathy Weichert of Belleville, Ill., longtime friend Caroline Dowell of Austin, Texas, and John Woodring of Advance, N.C.
“We call ourselves ‘Team Uno,’” Weichert said.
Dziuk has shown beagles for much of his life and “is very renowned in the beagle world,” Weichert said. She still remembers Dziuk’s reaction to photos of Uno as a puppy.
“He said, ‘The only thing I don’t like about him is I don’t own him,’” Weichert said.
Owning a show dog is not a money-making venture. Weichert said you see more money “going out” than coming in, and competing costs thousands and thousands of dollars a year. Uno has spent the last two and a half years with his handler Aaron Wilkerson in North Carolina.
“From a very young age we could tell Uno had potential to be a champion show dog,” Weichert said. “He’s not a pet. He’s a show dog. He was bred to be a show dog.”
Judge Ralph Lemcke picked Uno over 25 others in the hound group, praising his “soft expression” and the neat “brush on his tail.”
A standard poodle, a prize-winning Sealyham terrier and an Australian shepherd also locked up spots in the final ring. A perfectly trimmed toy poodle and a top Akita hoped to win their groups Tuesday. They were among the 2,627 entries at this year’s show, coming in 169 breeds and varieties.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.