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Local Dog Takes ‘Best of Breed’ at Westminster

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Andy, a 3-year-old silky terrier from Albuquerque, is not just a very good dog – Oh yes you are! – he was crowned Best of Breed at Westminster Kennel Club’s 136th Annual Dog Show this week.

“It was validation for a lot of hard work and determination, and I was just thrilled,” said Tarianne Gallegos, Andy’s co-owner and handler. “I put my hand over my heart and got tears in my eyes.”

Andy got a little emotional, too, she said. “He jumped up and down. Any time he gets to stand on the platform and get his picture taken, he knows he’s getting a cheeseburger as his victory dinner.”

It was a big win for the little dog, who also took fourth place in the “Toy” group, competing against 22 other dogs and making Andy the first silky terrier in 12 years to place in that category, Gallegos said from the Dallas airport as she headed home.

The dog that won the Toy group, a 4-year-old stub-faced Pekingese named Malachy, went on to take the “Best of Show” title.

In terms of prestige, the Westminster Kennel Club’s annual dog show at Madison Square Garden in New York is like the Kentucky Derby, but with less prize money and smaller animals. Still, Andy is something of a Triple Crown winner. Not only did he win his Best of Breed division at Westminster, in December he won the American Kennel Clubs’s Eukanuba National Championship for silky terriers. Then in June of last year he won the Silky Terrier Club of America National Specialty Championship.

Next for Andy is a national invitational in which the top 20 silky terriers compete. “If he wins that, there’s nothing else for a silky terrier to win,” Gallegos said, except the affection of the ladies. “His stud fees will probably be pretty significant for people who want to improve their breeding programs.”

Andy, she said, “is the product of very careful planning and responsible breeding,” whose bloodline going back 10 generations, about 30 years, has been populated by champions.

Gallegos operates Wind Dancer Kennel, where Andy’s father came from. Linda Sams Hurt, Andy’s other co-owner, operates Jenstar Kennel, where Andy’s mother came from. Gallegos and Hurt share time with their prize-winning terrier, but Gallegos is the trainer.

That training began when Andy was abut 10 weeks old. “We’d do short daily training sessions,” Gallegos said. “I use the University of New Mexico campus as my training ground, so there’s a lot of socialization, learning how to walk on different surfaces, handling different distractions and following basic commands, which is basically good manners.”

The silky terrier is not a common dog, Gallegos explained. “It’s an 8 to 10-pound dog bred to kill rats and snakes on Australian poultry farms in the early 1900s.” The silky terrier didn’t come to the United States until the late 1950s, and it didn’t get recognized as a breed by the AKC until 1960.

Not that any of that matters to Andy, a champion with manners who’s willing to work for cheeseburgers.

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