Holmdel pet is top dog

Rufus claims honor at Westminster K.C. competition in New York


Staff Writer

Rufus, a 5-year-old colored bull terrier who lives in Holmdel, won Best in Show honors at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show Feb. 14 in New York. Rufus, a 5-year-old colored bull terrier who lives in Holmdel, won Best in Show honors at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show Feb. 14 in New York. Every dog has its day, and Valen-tine’s Day belonged to Rufus, a 5-year-old colored bull terrier who lives in Holmdel.

On Feb. 14, Rufus won Best in Show at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show at Madison Square Garden, New York City, making him the first bull terrier to win the title since 1918.

Rufus, who lives with Barbara Bishop and her husband, Tom, took home the silver cup based on many criteria, said David Frei, director of communications for the Westminster Kennel Club. The most obvious was his head.

“Rufus is a great specimen of his own breed,” Frei said. “He’s got like a perfect egg-shaped head, it gets attention.”

But it was more than just the shape of his head that helped Rufus win.

“At the end, it comes down to little things — showmanship, charisma, attitude,” Frei said. “Whenever the judge was looking at him he was on.”

Then the media blitz began.

The day after winning Best in Show, Rufus embarked on a 12-city satellite tour that consisted of “The Early Show,” Fox News and Charlie Rose, Frei said. Martha Stewart held his leash and he is featured in the Feb. 27 issue of “People.”

In the wake of the victory, Barbara Bishop said they were still a little numb from the win and the next day’s media bombardment.

Frei said the attention did not affect Rufus at all.

“He is oblivious to everything around him,” Frei said. “He’s a big friendly, happy dog.”

Bishop said Rufus’ performance at the show helped him to win.

“He was really on, and full of himself,” Bishop said. “He went out there and earned it.”

On Feb. 23, Rufus, who is also known as Champion Rocky Top’s Sundance Kid, was presented with a proclamation by the Monmouth County Board of Freeholders at a meeting in Freehold.

Barbara Bishop said, “Since he’s won his title he’s really changed. He walks around with a smile on his face. He knows he’s done something good.”

Bishop said she always knew Rufus was a great dog and said it was nice to have that belief validated at the West-minster show, which drew 2,622 entries in 165 breeds and varieties.

Rufus will turn 6 on April 8. He has lived with the Bishops since he was 10 weeks old.

Rufus has won Best in Show 32 times in other competitions, finally winning the most famous dog show during his final showing.

Most notably, he took home the big prize at the Morris and Essex Kennel Club Show and the National Kennel Club Show late last year. His win in New York completes what Frei called the Triple Crown of dog shows.

“It was the end of a wonderful career,” Bishop said. “To finish at the Garden is every dog fancier’s dream.”

Rufus will now be put out to stud, a process that Bishop said they are very selective about.

“We want to limit his availability,” Bishop said, because of the bull terrier’s affiliation with the pit bull terrier.

“Rufus is a great ambassador to his breed,” Frei said.

According to Frei, bull terriers tend to be lumped in with pit bulls in anti-pit bull legislation.

“Hopefully, we can show America that it’s not about the breed, but about the individual dog,” Frei said.

Bishop said that unlike many show dogs, Rufus, who is a regular visitor at Holmdel Park, lives at home with his owners and not with a handler.

The Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show is the second-longest continuously held sporting event in the country, one year behind the Kentucky Derby.

News Transcript correspondent Fraidy Reiss contributed to this story.