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Scottish deerhound is best in show at Westminster

A Scottish deerhound that loves to chase deer and rabbits on a 50-acre farm in Virginia won best in show at the Westminster Kennel Club last night and the title of America's top dog.

"She's not used to lights, camera and noise," handler Angela Lloyd said.

Hickory will get a couple of Manhattan treats today — steak at famed Sardi's restaurant and a trip to the top of the Empire State Building.

Five-year-old Hickory became the first of her breed to capture the purple-and-gold ribbon and shiny silver bowl.

"I think Hickory could feel my lead that I was excited and went with it," Lloyd said.

Judge Paolo Dondina of Italy thanked every person and dog inside the arena, then picked Hickory from a best-of-seven final show ring that truly sounded international — along with a Scottish deerhound, there was a Pekingese, Portuguese water dog, Chinese shar-pei, smooth fox terrier, bearded collie and black cocker spaniel.

A couple of those dogs on the green carpet ring with Hickory were among the country's top-rated show dogs. The 85-pound Hickory wasn't on that list, though she wagged her long tail the most at the end after beating out a total of nearly 2,600 entries. No doubt, owners Sally Sweatt and Cecilia Dove and Dr Scott Dove were equally thrilled after her 16th best-in-show overall.

"The quality of all of the dogs were outstanding," Dondina said. "This animal is like in the heavens. It's not of this world."

The 135th Westminster was considered a wide-open field from the start. A smooth fox terrier that was the No. 1 show dog of 2010 recently retired and an Australian shepherd that won the big AKC/Eukanuba event did not enter.

Hickory won the hound group on Monday night, then had to wait around all day for her big chance. That was a lot to ask for a kind of dog that feels most comfortable in the woods.

The 31-year-old Lloyd had won at Westminster before — in 1998, she was honoured for her handling in the junior showmanship for youngsters who hope to work in the dog world.

"People who own, breed, show dogs dream of this day," she said.

Among the owners who showed earlier in the day: Brigadier General Rhonda Cornum, an Army surgeon who was shot down from a helicopter during the Persian Gulf War and briefly held as a prisoner of war. She was at the Garden showing a Gordon setter.

Cornum was clear on which was more difficult, ascending in the show ring or in the military.

"No question, it is dogs," she said.