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America's Top Dog in 2011 Makes History

Scottish deerhound Foxcliffe Hickory Wind is led in the ring during competition at the 135th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. The dog won the hound division, February 14, 2011

The Westminster dog show in New York City is the longest-running show of its kind in the United States.

This year’s winner, a Scottish deerhound named Hickory, is the first of her breed to win the Best in Show award in the 135-year history of the annual event.

Hickory, a five-year-old Scottish deerhound, began her reign as America’s top dog with a photo op on the observation deck atop New York’s Empire State Building.

Dog breeders say Scottish deerhounds have quiet dignity and are ready to forgive injury and remember kindness. Handler Angela Lloyd had this word of praise for Hickory. “Hickory has a very large heart, and she shows it all the time,” she said.

Owner Sally Sweatt said a good show dog is only half of the two-member team of animal and handler. Sweatt also gave Lloyd credit for not entering Hickory in too many earlier competitions.

“She held her back for the sake of keeping her relaxed, and so it wouldn’t be so stressful on her to be at these shows this weekend,” Sweatt explaines.

This year’s Westminster show featured more than 2,500 dogs, representing 179 breeds and varieties. They came from 49 American states and from several countries, including Thailand, Brazil, Slovenia and Australia. All of them had won other shows to be eligible for the Westminster event, considered the premier dog show in America.

Getting to the top of the dog world - and the Empire State Building - does not come cheap. An owner's expenses include paying the handler, advertising, travel, boarding and show entrance fees.

“In this case it was well worth it,” Sweatt said. “Because an exceptional dog with an exceptional handler is worth everything.”

The payoff comes from breeding fees. Sweatt says Hickory will be bred soon and retired from further competition.