CJ went home with the blue ribbon and a fancy new water bowl.
The 3-year-old male German shorthaired pointer from Temecula, California, trotted off with the coveted Best in Show title at the 140th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, which took place Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
CJ, who won the Sporting Group earlier in the night, out-dogged 2,751 canines from 199 breeds to win the prestigious competition. Lucy the borzoi from the Hound Group placed second. CJ also bested a shih tzu, a Samoyed, a bull dog, the Skye Terrier who won the National Dog Show and the fan favorite German shepherd in the final round for the honor of Best in Show.
“You couldn’t go wrong with any of them,” CJ’s co-owner, breeder, and handler Valerie Nunes-Atkinson told the New York Times. “But I believe in my dog 100 percent.”
Nunes-Atkinson, who has raised several German shorthaired pointer show dogs, said this win was extra special for her because she feels a deep “odd connection” to CJ, who she also calls her “heart dog” and an “old soul.” CJ’s big night marks the first time a co-owner, breeder, and handler has won Westminster since 1983.
For CJ, Winning is in his blood, literally. Only two other German shorthaired pointers have earned the Best in Show title at Westminster before CJ, and he is from the same pedigree as both champions. The last German shorthaired pointer to win at Westminster wasn’t just a distant relative, it was CJ’s grandmother, Carlee, who was also raised by Nunes-Atkinson. Along with Tuesday’s blue ribbon, CJ — whose formal name is Vjk-Myst Garbonita’s California Journey — has won 17 other Best in Show titles in his career.
He “took me back into the past for what they were bred to do,” Best in Show judge Dr. Richard Meen told The Associated Press on why he chose CJ in the final moment. “He floated around the ring beautifully.”
After Meen announced his choice, Nunes-Atkinson dropped to her knees and covered CJ in kisses, calling the dog “The Prince.” For her, the big Westminster win felt “exactly as I expected it would feel when I was 10.”
While CJ is a poised beauty on the field, who usually starts each competition with a bow and a sneeze, at home, the German shorthaired pointer is dirty, energetic and goofy.
“His housemate and best friend is a whippet named Ramona, and she keeps him in shape,” Nunes-Atkinson explained. “We have about three acres and he rips around that with her five times a day. Really, that’s his best friend. He sleeps with her, he’s attached to her. If he is not with me, he is with her.”
CJ will reunite with Ramona soon, but first he has to enjoy the spoils of his win. There is no cash prize that comes with Best in Show, but the dog who takes home the blue ribbon does get to appear on Good Morning America, take a trip to the top of the Empire State Building, and dine at the classic N.Y.C. restaurant Sardi’s.