Miss Bliss, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel sporting a Mairlyn Monroe-esque beauty mark and a price tag of upwards of $4,500, can be found lounging, tongue-out, on her owner Michele True’s Gulfport front porch most days.
On Saturday, June 12, at 1 p.m. on the dot, the local spaniel became canine royalty, brushed and blown out, prancing across the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show’s stage in Tarrytown, New York and live streamed in prime time.
Though Bliss left New York without any new ribbons, True couldn’t be more honored to compete.
“We’re content and couldn’t be happier,” True said. “She showed her little heart out.”
According to True, Miss Bliss made it with a handful of other spaniels to the “almost” final cut, and was the only dog in her breed that made it that far without the luxury of a professional handler.
“We’re so proud of this girl and her spirited approach to life,” True said. “We didn’t win any awards, but we certainly won when she came into our lives.”
Best in Show, Westminster Edition
The Westminster Dog Show, an illustrious canine competition that compares the American Kennel Club (AKC) dog breeds on their conformity to the specific breed standards, was held outdoors on an estate in Tarrytown instead of Madison Square Garden for the first time in 145 years.
There were no physical spectators or vendors this year, but the cameras continued to roll.
“There’s no money, but there is a big stinkin’ trophy,” True said, with a tiny spaniel sleeping at her feet. “It’s not about the money; it’s about dedication to the breed and for a lot of people, the validation of doing a spot-on job.”
For Miss Bliss and the other 33 Cavalier King Charles Spaniels that competed in the race for perfection, the change of venue due to pandemic precautions made no difference to the intensity of the competition.
“Of course I hope she wins, but I’m really rooting for the breed,” True said before the competition. “I’d be happy to see a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel in the top.”
Still, the toy breed has never yet won Best in Show at Westminster, with Pomeranians and Pekingese frequenting the winner’s circle.
It was True and Bliss’s first time entering the Westminster ring; furry contestants can only attend if they are champion dog show winners and are chosen in a lottery system, or if they get formally invited.
“I know wonderful breeders whose dogs were not picked,” True said. “She seems to have this perfect star line.”
Miss Bliss is 11 months old and fairly new to the dog-showing game, but so is her owner, who started showing and breeding Cavalier King Charles Spaniels six years ago in Florida.
Miss Bliss’s previous competitions around the country have typically ended in success.
“We only show a dog if the dog enjoys it; when we bring Miss Bliss into the ring she really struts her stuff, she hears people clapping and she’s like, ‘Is that for me?’” True said. “We have a boy who immediately was like, ‘Yeah no,’ so it just depends on the dog’s personality.”
Miss Bliss received a two-hour grooming session the day before the show and a period of time bonding with her handler in Tallahassee before the championship weekend.
“They’re getting used to each other’s energies: sleeping together, going on walks,” True said.
This may not be the last time Miss Bliss takes on Westminster; perhaps the long-haired contender will return with some seasoning under her collar.