ShareThis Page
Win it for Vivi! Whiskey the whippet revs up for Westminster | TribLIVE.com
More Lifestyles

Win it for Vivi! Whiskey the whippet revs up for Westminster

The Associated Press
| Saturday, February 9, 2019 12:55 p.m
732822_web1_732822-aacaa12ae846402596ab1523b4594ed1
732822_web1_732822-c1995fcf7f3a468a8959bed0fbd38f0d
732822_web1_732822-e75abc34fbe14f1a9d46f1ee0036ac66
732822_web1_732822-a9e92038818242a4a3852922d5ca9a10

NEW YORK — Sleek and aerodynamic, Whiskey the whippet is dashing through the dog show world.

He’s among the fastest breed of pooches on the planet, and his rise has been rapid: Coming off big wins televised on Thanksgiving Day and New Year’s Day, he’ll now try for dogdom’s Triple Crown starting Monday at the Westminster Kennel Club.

“He does his best at these high-profile rings,” owner-breeder-handler Justin Smithey said. “He knows how to turn it off, lay down and wait till it’s his turn. And then he just goes.”

So let’s make this fawn-and-white whippet the favorite to get picked Tuesday night and succeed Flynn the bichon frise as America’s top dog.

There more than 2,800 entries, including popular Biggie the pug, a Lhasa apso from Hawaii who surfs with his owner and the nation’s No. 1-ranked qualifier last year, Grant the black cocker spaniel.

They come in 203 breeds and varieties, with the grand basset griffon Vendeen and the Nederlandse kooikerhondje ready to make their debuts on the green carpet of Madison Square Garden.

Jil Walton says she’ll be rooting hard for Whiskey — “I really, really want that whippet to win!” she said.

See, she once brought a whippet to the Garden, too.

Remember hers? Sweet, gentle Vivi?

A lot of dogs have left Westminster with a legacy — Uno the baying beagle, heady Rufus the colored bull terrier, ol’ Stump the Sussex spaniel — but few will ever match the lore of Vivi (VIH’-vee).

It was 2006, a day after the 3-year-old won an Award of Merit, an honorable mention for whippets. Set to get loaded at John F. Kennedy International Airport for a flight back to Los Angeles, she suddenly broke loose from her crate and took off.

Vivi bolted onto the runaway and airport workers gave chase, on foot and in cars.

No luck.

Similar to greyhounds but smaller, whippets have tremendous acceleration and can sprint at 35 mph and up. In full flight, Vivi couldn’t be caught, escaping through a fence and disappearing into the marshland.

More than 100 volunteers looked, thousands of fliers were posted. Pet psychics tried to communicate with her, a reward was offered. Dog owners all over the country worried and wondered: Where’s Vivi?

Plenty of tips poured in during those early winter days and nights, supposedly she was seen in several parts of New York City. But none of those reports checked out.

As far as anyone knows, Vivi was never seen again.

“When I think about Vivi’s Westminster, I still run a million scenarios through my head and end up getting sad,” Walton, Vivi’s co-owner, said this week. “But overall, Vivi’s story did touch people and I was lucky enough to be touched by them as well.”

And, a wishful thought.

“My silly hope is that my girl ended up happy on someone’s couch,” she said.

Smithey, who figures he’s competed at Westminster about 15 times, grew quiet at the mention of Vivi.

“So sad, that was,” he said.

Whiskey has already won the National Dog Show and the prized AKC event. Only Sadie the Scottish terrier in 2010 and Sky the wire fox terrier in 2014 have taken those two and Westminster.

Smithey, from Sugar Valley, Georgia, wants his 3-year-old with a champion’s name of Pinnacle Tennessee Whiskey to become the second whippet to win best in show here. In 1964, Courtenay Fleetfoot of Pennyworth triumphed.

“There are 30 other whippets that would like to do the same thing,” he said.

Among them is Whiskey’s littermate, sister Bourbon. Last year at Westminster, Whiskey won best of breed and finished fourth in the hound group; Bourbon also was honored.

“They are big buds,” Smithey said.

Walton, who is based in Kalispell, Montana, and spends her winters in Temecula, California, will be cheering from afar for Whiskey.

Maybe he can help bring it home, at last, for Vivi.

“That just sounds quite good in many ways,” she said.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.