“I have quite a record of best of opposite at Westminster,” she said. “I was like, ‘Ahhhh! I broke that barrier.’” Tuggy competed Monday night in the nonsporting group final for a chance at a spot in Tuesday’s best in show but did not advance.
The sweep is considered uncommon, given the number of French bulldog entries. Among the 200 breeds and varieties at the dog show, golden retrievers have the biggest contingent with 85, followed by Labrador retrievers and French bulldogs, with 46 each. New Yorkers entered the most dogs, 260 of the 2,798. There were 135 foreign entries from 16 countries.
Perhaps it is fitting that Westminster’s top French bulldog belongs to Hearst Shaw, a New Yorker. The breed is the city’s most popular dog, according to the American Kennel Club.
“They’re calm,” Hearst Shaw said. “They don’t like to go for long walks or runs, so that makes them a good city dog.”
She added, “They are built for Paris, which means they do just fine in New York.”
With Westminster being Rubi’s last show, she will join Hearst Shaw in New York with Frida, another retired Frenchie.
“Three of my dogs passed away last year — it was really shocking for them to go all at once,” she said. “It’s lonely in my house, but soon I’ll hear the pitter-patter of little feet.”
At the moment, Frida is whelping a litter.
While Tuggy and Rubi were not far from home, they were joined in the benching area by two bulldogs who had arrived from Japan on Friday. Their two-day journey began on midnight in Gunma, about a two-hour drive from Toyko. It took about four hours for the dogs to clear quarantine before they boarded their flight at 10 a.m. to Kennedy International Airport. Because the airline, ANA, does not allow dogs in coach, the animals, named Nonno and Paris, spent 12 hours in cargo.
With crates equipped with fans, ice packs and a water bottle, they arrived in New York at 9 a.m. on Friday. Were they jetlagged?
“Not based on how much energy they have,” their owner, Mikae Godai, said through an interpreter, Mirabel Koike, who also served as Paris’s handler. Five hours after they landed, the two dogs wrestled on Godai’s hotel bed.
“They’re so used to it,” Godai said. It is the dogs’ third trip to New York, and next month, they will be making their third trip to the prestigious Crufts dog show in Birmingham, England. But the long-distance travel is not for all participants.
“They’re crazy,” said Carey Brewer, the owner, breeder and handler of a French bulldog named Mugsy. “I would never do that.”
Most air carriers based in the United States do not allow brachycephalic breeds, which include popular dogs like pugs and bulldogs, to fly in cargo. The breeds have smaller openings to their noses and elongated soft palates, which makes breathing more difficult. The stress of air travel and the heat can magnify breathing problems.
“Never fly cargo with this breed,” Brewer said. Mugsy flew with Brewer from her home in British Columbia but got stuck in Seattle overnight when her flight was canceled because of the weather on the East Coast. Brewer added: “We fly coach, or we drive. Or if you’re Patty Hearst, you can just fly them on a private plane.”
Hearst Shaw said her dogs flew on private planes only when she traveled with them. “Not everyone can do that, but plenty of owners do it,” she said.
After breed judging ended, the owners from New York and Japan returned to the bench area. The Japanese Frenchies did not win any ribbons, but Godai declared the journey worthwhile. “It was an honor to be part of Westminster,” Godai said.
Nearby, Hearst Shaw said goodbye to her daughter and granddaughters, then followed Tuggy, Rubi and their handlers through the crowd in the benching area. No one seemed to notice. Once the group found the perfect backdrop — the purple Westminster insignia with the pointer — they gathered. Hearst Shaw was behind the camera, not in front of it. She held up her iPhone and snapped.
An earlier version of this article misspelled the name of a French bulldog competing at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. It is Nonno, not Nonna. The error was repeated in a picture caption.