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The Two-Way
1:11 pm
Tue February 14, 2012

Westminster Set To Name Top Dog; Out West, A Dog's Star Rises

The Westminster Kennel Club dog show is under way, and that means dogs are being pampered, brushed and cajoled to walk before the event's judges. First held in 1877, the Westminster show claims to be second only to the Kentucky Derby in terms of continuously held sporting events.

We'll have news of the Best In Show winner later today. But it's a good time to note that on the same day the 2012 dog show officially began, a new tradition started out West, where the inaugural Golden Collar Awards were held Monday to recognize great moments in dog acting in TV and the movies.

And the question of breeds arose in that contest, as well. The star of the day was Uggie, who won after being nominated for two memorable performances — one in The Artist, and another in Water for Elephants.

But not everyone has been glowing in Uggie's achievement. In fact, Martin Scorsese, famed moviemaker and director of Hugo, took to the editorial pages of The Los Angeles Times to express his umbrage — and to support one his stars, a female Doberman named Blackie.

"I listened in vain for Blackie's name to be called, and then to all the hullabaloo over a certain Jack Russell terrier named Uggie. Actually, Uggie is so adorable that he received two nominations for two separate pictures. Well done."

"OK, let's lay all our cards on the table. Jack Russell terriers are small and cute. Dobermans are enormous and — handsome. More tellingly, Uggie plays a nice little mascot who does tricks and saves his master's life in one of the films, while Blackie gives an uncompromising performance as a ferocious guard dog who terrorizes children. I'm sure you can see what I'm driving at."

Seeing worrisome signs of potential breed-preference, Scorsese urged his readers to undertake a write-in campaign to right a wrong that he blamed on a too-narrow interpretation of talent, and an ingrained response to cuteness.

"I'm proud of Blackie, who laid it on the line and dared to risk the sympathy of her audience," Scorsese wrote. "Let's just say that on the set, she had a fitting nickname: Citizen Canine. The bath scene alone is a masterpiece of underplaying, with Blackie's wonderfully aquiline face accentuated by the 3-D."

Alas, even after several recounts to ensure the vote's integrity, Uggie took top honors in the contest, organized by Dog News Daily.

We can only hope that the Westminster show doesn't engender such conflict — or, perhaps it might be more fun if it did.

According to Reuters, oddsmakers in Las Vegas are betting on a win for a Pekingese named Malachy in Westminster's Best in Show round. They favor the heavily decorated dog with 6-1 odds.

It'll be interesting to see if the club establishes a new trend by anointing a champion similar to last year's outta-nowhere winner, a Scottish deerhound named Hickory, or if it'll return to historic norms by awarding Best in Show to a wire-haired Fox terrier — something that has happened a record 13 times, Reuters says.

If that doesn't happen, a Dalmatian named Ian or a wire-haired Dachshund named Cinders have a shot at winning Best in Show for the first time.

Perhaps the owners of all of those dogs should simply be thankful that Uggie, whose film The Artist is up for 10 Academy Awards, isn't competing in New York along with them.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.