Call it a country mouse visiting the big city. But she brought a piece of it home to Rappahannock.
Foxcliffe Hickory Wind, bred and owned by Scott and Ceil Dove of Flint Hill, is the first Scottish Deerhound to win Best in Show at the Westminster Kennel Club dog show in New York City. More than 2,500 dogs from 179 breeds took part in the show held at Madison Square Garden in mid-February.
But that was just the beginning.
Since the historic victory, Ceil Dove said it has been a nonstop whirlwind for her and Hickory as well as professional handler Angela Lloyd, who’s from Warrenton.
After the 5-year-old female defeated six other purebreds in the final round, including four of last year’s Top 10, Hickory was featured on all four television networks the next morning, and was treated to a steak lunch atop the Empire State Building.
“I’d planned to come home [from New York] that night of the show (Feb. 15),” Dove said. “But when she won, it was like the floodgates opened.”
Westminster winners, Dove explained, were asked to act as official diplomats of the kennel club. “First it was the local TV stations . . . then the networks wanted us for their morning shows.” Hickory and Lloyd appeared on the “Today” show, “Good Morning America,” “The Early Show” and “Fox and Friends.”
Next, they were escorted to the top of the Empire State Building, “a paparazzi frenzy,” as Dove called it, for lunch at Sardi’s restaurant. Hickory got filet. Dove said that though the television clips made it appear that Hickory didn’t like the meal, she actually ate every bite. Newscasters sniffed that the tall, elegant dog was a little “picky.” “She was just waiting for it to cool off a little,” Dove protested. “They served it piping hot, like a person would want their meal, not room temp like a dog prefers it.”
Next it was off for a bit on Bloomberg News, then to meetings with home maven Martha Stewart and Donald Trump. “Trump Towers was incredible,” Dove said. “Donald Trump’s office, of course, has this killer view of Central Park, overlooking the whole city. He was so warm and fuzzy. He hugged Hickory, gave me a kiss on the cheek, got his picture taken with us. He’s very busy, down to the second, but he told the people in his office for some meeting that they’d have to wait. It was great.”
Hickory next visited the Ronald McDonald House for pediatric patients. “The kids all crowded around,” Dove said. “Big smiles everywhere.” It was almost, she said, as if Hickory knew how important her attendance was at that particular venue. “Everybody in the whole city knew Hickory. That dog show is a big deal.”
Husband Scott Dove said he thought escorting Hickory around New York was “like walking around with Madonna,” but Ceil Dove said: “More like Princess Di. Much more elegant.”
On Thursday morning, Hickory opened the venerable New York Stock Exchange, at last bundling into her kennel crate in a van headed south after lunch. “It was exhausting,” Dove said. “Fun, and exciting. But exhausting.”
Meanwhile, back at the ranch in Rappahannock, Scott Dove had held down the home fort while Ceil and Hickory reigned in the big city. “I woke up Wednesday morning (Feb. 16) and found a television truck on my front lawn,” Scott Dove said. “I mean, I can’t believe they found this place. We’re pretty remote.” Foxcliffe is north of Flint Hill, nearly a mile off a gravel road, at the very end of a little-used private lane.
All three local network affiliates “found” him that morning, Scott Dove said, doing live spots from Hickory’s birthplace and training grounds. “This one TV anchor gets out of her truck in these high heel shoes,” Dove said with a laugh. “And she’s all smiles, petting the [other] dogs, and says she wants to walk around [the farm]. I’m looking at her, and, like, ‘Do you want to borrow some rubber boots?’ They have no idea. This is a real dog, from a real farm. When she’s not showing, she’s home, walking with Ceil, sometimes chasing squirrels. Last big dog show, we brought her home and the next day she was after a bear. People have no idea what ‘country’ means.”
Last weekend, local fans got a chance to meet Hickory at a special event hosted by Griffin Tavern. Neighbor Mary Judkins was part of the celebration. “She was lying serenely on the porch with Ceil stroking her. They both looked beautiful,” Judkins said. “People came from far and wide, and the community is beyond excited.” Scott Dove estimated the crowd at 150 or more. “It was amazing,” he said. “Everybody is just so excited that a local dog won this show.”
The Hickory Tour is far from over: This weekend Hickory will be an ambassador to the big Detroit Kennel Club show in Michigan. A local garden club has asked Hickory to visit, as has the Rotary club in Front Royal. Possible venues later this spring include the Virginia Gold Cup and the Upperville Horse Show.
“It all depends on her (breeding) schedule,” Ceil Dove said. Hickory will be bred, probably in June, and since a dog’s gestation is just nine weeks — and since the puppies she’ll carry will be particularly valuable, she’ll be relegated to home rest until the pups are weaned. “She’ll have the whole fall and winter to go back out for publicity,” she said.