FILE - In this Feb. 12, 2013 file photo, Ernesto Lara celebrates with Banana Joe, an affenpinscher, who won Best in Show, during the 137th Westminster Kennel Club dog show at Madison Square Garden in New York. (AP)
NEW YORK (AP) — From the White House to Westminster, from the president to the present, Portuguese water dogs are enjoying quite a run.
Come Tuesday night, a Portie called Matisse could reach the pinnacle in dogdom.
Matisse breezed to a best of breed victory hours earlier and advanced to the working group competition. A win there would put him in the final ring for best in show at the 138th Westminster Kennel Club.
"He's just the ultimate show dog," handler Michael Scott said. "And they're great family dogs."
President Barack Obama and his family own two Portuguese water dogs. They adopted Bo in April 2009 and, liking what they had, added Sunny last year.
Matisse, by the way, is Sunny's cousin. Matisse got close last year at Westminster when he won the working group — sunny future, indeed.
The best in show was to be chosen shortly before 11 p.m. at Madison Square Garden.
A 135-pound bloodhound named Nathan won the hound group on Monday night. Also already in the best-of-seven ring were a seven-pound miniature pinscher called Classie with 121 career best in show ribbons, standard poodle Ally with 115 titles and Cardigan Welsh corgi Coco Posh.
The sporting, working and terrier champs were to be picked in the hours leading up to judge Betty Regina Leininger's choice as America's top dog.
But out of the competition was a favorite, a Doberman named Veni Vidi Vici. Affectionately called the Fifinator by worldwide fans who follow her Facebook page, she didn't get a ribbon in her breed judging. A surprise, since she'd easily won it the last three years.
"Disappointment," said Kevin Mullins, a co-owner with his wife.
A day earlier, an old English sheepdog called Swagger who finished second overall at the nation's top show last February was herded off the green carpet in his group.
"That's the history of Westminster," club President Sean McCarthy said Tuesday. "Upsets."
Matisse, however, was in fine form early on.
The 2½-year-old with the thick, curly black hair and the lion's cut — in show talk, that means his hind quarters are shaved like a poodle — limbered up with a little bit of yoga.
Right before he got set to trot around the ring, Matisse dipped into the "downward dog" position to stretch his back. A dog, for sure.
To loud cheers from fans who clearly knew his reputation, Matisse quickly was picked as the best among a dozen Porties. He then left the ring and, tail wagging and tongue out, celebrated by jumping up on the chests of family and admirers alike.
"He's the clown of the working group," Scott said.
With solid backing, too. One of his three owners, Peggy Helming, also had Josh, the crowd-pleasing Newfoundland who won Westminster in 2004.
An Irish water spaniel named Riley, who excelled on the show circuit last year, won her breed.
"Go, Ri-Ri," an admirer told an assistant handler after the win.
"Lucky," kidded another fellow competitor.
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