Westminster Winner Barks Back from Near-Death

02/11/2009 at 06:30 AM EST

Westminster Winner Barks Back from Near-Death
Scott Sommer with Stump the Sussex Spaniel
Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty
Stump, a Sussex spaniel who nearly died in 2004, won Best in Show at the 133rd Annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York City on Tuesday night – the oldest dog ever to receive the title.

The crowd cheered when judge Sari Brewster Tietjen pointed to the 10-year-old dog, who beat out a Scottish deerhound, a Scottish terrier, a standard poodle, a puli, a Brussels griffon and a giant Schnauzer.

According to Westminster Kennel Club spokesman David Frei, a team of vets at Texas A&M University saved Stump five years ago. "His whole body completely quit, they did [some] miracle, because here he is now, looking great and just won Westminster," said Stump's co-owner, Scott Sommer.

Formally known as Ch Clussexx Three D Grinchy Glee, Stump was selected from some 2,522 dogs from 48 states, the District of Columbia and at least seven foreign countries. Sommer told reporters that he officially decided to enter the dog in the show last Wednesday.

"He loves the crowd, he loves people, that's what he does," Sommer said.

The Sussex spaniel gets its name from the county in England where the breed originated. A member of the Sporting Group, the Sussex is generally cheerful and affectionate in nature – with a life expectancy of about 15 years, said Sommer, adding, "It would be great if we got to 15 or 20."

Established in 1877, the Westminster Dog Show is the second longest continuously held sporting event in the U.S., just a year behind the Kentucky Derby, the club says. This year, the Dogue de Bordeaux, aka the French Mastiff, was eligible for competition for the first time and competed in the Working Group.

The dog show, which aired live on USA Network and CNBC, has been televised since 1948. Entries were down by about 100 dogs this year, which show organizers chalked up to the tough economy.

Reporting by CAROL VINZANT

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