Fans at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show have taken one dog in particular to their hearts this year: A little pug named Biggie who brings a sad tale.
With velvety black ears and a confident strut, Biggie won the Toy Group on Monday, which means he will compete for Best in Show Tuesday night.
Biggie is a cousin of a champion pug named Rumble — best of his breed at Westminster last year — who died unexpectedly last summer.
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Biggie’s handler, Esteban Farias, said Monday’s win was for Rumble.
“This is unbelievable,” he said. “It’s a dream come true. And I have a little friend who is looking for us up in the sky. And this is for him.”
Rumble was in the prime of his life and show career when he died at the age of 3, according to The Canine Chronicle.
With movement described as flawless, a balanced body and a beautiful head, Rumble was a champion from an early age, a “little prince” of a dog.
He was the top pug and top toy breed in the country, with 42 Best in Shows to his credit, and a “picture of health” when he died, according to the Chronicle.
Taking his regular morning walk on June 5, 2017, Rumble collapsed and died instantly.
The week before he had just received a wellness exam and his initial flu vaccine, a “jump-start” on a nasty flu that caused grave concern in the show community last year, according to his breeder. He didn’t show any problems with the vaccine.
“With all of Rumble’s accolades and accomplishments, his loss wasn’t mourned because of his winnings or his status as a show dog, but instead for the beautiful dog he was inside and out,” his Texas breeder, Kristy Ratliff of Hill Country Pugs, told the Chronicle.
“He was truly an outstanding representative of the pug breed, and he will be admired for generations to come.”
Pugs are always popular at Westminster, but Biggie’s family connection to Rumble quickly endeared him to fans. (Some people thought Biggie was Rumble’s son.)
Watching Biggie come into his own in the competition ring has been emotional for Rumble’s breeders, recognized as among the top pug breeders in the country.
The cause of his death remains largely a mystery.
One month after he died, Ratliff wrote on Facebook that the final report on his death, which had “clearly left no stone unturned,” was inconclusive.
“So, as you can see, we have closure, without definitive closure,” she wrote.
She wrote again on her Facebook page Monday night after Biggie’s big win: “Rumble was surely smiling down on us all tonight.”