NEW YORK — Sadie the Scottish terrier won America's top dog show Tuesday night, and that was pretty predictable. What happened moments before she took the title at Westminster was far more startling.
Two women walked into the center ring at Madison Square Garden and held up signs that said "Mutts Rule" and "Breeders Kill Shelter Dogs' Chances," the latter a slogan popularized by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
The crowd of 15,000 gasped at the PETA-inspired protest, then booed the women and cheered as security ushered them away without incident. The interruption lasted about a minute and was not featured on the USA Network telecast.
Moments later, the 4-year-old Sadie climbed the purple best in show podium where one of the women had stood.
"I thought it was well-controlled by our people," Westminster spokesman David Frei said, without elaborating.
Sadie was a big favorite coming into the show, which is for 2,500 purebred dogs. There have been previous protests at Westminster, but none nearly this dramatic. As a matter of course, the public-address announcer at the Garden reads an announcement urging people to visit shelters and adopt their dogs.
Sadie came to New York as America's No. 1 show dog and earned her 112th best in show ribbon. Also reaching the final ring were a brittany that recently had two litters, a whippet that can run 35 mph, a Doberman pinscher headed into retirement, a white toy poodle who overcame his anxiety around crowds, a Canadian-bred French bulldog and a puli that twice won the herding group.
"She was perfect," handler Gabriel Rangel said. "I couldn't ask for anything more."
Her tongue out and her tail wagging, Sadie was right in step with Rangel. She is owned by Amelia Musser of Mackinac Island, Mich., and sports the champion's name of Roundtown Mercedes of Maryscot.
Rangel kidded that his relationship with Sadie was like a marriage. "I'm happily married," he said, "as long as I say, 'Yes, honey.'"
Sadie became the eighth Scottie to win at Westminster, second most to the 13 wins by wire fox terriers. She was the record 45th terrier to win in a show that began in 1877.
Judge Elliott Weiss picked the winner. He'd already seen Sadie – he chose her as the winner of an event in North Carolina last September.
Sadie became the first Triple Crown winner of dogdom. She took the National Dog Show in suburban Philadelphia in November and the AKC/Eukanuba National Championship in California in December.
This was Sadie's third try at Westminster. She got spooked by strange sounds at the Garden two years ago, and last February had a potty accident on the Garden's green carpet.
Garden fans cheer loudly for big dogs, and thundering mastiffs got a great reception. There was a murmur, too, when a sweet golden retriever got passed over by a judge. Retrievers always rank among the most popular dogs in the U.S., but have never won Westminster.
A Glen of Imaal terrier drew a laugh when she stopped her parade to scarf up loose treats off the carpet. She was a show girl – it figures, because handler Bruce Sussman co-wrote "Copacabana" with Barry Manilow.
Among the notables at ringside were Broadway star Bernadette Peters and a top official from baseball's big dogs, New York Yankees president Randy Levine.
Dogs from 173 breeds and varieties entered this show. Westminster will welcome six more breeds next year, including the bluetick coonhound, best known to sports fans as the Smokey mascot at the University of Tennessee.
"She was there for me all the way," Rangel said after easily winning the terrier group. Within a half-hour, he and Sadie had captured an even bigger trophy.
Maybe she was in a hurry to get home.
"She likes to watch TV," Rangel said. "We have dinner together at the hotel and watch Animal Planet."