NEW YORK -- This Buddy Holly no longer has to sigh, "That'll be the day."
A petit basset griffon Vendéen named for the late rock 'n' roll legend won best in show at the Westminster Kennel Club dog show Tuesday night, a first for the rabbit-hunting breed. Buddy Holly bested six other finalists to garner the most prestigious dog show award in the United States.
"I never thought a PBGV would do this," handler and co-owner Janice Hayes said. "Buddy Holly is the epitome of a show dog. Nothing bothers him."
Indeed, his white-tipped tail didn't stop wagging while he competed in the stadium where the U.S. Open tennis tournament's top matches are played. Not even while he posed for countless pictures after a win that Hayes called "so surreal."
"We're so proud of him," she said.
His competitors included Rummie, a Pekingese that came in second after aiming to bring home the third trophy in 11 years for his small-but-regal breed - and for handler, owner and breeder David Fitzpatrick. He guided Pekes Malachy and Wasabi to Westminster wins in 2012 and 2021, respectively.
Rummie is "true to Pekingese type, lots of carriage, presence - everything in one, here," he said Monday.
Winston the French bulldog was gunning for the title after coming oh-so-close last year. An Australian shepherd named Ribbon, an English setter called Cider, a giant schnauzer named Monty and an American Staffordshire terrier called Trouble also were in the pack of contenders.
If Buddy Holly was feeling the pressure, he wasn't letting it show ahead of the finals. Instead, he seemed more concerned late Tuesday afternoon with playing with his people and rejecting the notion of a nap in his crate.
"He just screams PBGV," Hayes said. "They're just very independent but very charming and just silly. Their goal is to make you laugh every day."
Originally from France, the small hounds are the 154th most prevalent purebreds in the country, according to recent American Kennel Club rankings. (Their name means "low-lying, wire-haired dog from the Vendée region" and is pronounced peh-TEE' bah-SAY' grihf-FAHN' vahn-DAY'-ahn.)
Buddy Holly - so named because "he's a buddy," breeder Gavin Robertson explained - has also lived and competed in the United Kingdom, Ireland and Australia.
About 2,500 dogs of 210 breeds and varieties vied for the trophy. Among them: the newly eligible bracco Italiano breed, won by a dog co-owned by country music star Tim McGraw.
Besides the chosen finalists, there were other fan favorites, too.
There was the bloodhound that bowed deeply before a judge, the golden retriever cheered by the breed's many fans, and the spunky German shorthaired pointer that did a few leaps before its lap around the ring. Spectators applauded 10-year-old handler Audra Maes and her shiba inu, and breeder/owner/handler Alexandria Mitchell and her Ibizan hound. They made the judge's first cut, an accomplishment at a show where many exhibitors handle other people's dogs as a career.
The Westminster show, held this year at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, also includes obedience and agility competitions that are open to mixed-breed dogs.
And what was next for Buddy Holly? A good night's sleep, "upside down, rolling in pillows," Hayes said.
"He just gets to go back to being a dog."