The 138th annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show:
Monday: 8-11 p.m. on CNBC
Tuesday: 8-11 p.m. on USA
He's worked out by trotting beside a golf cart, been groomed with Isle of Dogs Royal Jelly, and had his nails buffed to a fine sheen.
He's spent a year away from home competing to prepare for the national ring at this week's Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York City.
Sweetgrass Johann Tipper - known to his fans at the Carolina Audiology Clinic in West Ashley as Tipper - is the top-rated long-haired dachshund in the nation, a champion of champions.
When he got the invite to the oldest dog show in America, owner Dr. Catherine Martine was so excited she could hardly contain herself.
Martine bought the red-and-black puppy on a lark. Tipper was the last of his litter to find a home. Everyone expected he would be great for the dog show "newbie." But no one anticipated that he would be the dog.
"I really bought him so that I could have a hobby," Martine said Friday as she was packing to join Tipper in New York. He arrived Thursday with Rhanda Glenn, his handler from Anderson.
Two for the show
Tipper's not the only dog from the Lowcountry barking up the trophy tree.
Low Rider Gimme Back My Bullets will attempt to steal the show, too. The English bulldog, nicknamed Bullet, is the first champion bred by owner-handler Corri Long of North Charleston.
After the top five dogs in a breed are invited to Westminster, the classes are opened up to others who want to see how their dogs will fare. The classes are filled on a first-come, first-served basis.
So they are a long shot - an underdog, if you will. "We crashed the party," Long said.
This is Long's first trip to Westminster, and she's not sure what to expect. She's just hoping the judge will look favorably on her treasured Bullet. His breed class is at 8:30 a.m. Monday.
"Our biggest challenge is that I know I will be a little overwhelmed, and I just want to have a good show," she said.
Unlike Martine, Long will be showing Bullet herself, a dream she's paid for through her service, Wigglebutt Grooming. She's on her own for the trip. Her husband is at home with her other "kids," nine dogs that need some extra attention while she's gone. All her show dogs are her pets, she said.
Tough to be top dog
Martine and Long are optimistic but say they are practical about the end results.
Martine said of the judging, "It's just one person's opinion at one moment in time." No dachshund has ever won Best in Show at Westminster, Martine said. But she thinks he has what it takes.
"He's sort of like Bill Clinton. He has a certain charisma." After he competes, she wants Tipper to come home and be part of the family again.
Said Long: "If you say you've been to Westminster, everyone knows what you are talking about. But of course, everyone wants their dog to win every time they walk in the ring."
Once the province of royal entries and wealthy patrons, the Westminster Kennel Club's first show was in 1877. Top dogs have had their moment under the TV lights in Madison Square Garden since 1948.
The 138th edition will be broadcast Monday and Tuesday. The group competitions will be on Monday, and the finale Tuesday is Best in Show, one of the top canine honors in the world.
Tipper's first breed class will be at The Piers at 1:30 p.m. Monday. Both dogs can be watched through live streaming available through at westminsterkennelclub.org. If either wins their breed class, they will go on to compete in their group class on Monday or Tuesday night, competing against all the other top dogs in the group from their breed classes.
If the two dogs are successful in their breed classes, Tipper will compete in the hound group and Bullet will compete in the non-sporting group on Monday night.
Should either win their group class they will go onto Best In Show on Tuesday night.