He’s tiny, but mighty – he has the swagger and countenance of a champion!
At 5 pounds, the marble-eyed, gold and white-haired 3-year-old is a delight to watch prance and preen.
On Monday, Feb. 13, H&H Hotrod of Williamson Valley, the American Kennel Club Grand Champion in the long coat Chihuahua, is expected to strut his stuff at the most prestigious dog show in the canine world – the Westminster Kennel Dog Show at Madison Square Garden. Some 202 dog breeds are expected at this year’s event where dogs are judged not against each other but as representatives of their particular breed.
Hotrod may have some stiff competition, but as the top long coat Chihuahua in America his owner and handler Michelle Herod of Prescott has high hopes he will shine. His tiny ears, curved tail and confidence with other animals will play into how he performs in this competition; for him this show will be no different than any other that he has attended all across the United States.
“We just want to have fun,” said the owner of Goodwin Medical Supply in Prescott.
Beyond participation in this show, Herod said Hotrod’s invitation allows she and her husband, Todd Harris – the H&H logo for their breeding business from their names – their first sojourn to Manhattan. Despite blizzard conditions in the region, Herod has hopes they get to visit some sights.
The 2016 Best in Show winner was a German shorthaired pointer, CJ, who won over 2,700 entrants in the annual competition.
“I’m thrilled to death for her (Herod),” said fellow breeder Kathy Golden of Congress. Herod is president of the Chihuahua Club of Greater Phoenix.
Not only is Herod the owner of Hotrod, but she is also his handler, something that is a rarity at this show, Golden said. Herod is also a local breeder who has 20 dogs as a base, in addition to 12 horses.
Hotrod is a “lovely, lovely dog, not only in confirmation but in personality,” said Golden, who has traveled with Herod to other dog shows and who has bought some of her dogs from Herod.
Herod’s dogs, which include those with merle coats similar to that of an Australian shepherd, sell for $1,000 or more.
“This is a big deal,” Golden said of the invitation show.
Herod’s mother, Alice Thompson of Phoenix, known to her community as the “Chihuahua Mama,” is behind her daughter’s penchant for the breed. But her mother never got into showing her dogs.
Herod started breeding just two or three dogs, and in 2009 she started to show some of her dogs, all of them winning breed titles. The very first win was at a show with the American Kennel Club of Palm Springs, California.
“This is wonderful,” Thompson said. “She followed my dream farther than I could have ever gone. You have to go to a lot of shows to do what Michelle has done.”
Thompson said she hopes to be able to see some of the show through live-streaming on her television. And she certainly has high hopes that Hotrod gets picked in the top 20 of his breed.
“We just have to wait to see what happens,” Thompson said.
Asked if she is nervous at all because of the magnitude of this competition, Herod said, “Not at all.”
“You just do your best. I feel like we’re a lot like Babe Ruth,” Herod said with a chuckle of the baseball Hall of Fame’s “Sultan of Swat” who never feared strikeouts because he said that was what it took to reach the next home run. “We win as often as we lose.”
Hotrod, though shy at times, is comfortable in the spotlight, and always performs well, and at the end of the day remains a very happy pet eager to be rewarded with cookies and affection, she said. Prior to the main competition on Monday, Hotrod will also participate in some preliminary competitions that will determine his placing at the main event.
While Herod knows it is quite the longshot to earn the top spot for all breeds in the show, Herod said her goal would be to win the breed and then be entered into the toy group “and then see what happens.”
“He’s a good ambassador for Chihuahuas,” Herod added.