Doberman may be breed's finest specimen
With 71 Best in Shows, Dublin dog is closing in on top prize at Westminster
Dublin resident Jocelyn Mullins fell in love with Doberman pinschers because they're intelligent, energetic and true companions.
Those traits, coupled with a remarkable pedigree, have helped boost her dog, Fifi, to the pinnacle of the show-dog circuit.
The sturdy, barrel-chested dog with bright eyes and trademark pink collar -- studded with jewels, of course -- may be the most accomplished Doberman of all time.
In three years of competition, she's racked up 71 Best in Show prizes, and in international competition she's been named the best in her breed three years running.
"No Doberman in history has been able to do that," Mullins said.
Fifi -- also known as the "Fifinator" by fans -- might have capped off an extraordinary career this month at the Super Bowl of dogs shows: the 137th Westminster Dog Show in New York City.
The 4-year-old Doberman was favored by bookmaker Johnny Avella, who picked the winner three times in the past six years. He put Fifi on top with 7-to-1 odds.
Ultimately, she was beat out by Matisse, a 6-year-old Portuguese water dog, in the working dog group and failed to make the cut for the Best in Show grand finale.
The setback didn't faze Fifi. During daily trips with her owner to Advanced Boarding and Grooming -- the Lewis Center business Mullins owns -- Fifi is in high spirits.
"She's a very comical dog," Mullins said. "She's ornery and mischievous, but it's not out of badness. She just likes things that have entertainment value."
She loves people, Mullins said. Fifi never passes up a chance for a scratch behind the ears.
Fifi loves the limelight, too. She's a natural in front of a panel of judges, Mullins said.
The Westminster Dog Show has categories for 187 breeds, and judging is based on rigid appearance standards as well as a dog's movement and disposition.
Fifi did crack the show's top tier last year, emerging as one of seven finalists. In 2012, she was ranked No. 3 overall by the American Kennel Club.
An award-winning Doberman should be healthy, alert and determined, with the ability to make good decisions on the fly, Mullins said.
The American Kennel Club describes the breed as "an elegant athlete in a tight-fitting wrapper."
Fifi fits the bill. Bill Shelton of Pomona, Calif., has been involved in dog shows for 50 years and has judged Fifi in competition. He said her physical attributes -- right down to the tilt of her pelvis and the arch of her neck -- as well as her balance and sense of showmanship are the breed standard.
"Fifi is in many ways about as near perfect a Doberman there has been in my time in the sport," Shelton said.
Fifi isn't done competing. Mullins said she'll compete in obedience and will start agility training soon.
She'll also continue to be an ambassador for her oft-misunderstood breed, Mullins said.
"She knows how to make a good first impression," she said. "She makes people smile."