From The Daily Breeze – South Bay
February 11, 2001

Torrance pooch goes on parade

Muddy isn’t just your average hound

By Josh Grossberg

He may be on his way to canine glory, but Muddy, the rumpled basset hound, can only think of one thing: cheese.

Ribbons of drool fall from his fleshy mouth as his owner; Karen Spillane of Torrance, gets his attention with a piece of cheddar as they pose for a picture together.

“He’s a lovable couch potato, very laid back,” she said. “Yet he’s got a hound’s great nose.”

All droppy-eyed and loosey-goosey, the 3-year-old Muddy hardly seems like the stunning climax of generations of breeding, but he is. He’s already won many local and regional awards and, starting Monday, he’ll compete with other members of the pooch pantheon in the Westminster Dog Show in New York.

‘He started winning a lot’

“I was doing it as a hobby, but last summer he started winning a lot,” Spillane said. “If I can do this part time, what can I do if I really go for it?”
The longest continuously running sporting event after the Kentucky Derby, the Westminster Dog Show is now in its 125th year: Only champions, which are vetted through a series of lesser contests, are allowed to participate in the Nobel prize of the canine world.

“They’ve paid their dues through hard work, training and building a rapport with their handler,” said Nancy Matlock, director of communications for the American Kennel Club. “These dogs will be in top show condition and top physical condition. All these dogs are not only excellent specimens, they have a little extra panache.”

Good parallel planes

Muddy currently ranks No. 20 in the world of basset hounds. To become the best, a dog must measure up to a Platonic ideal of dogdom. In his case, Muddy has good parallel planes (the top of his head and snout are in alignment), his back is nice and straight, as are his hocks, or back legs.

Those who might doubt the interests of the Spillane household need only step aside. Aside from Muddy, and his look-alike friends Jake and Elwood, there are basset hound-themed items everywhere: oven mitts, refridgerator magnets, pillows, stuffed animals, the latest copy of Basset Tales magazine, and of course, a wall nearly covered with ribbons from previous victories.

“I never felt about anything the way I feel about Muddy since my children,” said Spillane, who works at home as regional vice president for Bullova Corp.
Spillane and her husband, Philip, travel to various dog shows with Muddy throughout the year. With children grown and gone, they have the time to spend with the pooches. But they don’t treat the dogs like show pieces.
“First and foremost, they are our pets,” Spillane said. “They are a part of the family.”

While she’d be thrilled if Muddy won first place, Spillane said she’s happy with the experience.

“It’s a long shot,” she said. “If you go to win, you’re going to be disappointed. My dog never knows if he won or lost. He gets as much love either way. We’re not going to win, we’re going to have a fabulous time.”