SAN DIEGO -- This year’s “Best in Show” dog at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York City comes from Temecula.
C.J., a 3-year-old German Shorthaired Pointer, and his owner, Valerie Nunes-Atkinson, spoke to 10News about the experience. Atkinson and her son gathered in the living room, surrounded by so many boxes it looked like Christmas morning.
They opened each box, pulling out trophy after trophy from their recent win at Westminster in Madison Square Garden. However, of all the hardware they won during the competition, there’s one that stands alone: Best in Show for the most prestigious dog competition in the country.
“This like, represents a lifetime of dreams,” Nunes-Atkinson said. “[It’s] something I’ve been aspiring to since I was 10-years-old.”
Atkinson says the announcement practically came in slow motion.
“[The judge] is kind of motioning ‘and 2016 Best in Show goes to the German. . .’ I’m thinking Shepherd,” she said.
So the next two words, “Shorthaired Pointer,” changed everything.
“We were the longshot,” Atkinson said.
The prized pooch from Temecula beat out more than 2,700 other dogs to score top honors.
“He has all the greats in his pedigree,” she said.
C.J.’s grandmother took the Best in Show title in 2005. From the time he was a puppy, Atkinson says she knew he was special.
“I remember telling good friends of mine that are breeders, ‘I’m taking this puppy,’ and they’re like, ‘Really? Seriously?’ I’m like, ‘Trust me on this one.’ He has an air about him that is indescribable. It’s like the “it” factor you talk about in certain things.”
She calls him an old soul and a caring canine, whose initials stand for “California Journey.”
“He loves everybody,” Atkinson said. “Dogs, people, cats, it doesn’t matter.”
C.J. wasn’t camera shy either, prancing around the kitchen like Linus holding a blanket in his mouth.
“He looks you directly in the eye. You don’t have to teach him things. You just ask him to do it,” Atkinson said. “I step [to] one side then the other and he just kind of moves with me.”
Despite C.J.’s new celebrity status, his family says it knows what’s most important.
“He’s got to be a dog first,” Atkinson said. “Show dog second.”