Of all the movie stars, crooners and celebrities that visited Palm Springs throughout the 1950s and ‘60s, Buddy Holly wasn’t famous for visiting town. But now, his name will be forever tied with the city after a dog sharing his name won best in show at the 147th annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York City this month.
Buddy Holly, a six-year-old Petit Basset Griffon Vendéen (PBGV for short), won top dog over 3,000 other hopeful pooches representing more than 200 different breeds. This is the first time a PBGV has won best in show, and it’s all because Buddy Holly perfectly adheres to the official standards for his breed.
The American Kennel Club has precise requirements for the dog’s build, color, gait, and even their tail. “[The tail] is well furnished with hair, has but a slight curve and is carried proudly like the blade of a saber; normally pointing at about two o’clock,” reads the club’s guide for the breed.
The New York Times even described Buddy as “fetchingly bewhiskered,” which is a necessary trait for the breed.
But handler and owner Janice Hayes thinks it was Buddy Holly’s temperament that ultimately put him ahead of the other dogs.
“PBGVs are happy little hunters,” she said. “He was born with a confidence that you just can’t train into dogs. They either have it or they don’t.”
Hayes has been training and showing dogs for decades. She first started competing in Junior Showmanship competitions and has racked up about 30 trips to Westminster over the years. This was the third time Hayes has had a dog win best in its group, but the first time she’s won best in show.
“You can never go into Westminster confident because it’s so huge,” she said. “Everyone is so competitive and at the top of their game.”
But once Buddy Holly took to the floor, his personality shone through. “He didn’t put a foot down wrong,” Hayes said. “He won over everyone’s hearts.”
A lot of work goes into preparing for such a prestigious competition. Hayes reveals that the neurotic and pampering owners featured in the cult classic film “Best in Show” are actually not that far off from reality. “It’s pretty accurate,” she said. “We all know someone that fits into one of those characters.”
And Buddy Holly’s training started when he was a puppy. He had to get used to being poked and prodded, and to get comfortable with being around thousands of dogs, people and cameras. Like many active locals, Buddy Holly even has a treadmill to stay in shape when it gets too hot outside.
Most importantly, Hayes said, is nurturing his personality. “We have to make sure we’re stroking his ego,” she said. “We want him to be confident in every situation he walks into.”
That confidence training paid off. After the big win, Buddy Holly embarked on a media tour that included the Today Show, Good Morning America, a ride in a Rolls-Royce, a lunch of roast chicken at Tavern on the Green, and a trip to the top of the Empire State Building.
But the people, cameras and fuss didn’t bother Buddy Holly one bit, Hayes said.
“He loved it. He would walk into a room and love on everybody,” she said. “He made sure to flop on his back so people could rub his belly.”
Buddy Holly has competed in more than 50 shows in his career, winning five best in shows. Like many other stars, the six-year-old will now retire in Palm Springs with Hayes, her husband and their other dogs.
Hayes got Buddy Holly from a breeder in England in December, and because the two are gone most weekends traveling to different dog shows, Buddy has not yet spent that much time in the desert. Still, Buddy was very excited to reunite with Hayes’ other dogs when he got home. “He loves to play, and I could just tell he missed his friends when he was gone,” she said.
And with this month’s best in show win, Hayes said the accomplishment fulfills a dream that she’s had since she was nine years old.
“It’s a dream job,” she said. “I get to work with dogs every day.”
Below are Buddy’s responses (as relayed to his handler) to a few hard-hitting questions from The Post:
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Occupation: Show dog of course!
Neighborhood: All of Palm Springs is my neighborhood.
How long have you lived in the desert? Almost six months.
What brought you here? I made the journey here from England to be with my new family and to continue my career of showing everyone how cute I am.
What keeps you here? My girlfriends and all the spoiling I’m going to get now that I’m retired.
Do you have family here? Besides my adopted family, I have a few cousins here.
What is your favorite time of the year here? The winter.
How do you beat the heat? Before I lived in England I lived in Australia, so I’m used to the heat. I enjoy the air conditioning and swimming.
Do you have a personal philosophy by which you live? Every day is a great day.
What was your first job? Hunting rabbits.
What’s your favorite place to eat? Wherever I’m welcome!
What’s your favorite thing to do or place to go in the desert? I love to go to VillageFest.
What would you tell people about Palm Springs that they might not already know? How dog-friendly it is.
What’s your guilty pleasure? It sounds strange, but I love DentaStix. I think my family is happy that I like them so much because it makes my breath fresh.
What’s the biggest issue facing our community? I think we need more stores that offer me free cookies and more items for dogs on restaurant menus.
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