Dog Days at Westminster redux: the triumph of Stella


This past weekend, three-year-old Stella hopped across the pond and won the reserve "Best of Breed" award at the prestigious Crufts dog-show competition in Birmingham, England.

Earlier this month, we chatted Hennepin County Sheriff's Detention Deputy/dog handler Darryl Cooper about his pupil Stella, a Spinone Italiano. Stella went home empty handed after the Westminster Dog Show in New York, but this time around, things panned out in her favor.

Stella's pops, Ron Turner of Charles City, IA, said that Stella, Cooper and his wife, Teri, have yet to return from England. But Terri did leave him a message and sounded "pretty excited," Turner said.

"She said that Stella was the second best female out of over 100 females," he said.

Stella is the first American Spinoni to win Best of Breed. A Giant Schnauzer, Philippe Oliver, won Best of Show, and was awarded a massive bottle of champagne that matched the size of his hearty trophy.

Turner, a retired schoolteacher, leaves the doggie traveling to his wife and Cooper. In the meantime, he occupies himself with the family's four other Spinoni Italianos. Turner said that he and his wife have been breeding the dogs for years.

Stella, the baby of the canine family, knows that she is the star, Turner said, calling her a "show off" and a "lover" at heart. Still, every working girl has her limits.

"A year ago she was on the road most of the time, and this past year she only showed about once a month," he explained.

When Stella isn't wowing crowds with her sleek physique and well-sculpted beard, she attends the local elementary school every other Friday to have children read to her.

"She loves going to school and having the kids lay on her and play with her," Turner said. " The kids read out loud to her and they think that Stella knows when they make a mistake because she turns and looks at them."