A Norwalk dog is going for Best in Show. Fairway Circle couple John and Elsie Francisco said their 2-year-old Norwich Terrier, Cooper, has a chance to earn the top designation.
Cooper is one of only 19 Norwich Terriers in the U.S. selected this year to compete in the American Kennel Club's seventh annual Eukanuba National Championship.
The event, this weekend in Long Beach, Calif., determines which dogs are the best specimens of their breeds.
The competition will air 8-11 p.m. Feb. 2 on Animal Planet and the Discovery Channel.
Nearly 2,500 dog owners and their pets will compete this year for a total of $225,000 and the title of Best in Show.
The Francisco family, which has been showing dogs since the 1960s, believes Cooper is up to the challenge.
"We feel he's close to a perfect specimen. He can compete with the top dogs," Elsie Francisco said. "Evidently he is or we wouldn't have been invited."
The Francisco family owns two other Norwich terriers, a dog show veteran named Hershey, 9, and a 7-year-old champion named Icee, who won the 2002 Norwich Terrier Specialty Dog Show in Chicago.
Every year, the family adds thousands of miles to their car's odometer, competing in dog shows from the East Coast to the Mississippi River.
"I like competition," John Francisco said. "We started with great danes back in the early 1960s. We went through three danes and, over the years, we ended up with these guys."
Cooper is already a champion in his own right. He's won or placed in several competitions during 2007 alone and was ranked 14th this year among Norwich terriers nationwide, according to the American Kennel Club.
"It's prestigious just to be invited to this event," American Kennel Club spokeswoman Daisy Okas said. "It's very competitive, especially among terriers. To qualify you have to be in the top 25 of your breed ... or have won a Best in Show at another event."
Competing on that level isn't easy, according to Elsie Francisco, who is a retired beautician. Thanks to her, Cooper gets top-notch hygiene treatments.
"I work on Cooper probably almost everyday, pulling hair, keeping his hair in top condition," she said. "I brush his teeth every couple of days. We have to keep his toenails trimmed."
"Right before the show, I bathe him, blow dry him and put on volumizing cream. It takes me about an hour to get him ready."
Despite the stiff competition, John Francisco is confident Cooper will perform well.
"We always expect to win," he said.
John Francisco retired two years ago from his position as vice president of manufacturing at Norwalk Furniture.
The Francisco family purchased Cooper and another Norwich terrier named Cricket about two years ago from a breeder in Pompano Beach, Fla.