Michigan Bichon struts into retirement after winning at Westminster

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News
Handler Bill McFadden shows Flynn, a bichon frise, in the best in show competition during the 142nd Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018, at Madison Square Garden in New York. Flynn won best in show.

Like other canine brethren who've walked the ring and won, Flynn has taken his last strut and is retiring.

The Bichon Frise, who grabbed best in  show at the Westminster Kennel Club on Tuesday at Madison Square Garden in New York City, heads into retirement in Plymouth in March, after he turns 6, his owners say. 

Some say that's young, but Flynn's put in a lot of hours to reach the coveted title at Westminster, co-owner Lorrie Carlton said, even reaching best in his non-sporting group at the revered sporting event last year. 

It hasn't been easy. The little powder puff entered 155 dog shows in 2017 before he became the 142nd dog to win the Westminster title this week. He's won 44 best in shows for non-sporting before Tuesday.

"After being on the road for three years, he's coming home in a few weeks and he's retiring. We’ll have puppies from him," said Carlton. 

Handler Bill McFadden poses for photos with Flynn, after the bichon frise won best in show during the 142nd Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, Tuesday.

Carlton and her husband, veterinarian Larry Letsche, have lived in Michigan since 1989. Carlton said her parents were breeders and she grew up in the business, watching her parents work at Belle Creek Kennels. She then became  a professional handler. 

"The minute you live with a Bichon, you become smitten," Carlton said. "He's a beautiful representative of the breed and he really came out of the blue in this competition because he stole their hearts."

The white powder puff beat nearly 3,000 other dogs and 202 breeds for the title. The choice was a surprise to most of the crowd at the Garden, with many fans falling silent when Flynn was picked. They had been loudly shouting for their favorites but fell into stunned silence when judge Betty-Anne Stenmark announced her choice, according to the Associated Press

Lorrie Carlton and some of her fluffy white powder puffs.

"It's the ultimate experience, like winning the Superbowl or the Kentucky Derby; no other win compares," Carlton said. "The lineup of dogs was so beautiful. Just an excellent and very elite group to win from." 

Carlton said as a breeder, she always knew Flynn would have a great career. 

"There's no way of know what a dog's full potential is before they're a year old but I noticed early with Flynn. He was the only boy in the litter," Carlton said. 

Now the top dog is coming home.

"Flynn loves the snow and adores people. He loves to have his belly rubbed and lifts one paw up when he's excited," Carlton said. "Flynn will be spoiled more than he already is.

The couple have  10 other Bichons, not all live with them. Owning one is a large commitment, she said. 

"I hope people don't go out and buy Bichons after seeing Flynn because they're a commitment," she said. "People should seek out the dog that's right for them, whether that's a pure(breed) or rescue."