She’s America’s top dog.
An English bulldog named Star was awarded Best in Show at the 22nd Annual American Kennel Club National Championship, besting 5,300 canines, the club announced on Monday.
The 3 and 1/2 year-old, whose show name is GCHG CH Cherokee Legend Encore, is owned by Alaina Moulton and married couple Kevin & Natalie Mason of Atlanta. Her handler is Dennis O’Conner of Glen Rose, Texas.
Star is the first English bulldog to take the top honors in the $50,000 competition, which was held last month in Orlando and aired on New Year’s Day on ABC.
“It’s a huge deal for bulldogs,” owner Natalie Mason told The Post. “Bulldogs are so underrated. A lot of people have this stigma in their mind that they are panting and unhealthy and lazy. We are breeding for healthy and good standards.”
In recent years, the breeding of bulldogs — exceptionally popular among pooch lovers — has become the subject of considerable controversy, due to the numerous health issues — from skin allergies to breathing difficulties — the dogs often face. Last year Norway went so far as to ban breeding the squat dogs, along with Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, citing the “man-made health problems” associated with doing so.
But, Mason said that healthy specimens such as Star show that bulldogs “can be bred right and taken care of.”
A rep for the Bulldog Club of America, which “promotes health and welfare of the breed” echoed her sentiments, saying they were “proud and not at all surprised” by Star’s victory.
The Masons bought the show dog as a puppy because Kevin had a lifelong love of the breed. Their daughters, ages 6 and 10, aptly named her Star.
“I guess they knew she was destined for something great,” said Natalie. “She has this air about her.”
She started showing as a puppy and did well in lower tier competitions. But it was motherhood that took her to the next level.
“She had a litter of puppies in April of 2021 and she just matured. Her body dropped into all the right places. [Handler] Dennis was like, ‘we have something special here. And this year she kind of took off — and ended up with the National Championship,” said Natalie.
Star beat out six other top canines in Orlando — Bogart the Schnauzer, Trumpet the Bloodhound, Josie the Spinone Italiano, Stache the Sealyham Terrier, Clark the Havanese and Mercedes the German Shepherd — for the grand prize.
After her historic victory, Star was treated to a steak dinner. On social media, she garnered comparisons to the University of Georgia Bulldog, who on Saturday rallied to beat Ohio State in the College Football Playoff semifinal game. Next Monday, they will take on Texas Christian University in the National Championship game.
“This could be the year of the bulldog,” quipped Natalie.
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