Rufus, aka Ch. Rocky Tops Sundance Kid, is a colored bull terrier. Owned by
Barbara and Tom Bishop of Keyport, N.J., Rufus was born April 8, 2000. These are
some of his accomplishments:
- No. 1 colored bull terrier in breed for past five years.
- The Silverwood Trophy winner, 2001.
- Bull Terrier Club of America National Specialty winner, 2002 and 2004.
- Bull Terrier Fanciers Association of Canada, Bronze Trophy and National
- 31-time winner of All Breed Best in Show.
BTFA Nat. Specialty Canada
BTCA National Specialty Winner (2x)
Multiple Winner of the Pedigree &
Top's Sundance Kid
(Breeders: W.F. & Rebecca Poole)
RUFUS — Colored bull terrier
Observation: "He wants to drive says, but I have to draw the line," says
co-owner Barbara Bishop.
Home: Holmdel, N.J.
Rufus rules the roost.
"It's his way or no way," says Barbara Bishop, who co-owns the dog. "Life is all
about his pleasure."
And Bishop happily indulges him with roast chicken or sushi dinners. She even
bought Rufus a doggie treadmill so he could keep in shape. "He wanted it when he
saw it at a dog show," Bishop says. "He got on and kept running. But once it was
delivered to the house, he wouldn't get on it to save his life."
Bishop acknowledges having a special feeling about Rufus, considered the epitome
of what the first bull terrier breeders were trying to produce a century ago.
Only once has a bull terrier won Best in Show at Westminster, in 1918, which,
prior to last October, was also the last time the Boston Red Sox won the World
"So the pressure is on," Bishop says.
More Information on the Making of a champion:
His owners, Barbara and Tom
Bishop, say they owe Rufus' success to Kathy
"She made him come alive. She made him become the show dog he is," Barbara
Bishop said from her Keyport, N.J., home. "She's like a dog whisperer."
Lifetime calling: Kirk has worked with dogs for most of her 58 years. A city of
York native, Kirk said she always had a soft spot for dogs and as a girl often
brought strays to the East Philadelphia Street apartment where she lived with
her aunt, Jean Gibbs. But Kirk said she couldn't keep the dogs because city
living was too cramped.
At 15, she trained her first dog, a white German shepherd that was disqualified
as a show dog because of its unusual color. Nonetheless, Kirk's skill in 1964
garnered the shepherd, Frau Kim Von Weisshund, the top obedience spot
About that time, Kirk's mother, the late Betty Gibbs, had a chance encounter
with a colleague who knew a little something about show dogs.
Ben Nolan Dale, a 68-year-old retired medical researcher and American Kennel
Club judge, talked to Betty Gibbs and advised her about breeding and showing.
Gibbs bought a puppy for the girls, and it all started from there, Dale said.
"It takes stick-to-itiveness to know that's what you want to do," Dale said from
his Gettysburg home. "It's a tough life; I wouldn't do it, but the cream always
Kirk graduated from high school and completed a year at the University of
Maryland, where she studied microbiology. Kirk talked from her Oxford, Conn.,
home during a brief break between shows, appointments and dog walks.
"It was in my blood, competition," Kirk said about pursuing a career as a
handler. "I decided to try a year apprenticeship with a handler."
First, an apprentice: At 19, she moved to Southbury, Conn., where she worked
around-the-clock for then-famed handlers Bob and Jane Forsyth. She bathed, fed,
groomed, walked the dogs and cleaned kennels that year. She didn't set foot in
the show dog arena but did all the prep work behind the scenes.
Despite the low pay and demanding work, Kirk was hooked. She re-upped and spent
several more years as an apprentice.
"I try to get into their minds, to see what makes them run," Kirk said. "It's
just a love of training. I didn't want a pet that would sit at my feet."
Dogs she's worked with -- they number at least 75 breeds -- are bred to perform
as birddogs are born to hunt.
"They're always showing off, standing there posing and looking so proud," Kirk
said. "You take this little, raw creature at 8 to 12 weeks old and encourage
After the apprenticeship, Kirk ventured out on her own. She exchanged a personal
life for a career in which days begin at 8 a.m. and end at 8 p.m. There are four
shows a week in just about every state in the nation.
"Your heart has to be in it," she said. "We have no personal or local friends,
and it's very difficult to have time off."
Owners spend, conservatively, an estimated $200,000 for a yearlong campaign that
might result in the ultimate win for a dog like Rufus is worth it. The Bishops
said they emptied their bank account to back Rufus when he was barely more than
Except for cash prizes that pale in comparison to campaign costs, the only real
return on the show dog investment is the satisfaction of having a champion.
She noticed Rufus: That's where Kirk comes in. The Bishops had been at a show
when they met Kirk. She'd noticed Rufus and asked them if they'd be interested
in her services. They'd heard of her, seen her around the tight-knit show dog
"I was thrilled," Barbara Bishop said about Kirk's request to handle Rufus.
"Rufus behaves so differently with her on the end of the leash than he does with
anyone else," Bishop said. She is a 55-year-old retired paramedic, and her
50-year-old husband heads maintenance at a chemical plant; so it wasn't long
before they'd run short of money to finance Rufus' career.
Without Kirk's help and a handful of other dog lovers who have financially
backed Rufus, the Bishops might not ever have realized their dream, or at least
come this close to it.
"It's a once-in-a-lifetime experience," Barbara Bishop said. "It's great to
think he could win Westminster."
In his short and busy life, Rufus has become the No. 1 all time of his breed
and, to date, has garnered 31 Best in Show awards, Kirk said. After Westminster,
he'll likely retire. And Kirk might soon petition for her own retirement, of
Judge next: She'll trade the life of a handler for one of a judge, a move that
will require her to again start at the bottom.
That won't come for another year or two, though. Then she'll apply to the AKC.
It will tell her whether she's allowed to judge, and how many recognized breeds
she might be qualified to judge.
As years pass, maybe she'll oversee one of the seven groups -- sporting,
non-sporting, working, herding, hounds, toys and terriers -- the club
"If I start today, I'm 58," Kirk said, and explained the process and tenure of
show dog judges. "Maybe by the time I'm 70, I'll have a good number of breeds to
'She's like a dog whisperer' York native
handles top bull terrier in the nation by KATHY STEVENS The York Dispatch.