By: Erin Ann Rouse  Date: 01/27/2012

To win Best in Show at Westminster is a lifelong dream for most people in the AKC world of dogs. With honors bestowed, it’s easy to see that the dogs feel the thrill of such a win as well—the excitement, the attention, the spotlight, the adulation. However, a Westminster winner can be far more than the sum of its wins. A case in point is Ch. Rocky Top’s Sundance Kid, a jovial Colored Bull Terrier affectionately called Rufus.

Rufus lives with Barbara and Tom Bishop and has done so since he was 10 weeks old. The Bishops are among those dog-savvy people who realize that it isn’t enough to produce a quality puppy. Those qualities must be nurtured and encouraged throughout the puppy’s upbringing. Rufus is proof that the Bishops walk the talk.

“The way the Bishops raised Rufus contributes to his endearing personality. He has yet to meet a person or child that he does not love,” asserts Marjorie Martorella, President of the New Brunswick Kennel Club and a friend of the Bishops for the past three years.

Barbara Bishop has been involved in dogs since 1968. She started with Lhasa Apsos and added a Komondor in the early 1970s. As fate would have it, she and her husband, Tom, were smitten with the Bull Terrier breed in 1984 and have been “bully” people ever since. Nearly 20 years later, their love of the breed led them to one particularly remarkable puppy. They took him home and gently coaxed his potential into reality.

“Rufus began his show career with a bang in 2001 and quickly became the Number 1 Bull Terrier from that year on,” says Bishop, “but he is a spoiled house pet first and foremost and has never spent the night in a crate. I have traveled with him to every show in which he’s been entered."

And Rufus has conquered his share of dog shows, having won the Bull Terrier Club of America (BTCA) National Specialty twice, Best of Variety three times at the BTCA Specialty at Montgomery County Kennel Club’s All-Terrier Show, and BTCA’s Silverwood Trophy—not to mention his having won just about every Bull Terrier Specialty and supported entry in which he was shown. The crowning glory was Best In Show at the 2006 Westminster Kennel Club All-Breed Show. Rufus basked in that moment with his handler, Kathy Kirk, and then retired from the show ring.

This is just one area in which Rufus has excelled. He also has his AKC Canine Good Citizen certificate and is a therapy dog, having been certified by Therapy Dogs International (TDI). He has sired at least eight litters worldwide, with many champions among his progeny. Two have their AKC Canine Good Citizen certificates, and one is a TDI-certified therapy dog, following in Dad’s paw steps.

He may be retired from showing, but he’s certainly not resting on his laurels—and neither is Barbara.

“Since winning Westminster, we received a lot of requests from different organizations that wanted Rufus to come and visit, much of it through The Westminster Kennel Club. Rufus is a local celebrity in my area. All we had before was Bruce Springsteen and Jon Bon Jovi,” Bishop quips.

“We have been to numerous schools and senior citizen groups. The children love to read him stories and sing to him. We just did a fund raiser for the Monmouth County SPCA. We were at The Westchester Kennel Club All-Breed Show raising money for the Maria Fareri Children's Hospital. We’ve also done a ‘PAWS for Sarcoma’ function."

Nearest to Barbara’s heart is the stand against breed-specific legislation, which in many cases targets the “bully breeds” (American Staffordshire Terriers, Staffordshire Bull Terriers, Pit Bull Terriers and any dog that looks substantially like one of these breeds).

“We try to aid in the fight against breed-specific legislation, which is the most important thing we can do at this point,” says Bishop. “Because of his unique looks, people seem to relate to Rufus, but he is of a breed that has been getting a lot of negative press lately. To prove the negative press wrong, Rufus has traveled to several dog shows, the Louisville Kennel Club, York Kennel Club and others where he’s played ambassador for the breed by posing for photos with adoring fans, the proceeds going to fight breed-specific legislation.

“With all the breed-specific legislation that is being passed around the country, we are able to show people that it is not the dog but how the dog is raised that is the real issue. It is a shame that many people can't understand that breed-specific legislation is a bad thing for dogs. It is the individual deed that should be punished, not a whole breed of dog."

”Since Rufus won Westminster, Barbara has been tirelessly making him available to the public in an effort to bring breed-specific legislation awareness to the forefront,” says Martorella. “Some people who win a prestigious event such as Westminster enjoy the accolades and then go back to their daily routines. Not the Bishops. They have been taking Rufus on Pet Walks, into New Jersey classrooms, and to photo shoots at dog shows around the country.  Rufus has become a poster dog in the fight against breed-specific legislation.

“The Bishops are truly ambassadors for their breed. The message being transmitted is ‘there are no bad dogs, just bad owners.’ If every ‘bully breed’ had owners like the Bishops, we would never have to deal with breed-specific legislation."

When he’s not running around the country shattering the negative image of “bully breeds,” Rufus goes for walks and enjoys playtime with Barbara and Tom. He also accompanies his daughter, Sarafina, to dog shows when she’s entered.

“He loves being fussed over and just lays there while everyone hugs and kisses him,” says Bishop. “His fame from winning Westminster has opened a new door for us. It is a good way for us to give back for all the kindness we have received."

It has been said that good things given rightly continue to give. Certainly the love, consistency, and trust given rightly to one Bull Terrier can help assuage the fears and misconceptions in the people he meets. We applaud Rufus and the Bishops for their unflagging efforts, just as we applaud them for a well-earned Westminster win.


1. Visit the Westminster Kennel Club link to see Rufus' BIS photo.

2. Visit the AKC to learn more about the AKC Canine Good Citizen Test.


3. For more information about Therapy Dogs International click the link provided.

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