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Huntington bulldog among LIers at Westminster dog show

Munch the bulldog poses with owner Deirdre McKell,

Munch the bulldog poses with owner Deirdre McKell, of Huntington, at the Westminster Kennel Club dog show on Monday. (Feb. 15, 2010) Credit: Jack Grassa

Munch, the bulldog, may not have won best of breed at Monday's Westminster Kennel Club dog show, but the Huntington dog with the wide boxy head and the jaunty walk definitely showed his star power.

As he strutted through the dogs' grooming area with owners Deirdre McKell Nardelli and Adam Nardelli, passersby oohed and ahhed, pointing with delight and snapping his photo.

"I love this dog," said one woman. "How can you not love that face?"

PHOTOS: 2010 Westminster dog show

This is nothing new for Munch, a winner of many specialty dog shows and the star of an IAMS pet food TV commercial. The 61-pound bulldog, who turns 4 next month, is so popular that he has a Facebook page with more than 1,000 friends.

Munch is one of several pooches representing Long Island at the 134th Westminster Kennel Club show, the nation's annual premier dog show which continues Tuesday at Madison Square Garden. This is Munch's second appearance at the show.

"He showed very well," said Deirdre. "We are bringing him back next year. Absolutely."

To reach Westminster, a dog must have earned the title champion by winning points at local and regional dog shows. Winners of best of breed - 173 are represented at the show - will move on to compete in one of seven groups. Those seven winners will compete Tuesday night for best in show.

Many of the Long Island breeders, owners and handlers interviewed Monday considered their dogs winners even if they didn't win or place in Monday's competition.

"Every dog here is a champion," said Edward Avellez of Bay Shore, who showed his Belgian Malinois Elsa for the first time at Westminster.

It took a year and half for Elsa to win enough points to earn the champion title. Avellez said he ran with her six days out of the week, prepared special dog food for her and entered her in many competitions - where she performed well. "I wouldn't change a thing," he said.

Janice Paolicelli of Ridge was disappointed that her Rhodesian ridgeback Mariah didn't win or place - but was still proud.

"We never thought we would show her," said Janice. "When she was 6 weeks old, she was fat and ugly." But with age came looks - and judges started noticing her at dog shows, added John Paolicelli. "That's when we knew we had the making of a champion."

PHOTOS: 2010 Westminster dog show

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