ST. JOSEPH — On his way to becoming America's most famous hound dog the past few days, Nathan planted sloppy smooches on Westminster judges, New York Knicks cheerleaders, hotel workers ... just about every human but the one who craved one the most.
Poor Chris Flessner. While the playful pooch born and bred at Flessner Kennels was on his way to becoming a national sensation in New York, she took in the drama from the sofa of her St. Joseph farmhouse — just her and 18 furry friends.
"I'm screaming and yelling and freaking out so loud, some of my dogs don't know what's going on," she said Tuesday night.
Her Nathan, a 135-pound 3-year-old — whose show name is "Flessner's International Success" — entered the history books this week. On Monday, he beat out every coonhound, wolfhound, foxhound and greyhound for Best in Group honors at the Westminster Dog Show. That earned him one of seven spots in Tuesday night's Best in Show — in prime time from Madison Square Garden — where Sky, a peculiar-looking wire fox terrier, took the big prize.
That's 138 Westminsters — and 138 times a bloodhound wasn't named top dog.
"Some judges don't give preference to the big, sloppy hounds who don't stop on a dime," Flessner said.
Still, the Flessners couldn't have been prouder of Nathan, whose great-grandfather, the late Tigger, holds the Guinness world record for the longest ears.
Nathan is one of close to 100 bloodhounds bred the past 25 years by Chris and husband Bryan, who was stuck in California on business Tuesday. Chris said they're "extremely picky" when it comes to their part-time breeding business — and even choosier when deciding whom to entrust with one of their kids.
Nathan, the pick of a litter of 16, went to close friends in North Carolina, who promise to bring him back to St. Joseph this summer for a visit.
Pucker up, Mom.
"He had his own little kissing booth at Westminster," Chris said. "He's such a sweetheart."