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Even if you don’t know Chris Flessner and her husband Bryan, chances are you’ve admired their handiwork: Their homebred “Trumpet” (GChB Flessner’s Toot My Own Horn) was the Westminster Kennel Club’s 2022 Best in Show winner, shown by professional handler Heather Buehner, who is also his co-breeder and co-owner. While this year marked the vaunted show’s 146th edition, it was the very first time a Bloodhound took top honors. (Bloodhounds have won the Hound Group a total of eight times at the Garden; the previous winner was none other than Trumpet’s father, GCh. Flessner’s International S’Cess, known to his friends as “Nathan,” in 2014.)

Breeding since the 1980s on a cornfield-ringed farm outside St. Joseph, Illinois, the Flessners have produced four national-specialty winners, more than 60 American and Canadian champions, and more than 15 American Bloodhound Club Hall of Fame dogs.

Here, Chris Flessner talks about Trumpet’s record-setting win, his opinion of skyscrapers, and the perils of water buckets.

In the beginning: “More than 30 years ago, we decided we wanted a big dog. It needed to be really good with children and handle living on a farm – it couldn’t be a foo-foo dog. We went to some dog shows and met a bunch St. Bernards, Newfoundlands and Bloodhounds. And, honestly, the Bloodhound people fit: They were friendly, answered our questions and let us pet their dogs.”

First dog show: “I remember I was decked out in my Sunday best, and everybody else was so much more underdressed. Back then, Bloodhounds almost never won. People didn’t campaign specials— it was more an owner-handled breed. If someone got a group placement, everybody would talk about it. I learned then that I didn’t have to be quite so dressy.”

Gender bias: “Girls are my favorite, because they’re wicked smart. Even when they’re bad sometimes, you have to enjoy their cleverness. Boys are pleasers; they want to do everything you want them to do. Girls look at you as if to say, ‘What are you going to do for me today?’”

Major miscalculation: “I didn’t go to Westminster because I was extraordinarily busy and couldn’t get away. Did I think Heather was winning? No, not at all. When she won the group, I checked into flights, but a ticket was $1,600. I considered it, but who thinks she would win it all? We still can’t believe it.”

The magic moment: “I was Facetiming with Shirley VanCamp, who owned Trumpet’s father, Nathan. She couldn’t get FS1 on her TV, so we watched it together. It was just completely 100 percent overwhelming. And we are so excited for Heather. I’ve known her since she was teenager showing her mom’s Bloodhound in northern Ohio. Watching her on TV, I knew every thought she was having.”

New York State of mind: “I didn’t know how Trumpet would do on his media tour, because he was raised on a farm, but he ate it up. The thing he loved the most was the Empire State Building. He walked right into the elevator, and when he got to the roof deck, he stuck his head way up in the air. He just loved getting up there with all those smells.”

Crowd appeal: “He’s this big, goofy, wrinkly dog who loves people. He’s just a regular, everyday dog: You can touch him and nobody cares. We were in Ohio at a supported show, and this pee-wee group asked if they could do a picture with him. Trumpet had 20 sets of hands on him, and all he was doing was trying to figure out who he could lick next.”

Canine caveats: “This is a big breed, and it needs a lot of space. These dogs are big and clumsy, and can knock small children down. Their noses rule their world. They shed a lot. They’re slobbery. But are they great couch buddies? Absolutely! I have two bitches who fight over my lap every night.”

Grow, grow, grow your pup: “Bloodhound puppies grow so big so fast, so if owners overfeed or give too much protein, it’s not good. The biggest thing we do for new owners during the first six months is helping them manage that. We don’t want a heavy puppy, and honestly I would rather have a puppy be on the lean side. They have their whole lives to grow up – you don’t need to do it super quick.”

Slinger alert: “Bloodhounds don’t sit around the house and drool. They drool when they are excited or there’s food. I have a towel by the water bowl, and as soon as they have a drink, I’m ready. By the time they’re done, the whole water bowl is full of slime.”

Water sports: “Bloodhounds will stick their heads all the way to the bottom of the water bucket and slosh all the water out. They’re bottom dwellers — that’s a Bloodhound thing. Our answer is to put very large Kongs in their water buckets.”

First things first: “Temperament and health are my number-one priorities, because when you have a 130-pound dog, it’s got to have a great temperament, and you’ve got to have healthy dogs or you’re not going to get any veterans. Beyond that, my main thing is structure. We’ve spent a lot of years working on balance, with movement and breed type. It’s hard to find. Our breed is not like Labs, where there are thousands of dogs out there. We have a very small gene pool.”

Phenotype vs. genotype: “I pay attention to pedigrees, very much so, but I wouldn’t call myself a pedigree breeder. I still feel that a stud dog still needs to possess what you’re wanting. If you need to improve heads, even if Grandma had this great head, but the sire doesn’t, you might get one good head, but you’re probably not going to get a litter full of them.”

Credit where it’s due: “The AKC Breeder of Merit program is a recognition of the work we’ve put into a very sound, healthy dog over time. We’re doing clearances, representing the AKC well, following all the guidelines. Being an AKC Breeder of Merit gives everybody the idea of how committed we are to the breed.”