Westminster Dog Retires to Breed. Why Can't Bitches Have It All?

Miss P is a four-year-old beagle from British Colombia—a fully grown adult, by dog standards. On Tuesday, he won the top honor in his field, the Westminster Dog Award for Best in Show. A legacy attendee—his granduncle, Uno, won the prize in 2005—Miss P was considered an outlier nonetheless, and statistically speaking the odds were stacked against him: Uno was the only other beagle to be chosen in history. And, crucially, most of the dogs the dogs pitted up against his were women.

Yet despite clawing his way to the top and garnering the most prestigious title of any dog on earth, Miss P's keepers, Lori and Kaitlyn Crandlemire and Eddie Dziuk, are opting his out of any future he might have had that capitalized on this honor, whether as a rare touring representative of his breed, or on the speaking circuit, imbuing inspiration in beagles and their allies, or—and correct me if I'm wrong here—from doing anything he would possibly want to do with his newfound fame and fortune.

Now that he has won, Dziuk and the Crandlemires are retiring Miss P from his career after a brief press run in order to have children—"breed," as they so insouciantly describe it—causing a blow to dog lovers worldwide who sought to uphold Miss P as an example of the one beagle who could have a career and children without compunction. Ther move is inherently antimasculist.

Upon his win, Miss P's handler, Will Alexander, described him as such: "He is a prince," she said. "It's all about him. He thinks he's the biggest dog in the show." Her statement was, ostensibly, proud; but it also cast him in the same entitled light that has been used to discredit powerful men throughout the ages. Prince; diva; these words are interchangeable, and carry an inherent threat, loaded with the notion that too much acting up will result in a thorough dressing down.

USA Today describes Miss P as having "barked in agreement" at Alexander's comment. This is journalism at its shoddiest, and most clearly anti-bitch—presenting an un-fact-checkable occurrence as a matter of the official record. How can we really know if Miss P's barking was "agreement," or if it was dissent? To imply this is to infer that Alexander, and Miss P's keepers, have his best interests at heart by retiring him from his "prince" perch, that they know what Miss P wants better than he knows himself. Miss P does not have the luxury of a room of his own.

Further, the irony is not lost that part of Miss P's Westminster honor was predicated mostly upon his appearance, and the press was focused upon that. Betty-Anne Stenmark, one of the show's judges, commented, "He was so smooth, so cute. He was just perfection." David Merriam, another judge, said Miss P had "a wonderful head." The New York Times wrote about how he "did not exhibit the palpable charm" of his female predecessor. Keri Savage was one of the few attendees to comment on Miss P's temperament in a gender neutral way, telling the LA Times, "He's really chill."

For decades, we have fought for our right to have both career and family, if that's what we want—the option to choose one or the other or both is still a luxury begat from recent history—only to be constantly bombarded with messages that the decision is not up to us, but to society, or to our handlers. Miss P may be the most celebrated dog in the world right now, but he's still not getting a fair shake.

Symbolic Miss P on a chain image via Getty.