Winston the English bulldog--more formally, Kerrs' Winston Pride O'Tugboat--was very tired Tuesday and couldn't be bothered by reporters.
Lenora Kerr of Irvine, one of Winston's owners, said he had been on the road a week and had only just returned from San Jose, where the Bulldog Club of America had awarded him top prize.
Winston was now the Mr. America of English bulldogs, and he had to rest for the upcoming all-breeds competition this weekend in San Diego. He's just a year old, and he's still growing, Kerr said. He will broaden and thicken a bit, adding to his present 55 pounds.
Kerr apologized, "but he's my first priority," she said. "He's a member of our family. I care for him as I cared for my children. He gets the best. I'm probably as protective as a mother with a child."
The original children of Robert and Lenora Kerr have grown up and left home, but their rooms are not empty. In one, Winston was sleeping, she said, either in his shipping crate or on his sheepskin-covered bed, surrounded by a glass-covered case of ribbons, tables full of trophies, cupboards of dietary supplements and high-priced kibbles.
"His food doesn't come from the supermarket," Kerr said.
Actually, some of it does. Supermarket-grade sirloin steak or chicken breast is good enough for Winston. He gets one or the other every day.
To keep Winston in shape, Kerr takes him for a two-mile walk each day. Those trips and the occasional chaperoned visits to the backyard are all the outdoor larking Winston is allowed.
"None of our dogs are outside dogs," Kerr said. (The family also has two Boston terriers.)
"I worry about his exuberance. We have steps in the back, and I wouldn't want him to get hurt and me not be there. Bulldogs look study and hearty, but they're a fragile breed. Their average life span is only nine years."
Living with Winston is sometimes hard. His wheezy breathing can be heard all over the house, and "he snores really loud. That's why he sleeps in another room. It comes right through the wall."
But he is so affectionate, Kerr said, that she occasionally takes him to her toy store in Irvine to amuse the children of her customers. "They poke him and love him. He's just a pussycat," she said.