Producer Shawn Ryan's connection to 2014 Westminster winner Sky: Is this why he named a show 'Terriers?

sky-wire-fox-terrier-westminster-best-in-show.jpgWriter/producer Shawn Ryan, best known for FX's "The Shield" and CBS' "The Unit," once named a series "Terriers," even though the only dog featured was a bulldog.

Now we just may have a clue to why.

On Tuesday night (Feb. 11), wire fox terrier Afterall Painting the Sky -- or "Sky," to her friends -- took top honors as Best in Show at the 2014 edition of the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

West Coast Facebook friends and Twitter followers of Ryan, and those who hadn't gotten around to watching the show on DVR, pretty quickly got the result spoiled for them. But Ryan had the purest of motives and the best of reasons -- Sky belongs to his mother.

Ryan, the proud owner of two golden retrievers, took some time out from Writers Guild of America negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers to answer questions from Zap2it about what it's like to have a personal connection to America's newest canine superstar.

Zap2it: Could you tell us about your mom?
Shawn Ryan : My mom's name is Diane Ryan. Like me she's originally from Rockford, Ill., but retired a few years ago to Laguna Niguel, Calif. She was a public school teacher for decades before that.

Have you caught the canine bug?
I've always been a dog lover, but as pets, not as show dogs. Growing up we would have anywhere from three to seven adult dogs at our house as well as various litters of puppies at times. As the oldest kid I had a lot of dog-related chores -- feeding them, cleaning up after them, giving them medicines, exercising them. I would always sleep with at least a couple dogs on my bed. So I've always been a dog lover.

How did your mom react to Sky's victory?
I saw it on TV so I wasn't there with my mom. She was in the stands of the show with the breeder of the dog and the two other co-owners who came on board when it was clear that Sky could be a special show dog. Showing dogs at a high level like this is a comically expensive hobby, one my mom couldn't afford, so she brought on partners who covered the expenses. So that's why there are four owners listed. I think they all hugged each other along with the handler, Gabriel, who is known as probably the best terrier handler in the world.

I read that Sky lives with handler Gabriel Rangel in Rialto, Calif. Have you ever met the pooch?
Yes. Many times. Sky lived with my mom for the first couple years of her life, but when she entered the upper echelon of show dogs she started to pretty much live full-time with Gabriel since she was traveling to shows most weekends. The plan has always been for Sky to retire after Westminster, and now my mom expects to get her back living with her full-time in a couple weeks.

Did your mom have a theory why Sky won?
She [and others] describe her as special. I think her coloring is a little unusual and exotic. She has a way of standing at attention and bending her back to pose that the judge last night said made the hairs stand up on the back of her neck. It is true that the best show dogs enjoy "performing," can feel the eyes on them and perk up when they're being watched. Sky certainly has that. She loves being in shows and I think judges see that and are drawn to it.

You named a show "Terriers," but it featured a bulldog. Will a wire fox terrier figure in any future projects?
I might have to now. "Special Guest Canine: Sky."

How did watching Westminster qualify as a sports-fan experience?
It's not something I would usually do if not for the personal connection. I grew up going to these small dog shows in the Midwest, and I was always bored out of my skull. I get why others love the pageantry, especially at the highest levels like Westminster, but it's really not usually my thing.

If LAPD Detective Vic Mackey, the lead character in "The Shield," were a dog, what dog would he be?
Director Clark Johnson, after seeing Michael Chiklis' first audition, described him as a "pitbull with a badge," so I'll go with that.

Photo/Video credit: Getty Images
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