Patty Hearst and her French bulldog win award at Westminster dog show

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AP Photo NYSW101, NYSW103

By BEN WALKER

AP National Writer

NEW YORK (AP) -- The owner had just the right touch, trying to soothe her French bulldog's trembling paws.

"There, there," Patty Hearst said.

Far, far removed from the days when her image as a machine gun-toting revolutionary captivated a nation, Patricia Shaw Hearst was in more genteel surroundings Monday. She was tending to Diva at Madison Square Garden, petting her soft head on dogdom's biggest day.

Surrounded by Cardigan Welsh corgis, Chinese shar-peis and Parson Russell terriers, she blended right in at the Westminster Kennel Club show.

"When people find out it's me, it's like it doesn't make sense," the 53-year-old Shaw said. "The Frenchie people know me because I've been around. But others, they seemed surprised."

That basically summed up Mitzie McGavic's reaction. In town from Florida to root for her friend's Australian shepherd, she was startled to learn who was standing a few feet away.

"You're kidding. Is she the Patty Hearst?" McGavic asked. "Showing dogs at Westminster, who knew?"

Shaw has been working with dogs for three years, and her first trip to Westminster was well worth it. Her prize, with a champion's name of Shann's Legally Blonde, earned a red ribbon as Best of Opposite Sex -- a male dog won the breed, and hers was judged the top female.

"It's overwhelming," she said.

Shaw said the ribbon would probably decorate one of the swords that her husband collects. The gold medallion, that one is hers to keep.

"It's like winning a gold medal at the Olympics. Or would this be a silver?" she said. "Someone asked me before I came down what were the chances of winning something. I said it was one-in-35, because that's how many dogs were entered. But I never expected this."

Shaw came down from her Connecticut home on Sunday night to prepare for the event. Show rules dictate she had to keep Diva in the staging area, along with maybe 1,500 other dogs, until early evening.

"If it were up to her, she would've been gone by now," she said. "Her name says it all."

Shaw said she always had dogs growing up. A while ago -- "a million years ago, back in the Jurassic era," she said -- she was backstage at a fashion show and ran across a French bulldog she liked.

"After that, it was like I had to have one," she said.

The granddaughter of William Randolph Hearst gained her greatest notoriety in 1974 when, as a 19-year-old, she was kidnapped in 1974 by the radical group the Symbionese Liberation Army. She later was photographed holding a gun while robbing a California bank, and eventually spent almost two years in prison.

Her sentence was commuted by President Carter, and President Clinton later gave her a full pardon.

Shaw has appeared in films -- "Cry-Baby" and "Serial Mom," among them -- and television roles and done charitable work.

For the last few years, dogs have been her passion. Even though her two twentysomething daughters own cats, that is.

"But they love French bulldogs," she said.