Monday, February 20, 2012

The 136th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show

By West Village Bill

On Monday and Tuesday of last week, I caught the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show at Madison Square Garden. I've been recording and watching it on TV for years, but work has always prevented me from going in person. This year, the production schedule for the magazine I help edit fell in such a way that I was able to go. Woot!

The show is held over two days, always around Valentine's Day. The first day, the breeds in four groups are judged from the morning into early afternoon, and that night, the Best of Breed winners are judged to determine the group winners. As luck would have it, the two breeds I was most interested in seeing—the basset hound and the Pembroke Welsh corgi—were both being judged in the same ring starting at 8:30 on Monday. My partner and I have a basset named Rudy, and we used to have a corgi named Emme. (I ran a photo of Rudy and Emme on QNY a little over a year ago.) We had to have Emme put to sleep in September at the age of 16 after she lost control of her bladder and bowels.

There were only four bassets in the running for Best of Breed. The one all the way to the left in the photo below was the winner: GCH Fort Merrill Topsfield Yahoo, who's called Yahoo.

Next up were the Cardigan Welsh corgis, which look very similar to Pembroke corgis but were developed using different parent breeds. This hambone, named Cain, won an Award of Merit, which means he wasn't the winner or the Best of Opposite Sex but was deemed worthy of recognition by the judge.

Then came the Pembrokes.

The winner of Best of Breed was Ch Hum'Nbird Ice Lily, aka Simone. The corgi in the photo above, who goes by the name Spencer, won Best of Opposite Sex.

After the Pembrokes were done, I wandered around MSG a bit. As you can tell from the photos, I was able to get really close to the judging ring. The public is also allowed to observe the dogs as they're being groomed. I figure the people working with the dogs are under enough stress, so I didn't ask to meet any of the dogs while they were being prepped or were waiting to be judged. But I took a lot of photos.

An Old English sheepdog looks too big for its grooming table.

These rather large dogs are otterhounds. I like their scruffy good looks.

Here are some shots of them in the ring.

Beagles are divided into two breeds according to size: 13 inch (not exceeding 13 inches in height) and 15 inch (taller than 13 inches but shorter than 15 inches). I completely fell for both beagles.

This little cutie, named Gala, won Best of Opposite Sex in the 13-inch beagles. (That linked site isn't up-to-date on the shows she's competed in, but it's got some adorable photos from when she was a puppy.)

This handsome devil won Best of Breed for the 13-inchers: GCH Lomapoint Huckleberry, aka Buddy.

The handler of this 15-inch beagle had an interesting stance.

And here's the winner: GCH Belcanto Flags A'Flyin, aka Corbin.

After the beagles left the ring, I left MSG to go home and spend some quality time with my favorite hound.

That night, I went back to see the judging of the hound, toy, nonsporting and herding groups. None of my favorites won, and I was too far up in the stands to be able to take any decent photos.

Before I write about the second day, I want to comment on the idea of judging dogs in general. It's weird, huh? Especially the idea of comparing, say, a Neapolitan mastiff with a Chihuahua. I realize the point is to decide whether the mastiff is a better representation of the mastiff ideal than the Chihuahua is of the Chihuhua ideal. But even so, it seems fairly ridiculous.

And I was miffed when I learned that the WKC had dumped longtime sponsor Pedigree in favor of Purina because Pedigree's commercials promoting pet adoption were seen as too depressing for viewers. They were moving and—though I realize they're from a humongous for-profit company that's part of an even more humongous for-profit company—seemingly heartfelt.

The second morning of the show was all about terriers for me. I first caught up with the cairns. One of my dear friends from college and her husband have two cairn terriers.

And later, the Scotties, which have always appealed to me.

I'm also partial to the not terribly common Glen of Imaal terrier.

That night, Lou accompanied me to watch the sporting, working, terrier, and Best in Show competitions.

Despite my predilection for other kinds of terriers, I found myself rooting for the Australian, GCH Kambara's Zebulon. He was trotting around the ring with his mouth open like he was utterly thrilled to be there. And quite possibly had been drinking heavily. Instead, it was the Kerry blue.

When the Pekingese named Malachy won Best in Show, the crowd—at least the part up in the cheap seats with us—was audibly disappointed; the Doberman pinscher and Irish setter had gotten more enthusiastic responses. Malachy was the only dog among the final seven who had won his or her group the year before, so maybe the judge was influenced by his making a second appearance as toy group champion. Malachy was also the No. 2 dog in the country in competitions leading up to Westminster. Three of the top six dogs had failed to win their breed competitions.

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