Tonight is the Grand Finale of the 140th American Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show at Madison Square Gardens in New York City.
Tonight one lucky pup will be Best in Show, taking the crown from last year’s winner Miss P., a Beagle and surprise choice.
Tonight, like many other dog lovers, I’ll be watching the day two finals on TV because earlier today, I said goodbye to NYC.
But not yesterday.
Monday, February 15, 2016, I was at Madison Square Gardens celebrating my final night of a three-day dogs-all-day (almost ) weekend in the great New York City. It was exciting to be surrounded by many well-coiffed and coddled pups who fill the lobby of the Hotel Pennsylvania (a hotel sponsor) across the street from the Gardens.
My three-day doggie themed-weekend culminated in a second-level seat at the WKC 140th Annual Dog Show watching precious pedigrees strut their stuff, pacing along side smartly suited handlers, during the first of two-nights of finals. Paraded in the ring were all the desirable attributes of many different purebred pouches who (hopefully) will continue to produce more ribbon winning heirs or posh pets with show quality status.
Participants in the WKC Dog Show finals – the Superbowl of Dog Shows – must win their groups Monday and Tuesday evening, after winning their bred classes earlier in the afternoon.
To simply win your breed class is exceptional at American WKC Dog Show – the biggest in the world. The atmosphere in the ring is intense and even quirky. (Yes, providing comic fodder for the film Best in Show, guaranteed to be mentioned somewhere, someway). And the stakes are high – more ribbons means more money for puppies and stud services.
The American Kennel Club is about breeding, after all, and that’s an important. (Truthfully, it was odd to seen so many intact Fidos in one place, especially in the hotel lobby). But whatever you think about adopting versus shopping, this event is testament to how much we love our four-legged friends and with what enthusiasm.
No mixed breeds are in sight, so sorry to my dog Victor: a schnoodle will never be Best in Show. However, the club did recently make news (among doggist) by allowing mutts to partake in the agility competitions, now part of the WKC dog show experience (stay tuned to dogtrotting.net for more).
Evening participants must first win their breed class during the afternoon judging, which takes place at Waterfront Pier 92/94 (more on that soon too) along NYC’s Hudson River. This event is open to the dog adoring public who mill about, gather around judging rings and meet the dogs and breeders “bench side” while they are grooming and prepping for the big reveal.
Monday night at an almost-filled Madison Square Gardens, however, was all about genetic purity and perfection according to detailed WKC standards. All breed class winners entered their respective groups while dog-loving spectators cheered on the rock star pooches hockey-game style. (Picture ‘Let’s go, Puli, let’s go’ echoing from the seats). Cheering, chanting and even a little judge heckling is part of the serious fun.
First up, the Hound Group, because there ain’t nothing like it. Among the 32 entries were several I’d never heard of including the Harrier, a pack hound bred for stamina and endurance; the Norwegian Elk Hound who accompanied Vikings on raiding missions; and the beautiful long-haired winner, the Borzoi who entered the ring like a ballerina accompanied by an equally graceful handler.
Next, the crowd-pleasing Toy Group because short-legged cute is easy to awe over. The Shih Tzu won this one with the announcer reminding everyone that pet versions are kept more manageably groomed. We also learned the second place Pekingese was once considered sacred in China, and third place and audience favoured Pomerania is a great therapy dog, bred down from a larger sled dog version.
The Non-Sporting Group (the catch all group) was third to go. This is when we learn there are three Tibetan breeds, including the Lhasa Apso, prized by Monastery monks. The official dog of Mexico is Xoloitzcuintli, of France is the Poodle, and of Finland is the Finnish Spritz.
Who won the non-sporting group? The Bulldog, who also garnered the largest crowd cheers.
Finally, the hardy Herding Group of 28 entries including the incredibly popular German Shepard – he won the category almost at risk of a riot if he didn’t. Many of the breeds were formally (or still are) farm helpers assisting in cattle drives and sheep herding. Belgian Malinois are great police dogs and the wrinkled Chinese Shar Pei breed was near extinction in the 1960s.
So, a Shih Tzu, Bulldog, Borzoi, and German Shepard are in the running tonight for Best in Show. I’m turning on the T.V. now.
UPDATE: What’s the final tally?
- TOY GROUP: Panda the Shih Tzu
- NON-SPORTING: Annebelle the Bulldog
- HOUND: Lucy the Borzoi
- HERDING: Rumour the German Shepherd
- SPORTING: CJ the German Shorthair Pointer
- WORKING: Bogey the Samoyed
- TERRIER: Charlie the Skye Terrier
- RESERVE BEST: Lucy the Borzoi
- BEST IN SHOW: CJ the German Shorthair Pointer