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The Glitz and Glamour Of Dog Shows

 

WESTMINSTER KC 2005

 

The Westminster Kennel Club dog show is the largest and most glamorous dog event in New York and many would say, the entire USA. Take an arm-chair photo trip!

 

February 2005 | TheDogPress

Barbara J. Andrews, Editor-In-Chief

 

Empire State Building lit up for the Westminster Dog Show event in NY CityThe trip was quick and pleasant. No taxi problems as this time we took a limo with a driver who spoke English and drove sensibly. Even check-in at the Penta (that’s New York Pennsylvania Hotel for the newbies) went smoothly. Our large corner room afforded a grand view of Macys and the Empire State Building which wore pink for Valentine’s Day and the Westminster Kennel Club (WKC) colors of gold and purple on Tuesday.

 

My long time friend Meg Carpenter was over from England and we had a lot of catching up to do. Meg brought Qualifications for Crufts pamphlets which she distributed at the show. As a committee member (director) of the Kennel Club, and also operator of Overhill Kennels and Export, she is quite an authority judging and dog shows. She has judged Crufts Dog Show (info below), Westminster Kennel Club's much larger counterpart in England/Great Britain/United Kingdom (who knows what to call it nowadays?). She said the best thing about WKC is “the incredible enthusiasm. Absolutely wonderful, as is the quality of the dogs. I do wonder though if the judge is in any way influenced by the audience?"  What does she like least? Meg turned from glowing to glowering! “I hate the facilities for the animals! And more so if there were to be a fire or some emergency. How would they get the poor animals out of here? It really concerns me.” Meg was pleased to learn that there a pre-entry allowed for the top dogs in each breed and she reckons that accounts for the outstanding quality throughout the breed rings.

 

Meg Carpenter and Andrew DePrisco at Westminster dog showSitting on the The Kennel Club (TKC) of England's Breed Standards Committee and being a long-time top Akita breeder has also enabled Meg Carpenter to accomplish the long-awaited separation of the Japanese and American Akita in the U.K.

 

Another dear friend shared our table at the Judges’ Party after his required appearance at the Dog Writers Assoc. dinner. That is a large part of what the Westminster Dog Show is all about? It isn't just seeing America's greatest dogs - it is about getting to see friends you don’t see often enough? Andrew DePrisco (pictured here with Meg Carpenter) is gifted with an encyclopedic memory and having edited some of the publishing world’s most exhaustive breed books and authored the Canine Lexicon, he probably knows as much about dogs as any all-breed judge today.

 

The Senior Conformation Judges party Sunday night was wonderful. The food was scrumptiously Italian. I’d guess Lt. Col. Wallace H. Pede had something to do with the menu although he’s as trim as he was twenty years ago and he can still heat up the dance floor with the tango!

 

A low point was learning that Joanne "Jodi" Engel, scheduled to do Pointers, Vizslas, German Wirehairs, Shorthairs, and Weimaraners could not be present due to cancer. The popular Brittany breeder-judge had hoped to fulfill her lifelong dream to judge at the Garden but was replaced by James Reynolds.

 

David Frei, Westminster Kennel Club Director Of Communications, was hard to catch but his expertise was everywhere. He, like so many who make this all happen, must surely work 20 hours a day before and after the event. The best we managed was a wave and a smile.

 

Innovator of streaming video for Westminster Kennel Club Dog ShowKarolynn McAteer, who seemed to be everywhere at once, presented a clear field for the camera for just a second. Karolynn is project supervisor for the innovative streaming video, a joint venture for Westminster whereby people at home can watch the breed judging! A superb accomplishment that went off without a hitch. She and her dauntless crew are called "The Magnificent Seven" and with good reason. They demonstrated a professionalism equaled only by some of the top handlers! Karolynn is an Irish Setter breeder and sporting dog judge.

 

WKC hired the videographers, all of them dog people, including a former Best In Show winner (breeder-owner-handler Chris Terrell) and a number of other people who have exhibited at Westminster.

 

Russell Quy and his people the internet production and and Dream Works sponsored the tremendous concept. There's nothing like "being there" but with the televised production home viewers probably had the best seat in the house! (see comments re seating)

 

Press Pass for Westminster Dog ShowEven with a Press Pass displaying this year’s commissioned artwork, getting around was difficult. We were fortunate to have box seats where most of the working dogs were judged the first day but getting a peek at the Toy Fox Terrier or Mini-Bull rings was impossible.

 

The problem was that of the twenty or so ringside seats, more than half were occupied by children (probably told to "sit there and don't move") by parents who had no interest in that breed's judging. 

 

Noting the same situation on Tuesday, I inquired in the press office as to why exhibitors were not given one seat ticket for each dog entered? The gentleman who answered me was most pleasant but I think he worked for the Madison Square Garden and had little to do with the show itself. No one else seemed to know and David Frei was busy elsewhere. I understand about paid gate but surely there's an equitable solution to the problem of shelling out $hundreds if not $thousands to have a dog shown at the world-famous "Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show" but having no way to see it shown!

 

In the ring at the Westminster Dog ShowEleanor Biancanello and Spinone Ch. Teddy Roosevelt, CD, JH were waiting to go into the ring but she graciously responded to “What do you like best about the Garden today?” EB: “Meeting all the people!” When asked what she likes least, her answer was predictable! Eleanor looked around and said “Too crowded!

 

Rumors of the show, other than who would win Best In Show, were “Is the Poodle Lady here?” (No she was not) “Is the Poodle Judge here?” (If so, wasn’t visible at the breed rings.) “Is it okay to show a dog under the breeder? (Yes, provided the proper amount of time has passed.)

 

A frightening rumor circulated about a thwarted terrorist attack in Penn Station just before Groups on Tuesday. Madison Square Garden was surrounded by fire and police, as were the side entrances to the Garden. Note I said "thwarted" attack.  The New York City police department is respected world-wide with good reason.  It was "on with the show" as they neutralized the threat.

 

Heard repeatedly that Jimmy Moses wasn’t going to win with the Shepherd. True, she was third in the Herding Group because his Border Collie won the Group.  Speculation was high on the glorious Poodle handled by Timothy Brazier but alas, they didn’t make the number one spot in Group. There were some other upsets and many exciting successes but unlike three years ago when we had reporters on the floor emailing photos and wins as they occurred, this year we wanted to just bring you the people you might have missed, even if you were there.

 

Westminster "intersection", the crossroads of the dog show fancy“The intersection” was the place to be, especially that first day as everyone went about finding each other. Had to laugh at Peter and Helga Baines simply because one always laughs when Peter tells stories. Same is true for Ed Finnegan but I didn’t have the camera both times I got bear hugs from him. Probably just as well, he has never really known his strength other than in the boxing ring! Oh! the “Ed Stories” we could tell.

 

All Breeds judge Virginia Hampton at Westminster 2005One of my favorite judges (and people) has always been Virginia Hampton. She and a handful of judges had a deep understanding of the Akita when most people gave them a wide berth. Perhaps rightly so, in retrospect. They were a bit “rough” back then and not too well groomed either. She did our National one year and her placements were totally predictable (and popular) to those who knew her preferences as well as she knew our breed. Ginny was radiant in this photo having just returned from Hawaii so we both laughed when she exhaled and lamented "Oh BJ, I think it was cooler there!"

 

Jim and Wanda White had seats just a couple rows down from us but the most we managed was a wave. Watched Kim Pastella do a brilliant job in the Sporting ring and thought about her father and what a legend he was in the Boxer ring. Not to worry, he passed on his skills as do most of the really great couples. Must be genetic… Just think for a moment about the Bivens, the Forsyths, etc.

 

Judging legend and Author Richard Beauchamp at Westminster KC dog showBack to the intersection where we spotted another legend. Rick Beauchamp, judge, author, publisher, father of the Bichon, backer of the Mini-Bull and so many other breeds working for acceptance, his touch is everywhere and a good thing for dogs it is. The best he could manage during what appeared to be a really serious conversation was a wave and "Hello BJ, we need to talk..." As anyone who has been to Westminster can vouch, catching up with a friend twice, especially someone as popular as Rick, isn't likely to happen...

 

Meeting old friends and making new ones is a yearly Westminster traditionIt finally began to feel like I should be someplace else and dreading the climb back up those stairs, I pushed out of the intersection. Those stairs. I suppose it is not a problem if all one does is go and sit one night for a sporting event. But we dog people are plagued with knee problems.

 

On the way to the benching area, I snapped this shot of a face familiar to everyone in the Maryland area that loves to eat! That’s right, Sue Whaley and her group put on one heck of a crab feast. If you haven’t been in a Sue Whaley chatting with an exhibitor at Westminster dog showwhile, you now remember what you are missing! Sue’s foxhounds are always a delight to see and the more so because they are actually part of working packs or whatever you call them.

 

I wonder how much longer fox hunting will be a gentleman’s sport in this country now that the ban is official in the U.K. They are continuing the hunt in defiance of the law but it may be too little too late.  When in England, I was honored to visit one of their famous packs.

 

Time marches on, all too often stomping right on top of the past.

 

Westminster Kennel Club benching areaIt is shows like the Westminster Kennel Club that will keep the public interested in dogs. WKC catches their fancy, and hopefully, will make taking away our right to own a dog very unpopular. Those were my thoughts as I pushed and squeezed my way to the benching.  Oh, the benching... You will read nothing but criticism about the WKC benching, no matter where it is mentioned. I could swear that many years ago, before it became “champions only” the benching area was actually roomier. Maybe that is just a strange perspective of youth-or the lack of patience that comes with age.

 

Owner Handlers Assoc. booth at Westminster Kennel Club Dog ShowI managed a shot of the Owner Handlers Assoc. booth which was a nice display, as was the MBF table but they were not well positioned to provide the information and education they are both so capable of doing. The decibel level was such that conversation was difficult and it must be very uncomfortable to the more sensitive ears of the dogs. And the heat! Most breeds were panting!

 

Joan McCuller - to my question - what do you like best about this year’s Garden, the proud owner of Ch Sun Sense Victory Dance "Lance" replied “Making it nice for the Handlers. It’s a little bit better than last year and not as crowded. What do you like Least? “Un-personable people that are here, the ones hired as help. The people directing you, they are really not too nice - or kind.” About moving Westminster to the stadium Joan said “Just let it be here, it's a tradition. We've been here since the beginning of Madison Square Garden and before, so let it be. It’s nice here.

 

Top handlers like Laurie Jordan come from CA to NYC to exhibit at WestminsterLaurie Jordan responding to What Do You Like Best? said “It's cooler, not as hot, more air circulation, a lot cooler.” Least? She sighed, replied “The crowds, every year.” What would you think about moving Westminster Dog Show to the Jet’s Stadium?  “I think it's a great idea!” Not worried about tradition? Laurie sighed “No, maybe breaking things is sometimes good. Y’know?

 

Patricia Craige Trotter made it seem like old times as she flew around the ring with a Vin Melca Elkhound. Pat set the style for neck, shoulders, and movement in her breed and she showed it to perfection against her traditional blue outfit. If memory serves me, Pat has won the WKC Hound Group four times but never had a Best at Westminster. Alas, it was only a placement this year but what the heck, not much has ever held that woman back and there’s always next year!

 

Erin Roberts looking and doing well at Westminster Dog Show 2005Ran into Erin Roberts on the way to her ring. We didn’t have time to get her feedback on the Best and Least questions, but I managed to snap a great photo. Carol Stone, trying to squeeze through with her Finnish Spitz replied that the Best thing about WKC is “Cooler, seems to be little less crowded than usual.” And Least. “How you have to move through to crowd to try to get the dogs to the ring and the people don't let you do that.” Asked moving the WKC dog show to someplace like the Jet's Stadium Carol replied “I think it'd be a lot nicer and probably also the hotels, more hotels you can choose from because now you can only stay at the Penta.”

 

Andy Linton, another west coast handler who makes the trek to go Best In Show at Westminster Kennel Club I don't need a recorder to interview Andy Linton. What does he like Best? “Has anything changed?” I tried to pry more from the man of few words. What do you like least? “Slippery carpet.” Grasping for something to get him talking, I said alright, you've got to be a sports fan. How would you feel about moving the Garden to the new Jets Stadium? Pay dirt! Andy paused, shrugged “That would be great. This is terrible because it's, well, we all claim to love dogs, but putting dogs in this situation shows we don't love dogs as much as we claim to.

 

Handler Kathy Mines likes the tradition of "The Garden" i.e. Madison Square Garden Kathy Mines thinks the best thing this year is “The way MBF handled getting the handlers in and out and the dogs in and out. It was so non-stressful, the dogs are more relaxed, the people more relaxed, everybody is in a better mood.” And Least? “Probably trying to groom with all the exhibitors passing by, hard trying to trim on dogs.” How does Kathy feel about moving the Westminster to a bigger, better facility? “I think that would be great, even though I know it's a lot of historic significance in keeping it at the garden, but I think it would be better for the dogs and the people. And the exhibitors and spectators, if it was in a larger facility where there's more room and people are a little bit more relaxed.

 

Jim Moses has had a great year with his German Shepherd bitch Ginny and the crowd, as always, cheered for one of the most popular of AKC breeds. She performed beautifully but so did every dog in that ring. In fact, it was heart warming to watch those dogs shut out the glaring lights, the screaming crowd, and concentrate on their human.

 

The BIS Shorthair fairly took one’s breath away. Everyone's heard about about Ch. Rancho Dobe’s Storm who it is said stood like a statue for 13 minutes. Probably exaggerated with the telling but the German Shorthair bitch was no statue. “Carley” was animated perfection and had she been a terrier, she would have been vibrating as she struck and held pose after pose. A true Professional, handler Michelle Ostermiller did not spoil a single moment. The talent was in seeming to let Carley do her thing. Best In Show offered the best and the crowd agreed, Westminster 2005 was won by the Best!

 

Brimming with enthusiasm for everything about the Westminster Dog Show!Christina Halliday was surrounded by a cluster of people in the benching as she answered questions about her German Shepherd Dog. What does she like best about the Westminster Dog Show? CH: “I love its tradition, I've been doing this since I was ten. Nothing else gives me the same feeling as this show.” Least?  She replied “I'm just so lucky to be here with a breed like a German Shepherd and know that there are 50,000 registered every year and I’ve got one of the top five and this is where they can come and be seen and where it means the most. I don't have any complaints.

 

Vince Hogan interviewed by Barbara Andrews at Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show 2005Vince Hogann Managing Director of "Our Dogs" weekly newspaper, Manchester, England is a friend of a friend. I asked him "What do you like Best about WKC this year?" He said “I think I would have to say it’s the presentation and the pulse around the Groups at night, that's the best thing. I have some criticism however.

 

BJA: That's my second question, What do you like least this year?  He replied “Well, it's the same every year, it's very crowded, it's not “exhibitor friendly.” If you were trying to groom a dog in there, I mean, that is a zoo! It's difficult, and there are safety issues, for example, there are wires everywhere. It's just very difficult for anyone to move around and I don't think they give enough space to the exhibitor.

 

BJA: How do you feel about moving Westminster to Jet Stadium?  Vince replied “Well with us in England, it’s what we would call a conundrum. Some parts good and some parts bad. The same question arose when we moved Crufts from Earl's Court in London, or Olympia originally, and it went to Birmingham. Everybody said it would never be the same and it would loose its atmosphere etc., etc. But I think Crufts has proven it can be a stage regardless of venue. Now the Garden here clearly has its own unique atmosphere! When it's packed at night, it's just a ball of noise, excitement, and it's terrific! So it would be a shame to lose that. But then that's the sixty-four thousand dollar question - What do you do?

 

Mr. Hogann is absolutely right. I well remember Earl’s Court and the two-story, straight-up escalators worked. The new National Exhibition Center is immense and a lot of walking. Both were and are “tradition,” made so by the quality of the dogs and the thrill of the event. Crufts could be played on a hockey field and it would still be Crufts. Westminster's dog show will always be “The Garden” and no matter the venue, the crowds will fill the stands to overflowing.

 

The excitement is electrifying during the day but the voltage increases at 8 PM when the spotlights lights come on and the best dogs of the day enter the ring. Not a tired handler to be seen. The press core comes to attention (they have the best seats in the house).  Everyone, including it seems, the dogs, are running on adrenalin for what dog-loving Americans call “the greatest show on earth.”

 

I Sandy D'Andrea collapsing on an empty bench after a stunning performance with her awesome Malamute. But that’s the Garden. It demands everything we have to give and for those who go home with that treasured win, it’s worth it!

 

As wonderful as it is, the Westminster dog show is not a place for anyone with the slightest touch of claustrophobia. One has to feel sorry for the poor dogs shut up in those tiny breathless cubicles they call “benching” nowadays. We usually enter a dog to be absent just so we could have a space on which to sit by our benched dog. No such thing as “space dogs” anymore so exhibitors must stand, hour after hour, in front of their dog, protecting it and answering questions. Of course they can hire a security guard and some do but most exhibitors just tough it out along with the dogs. As this reporter was moved along by the thrusting crowd, I heard numerous unflattering comments about “the poor dogs” from spectators.

 

Dog and handler at the WKC dog showFair comment but actually, dogs endure whatever we ask of them because they love us. They look up at their handlers with adoration and trust.

 

They stand, they free pose, they find the strength to strut like Olympic contenders, and they do it because they love us.

 

This candid shot says it all.  It is a long few days for man and beast but when our dogs step through the ring gate, they give it their all.  They do it for us...

 

TKC on Crufts Dog Show  -  Westminster 2005 Behind the scenes  -  Westminster 2009 Where were the dogs? 

 

2011 Westminster Preview glitz, glamour & more...  -  Westminster 2011 the reality was mutts!  -  2012 Westminster? Entries down...

 

Westminster 2012 famous dog show has had its problems.  -  Westminster 2013 moves to the Piers!

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