Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Westminster Dog Show at Madison Square Garden (1 of 2)

Courtesy of a good friend at NBC Cable, I attended the second day at the 135th Annual Westminster Dog Show at Madison Square Garden (MSG) yesterday.  Throughout the 2 day event, which is the longest-continuously running sporting event after the Kentucky Derby (which started 1 year earlier), dogs and dog lovers from all over the world come to NYC to for the most prestigious dog show in the country in mid-February (HINT: this makes a great Valentines Day gift/event).  Tickets range up to $155 but can also be readily acquired (it is not sold out) at  The first day was dedicated to judging the Hound, Toy, Non-Sporting and Herding breeds and groups and the second day focuses on the Sporting, Working and Terrier breeds and groups, culminating in the Best In Show (which aired live on USA Network from 8-11pm ET).

During the days, the over 2,500 dogs (all 179 AKC recognized breeds are represented--6 new breeds were added this year: Boykin Spaniel, Bluetick Coonhound, Redbone Coonhound, Cane Corso, Leonbrger, and Icelandic Sheepdog) compete in breed competitions in smaller rings on the main floor (see left).  Ticket holders get up close and watch the various simultaneous competitions or sit back in the stands (open seating prevails during the days) and watch for their favorites.  Also during the day, there are retailers who sell everything from dog jewelry, dog vitamins, human accessories with dog motifs, specialty dog care items, dog books (see right, the booth of a children's book writer selling her Best In Show book alongside real trophies), and dog art (yes, fine paintings too!).

Finally, there is no lack of available dogs to visit with up close and personally.  Dogs are being groomed before their competitions (see left), and generally dogs that are not then competing are kept in a benching area where visitors can talk to breeders, handlers, and owners.  This is a great place to visit with children who are interested in dogs (see above right, Joey the Norwich Terrier with a little visitor).  You can hear directly from dog experts in each breed about their characteristics, pros and cons, etc.

What really is fantastic to see are all these various breeds together.  Some of the larger breeds standing around together are quite awesome to see, and some of the little ones lined up are absolutely adorable (see above, the Samoyeds and left, the lineup of West Highland White Terriers).  I wandered around for a while and then parked myself by rings 1 and 2 where they were mostly focused on smaller spaniels from the Sporting Group and Terriers.  However, I could also see across to the other rings where I could peek at the Working Group dogs like the Mastiffs, Great Danes and Akitas and the Sporting Group dogs like the Golden Retrievers, Weimaraners and the German Pointers. 

I did keep an eye open for last year's Westminster winning handler, Gabriel Rangel, who last year won Best In Show with "Sadie," a Scottish Terrier.  This year he had the #2 Scottie (see right), losing to Grand Champion Lomondview Clementina handled by Ernesto Lara (see left).  Gabriel showed a Cairn Terrier in the Terrier Group competition so both handlers competed again later that evening.

I will note, that MSG prices were outrageous--how can a bottle of water be $5!  I would recommend folks step outside of the arena and walk a block over to 6th Avenue to Korea Town so they can get great Korean barbecue and dumplings if they can tear themselves away from the show.

All in all, it was a great day.  After many hours of ogling the various breeds in and out of competition, my guilt levels rose until I felt I had to run home to walk my little Biscuit before coming back for the day's Group competitions and the Best In Show competition.

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