Wednesday, February 16, 2011

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

The Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show draws a lot of attention from dog fans.  Starting in 2004 and again last night, even the Empire State Building is lit up in Westminster colors.  The first night, cyclist Lance Armstrong and TV cook Rachel Ray were both in attendance.  Tonight I was going to look out for Martha Stewart, who said she was going to attend (I never did spot her in the crowd, even with my binoculars). The arena is bedecked in Westminster colors and flowers and they use the central screens to show close ups of each dog as they compete (see below). 

After grabbing a delicious Korean dinner at Kang Suh with my husband and a good friend/dog lover, we walked over to Madison Square Garden (MSG) to view the final three group competitions and the Best In Show competition.  The prior evening, MSG hosted the first four group competitions with the following results: Hounds (Scottish Deerhound, "Hickory"), Toy (Pekinese, "Malachy"), Non-Sporting (Chinese Shar-Pei, "Jayne"), and Herding (Bearded Collie, "Mr. Baggins").  This second evening of the show, we would be watching the Sporting, Terrier and Working group competitions followed by the Best In Show competition in which each of the winners of the seven group competitions would compete.

The Sporting group competition had many handsome specimens, but was ultimately won by Black Cocker Spaniel, Grand Champion Casablanca's Thrilling Seduction (see left).  I saw this little dog win its breed competition earlier in the afternoon and was rooting for him during the group round.  As he moved, this fur flew making him appear to float over the green carpeting in a sea of black waves.

Terriers have won Westminster's Best In Show most often (45, versus the next highest 19 from the Sporting group, and obviously much higher than the least winning Herding group, which has only won once), and book makers in Vegas were favoring Smooth Fox Terrier, Grand Champion Slyfox Sneak's A Peek aka "Adam" (the most successful breed at Westminster is the Wire Fox Terrier with 13 wins).  I must admit that I am not enough of a dog show follower to have known all of this before yesterday, but I will say that in the Terrier group competition, my friend and I commented about how muscular "Adam" looked and guessed correctly that he would win (see right). 

The Working group was won by a four year old Portuguese Water Dog, Grand Champion Aviators Luck Be A Lady (see left).  I think recently this breed has become best known as the breed President Barak Obama's family chose as their family dog.  The show dog, of course, has the hideous lion hair cut (luckily not shown in the picture at left), but pet versions of this dog are actually very cute, soft and fluffy all over.

I was sad not to see any poodles in the final mix, but I suppose we can't always win (and really I wouldn't want them too; this is a beauty contest of sorts and I would rather they look for soundness rather than just looks, which can lead to some detrimental eugenics experiments based on some crazy breed "standards").  Extreme stat tid bits: The oldest dog to ever win was the 10 year old Sussex Spaniel "Stump" who won in 2009.  One Smooth Fox Terrier won 3 times (1907-1909) and six other dogs have won twice.  One of the nice things they did at the show was to make a public service announcement in support of fund raising for animal shelters (25% of the dogs at shelters are pure breeds), encouraging support at, and imploring people NOT TO BUY DOGS AT PET STORES (which support puppy mills and perpetuate the breeding of badly formed dogs).  At this announcement the crowd cheered in support.  Perhaps this was in answer to last year's scandalous interruption when protesters charged the floor with signs that read "Mutts Rule" and "Breeders Kill Shelter Dogs' Chances," but I felt like the announcement was sincere and really appreciated it.

scottish deerhound dog picture

Finally, the Best In Show competition reached its climax when Judge Paolo Dondina (from Italy) awarded the 5 year old Scottish Deerhound, Grand Champion Foxcliffe Hickory Wind, handled by Angela Lloyd, the coveted prize (see above picture by Timothy A. Clary, AFP/Getty Images).  There is no second or third place.  That is it.  Hickory bested 2,597 dogs to win it all.

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