A very special Bwog report on the Westminster Dog show from canine correspondent Emily Cheesman.
Dogs just make everybody so happy. I’ve gone to the Westminster Dog Show, the Mecca of canine pageantry, for two years in a row and I can say that the world of purebred dogs and the people who love them is bizarre and culty, but it’s pretty hard to be too derisive about it because everyone loves dogs. And from the weirdo owners to their tense, be-sequined, panty-lined handlers, to the overall attitude of utmost reverence towards the canines it’s all sort of absurdly charming.
The peculiarities of this niche world are not necessarily foreign to the average person. I’m sure most people have seen Best In Show, which captures the atmosphere at a dog show like Westminster pretty well: the people directly involved are intense but there’s a completely harmless love for the purebred puppy that cushions it. Last year I sat next to the owner of a komondor named Gillian’s Quintessential Quincy, a goofy looking dreadlocked behemoth (the dog, not the owner) in the working group. The owner had on a sweater with an embroidered portrait of her precious pup, and when the animals filed out to be judged for Best Of Group she ordered loudly that we all had to clap when her dog came forward, and when he did she held her hands in front of her face, crying out that they had just worked so hard for this.
Westminster sorts each breed into seven main groups: Sporting, Hound, Working, Terrier, Toy, Non-Sporting, and Herding. Two days of breed judging culminate in one victorious dog from each breed competing for their respective Best Of Group; day two closes with the coveted Best In Show. The “competition” involves the dog being checked out by a judge and then trotted back and forth in the ring, exercises which show off various aspects of their physique and how well they adhere to breed standards.
The audience picks predictable favorites: Dalmatians, German Shepherds, standard poodles, etc. They coo and aw as a unit when an animal jumps or yips or gets too excited, and every member of the audience has very specific ideas about what makes a good dog. It’s impossible to stay above the fray of speculation, and by the end of last night’s rounds of judging I was loudly proclaiming how much I hate poodles and complimenting the gait of the Bouvier des Flandres. My personal favorites from tonight were the Norfolk terrier, the Parson Russell terrier, the longhaired Dachshund, and a breed newly admitted to Westminster called the Plott. To my chagrin, none of the ones I like ever place, except for the dachshund (named Solo’s Drag-Queen) who got second in the best of the Hounds tonight. The running theme seems to be that only ugly dogs win, like the poodles, which are apparently a favorite Westminster breed.
Everyone watching becomes a dog expert. The guy in front of me exclaimed that he knew the 15-inch beagle was a shoe-in for Best Of Group of the hounds, and I had the pleasure of sitting in front of an obviously well-informed British twenty-something who took it upon himself to educate his neighbors at every chance. More than once he could be heard repeating that all terriers are British, just like him.
I sat down to write about all the rattails and missing teeth I saw filing into Madison Square Garden and all of the people who have serious psychological complexes that they project and exercise via their relationship with their animals, but I’m having a pretty hard time getting past the puppies. There’s something about an arena filled with happy prancing dogs that just withers the snark.
To catch the second half of the Westminster Dog Show, including judging of the Sporting, Working and Toy groups, as well as the judging of Best In Show, tune to the USA Network at 8PM Tuesday night. If you’re interested in adopting or giving money to rescue dogs, here’s a link to the Pedigree Adoption Drive.