I attended Westminster 2014 as a guest of STAINMASTER, official Westminster carpet partner
Sky the Wire Fox Terrier went Best In Show last week at the Garden, and if you want the play by play on the judging, there are more than a few sites that will give you the scoop. And of course Sky and her handler were all over the TV talk shows the next day, plus the traditional victor’s lunch at Sardi’s and a walk-on in Kinky Boots.
Instead I want to share my perspective about what Westminster means to all dog people, breeders/exhibitors and pet owners alike.
The Winter Olympics may be alternately #sochifabulous and #sochifail, but for a few days every February, New York goes to the dogs and it is marvelous. Like nothing else in the world.
Even though I have been living in the NY area for more than three years, I haven’t attended the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show since 2005 when we were showing Carly (GCH Blueberry’s Attitude Dancing). Thought about it many times, but could never quite push the button to buy the ticket. This year though, the folks at STAINMASTER reached out to see if I’d be interested in joining them at the Show. The Garden is only a few blocks from my office so an easy walk over after work to enjoy the final three groups and Best In Show on Tuesday night.
It was a lovely evening. I’d forgotten just how magical Westminster is.
And how important it is for educating and informing the public about the sport of purebred dogs. Even though there is probably an all breed dog show within driving distance of your home at least every month, if not every week, most folks will never attend one. Westminster and the other two nationally televised dog shows (the National Dog Show/Kennel Club of Philadelphia held mid-November and broadcast on Thanksgiving and the AKC/Eukanuba National Championship, held every December, this year in Orlando) are how most folks experience the sport.
Which is both good and bad. The good of course is that people get a chance to see so many beautiful dogs; if they attend breed judging during the day or watch it streaming online, they can see some of the top specimens in their favorite breeds, not just the breed winner that competes in the group at night. Not as many as you would see at a national breed specialty (a show connected to the the national breed club for a specific breed) but some of the very best.
The bad is that the pageantry of Westminster can sometimes give the wrong impression of the sport as elitist and snobby. Certainly some dog people are; just like in any population of people you got good ‘uns and bad ‘uns. The pageantry is part of the celebration, just as parades and medal ceremonies are part of the Olympics. Dressing up in the ring isn’t showing off; it is showing respect — for the dogs, the exhibitors, the spectators and the sport. People dress up to show at ALL dog shows; Westminster just raises it up a notch.
But the sport isn’t just for rich folks. Perhaps in its early days it was, but then again, many leisure activities and sports that we enjoy today used to be the sole province of the wealthy. And yes, at a certain level you need money or a sponsor to afford to compete. But again, true of any sport. Without commercial endorsement, many Olympic athletes wouldn’t get the opportunity to compete.
The reality is that showing dogs is hard work. For owners, it is an expensive, but rewarding, hobby. You don’t do it to make money. You do it because you love the breed and are committed to improving it. Dogs are purpose-bred to do a specific job, and in the end, the dog show is about selecting the best examples of the breed. Not the “prettiest” or best groomed. The ones who, if necessary, could best do the job of their breed, and therefore most worthy of passing on their genes.
All the dogs you see on TV are champions, grand champions, group winners, best-in-show-winners. They are the top examples of their breed. They are also someone’s much loved dog. Whether the dog lives with his breeders, owners or the handler, every single dog you see in the dog show is well loved.
Dogs is quite simply the only hobby you will ever have that loves you. And that is why dog people do it. Not for the winning, although that’s nice, or even the puppies, and that can be even nicer.
It really is all about your dog.
Westminster this year was especially fun for me because I could share some of my knowledge about dog shows with the other guests in STAINMASTER’s suite. Usually when I am at dog shows, I am with long time breeders and judges who have forgotten more about dogs than I will ever know. This year though I was able to share what little knowledge I have with the other guests — the brand managers from STAINMASTER, their PR firm and the other bloggers and journalists. I was nowhere near as good as David Frei on USA Network but hopefully my little bit of inside scoop helped them enjoy a great dog show even more.
STAINMASTER was there as the official carpet partner as part of its introduction of a new pet-friendly carpet line, STAINMASTER PetProtect. You could see the carpet throughout the show at the Piers, where breed judging was held during the day.
I was very impressed with the thought that went into creating this carpet. In particular, they use a color-safe process to dye the carpet fibers, which makes it less likely to fade under the demands of the inevitable pet stains. In the house we rented prior to moving into our current home, we had wall-to-wall carpet, and an old dog, and we used to joke about the “crop circles” in the carpet. STAINMASTER PetProtect also has a custom cushion system with a special moisture barrier designed to protect the subfloor and reduce odor.
Not to mention the really cute commercial, #unshameyourpet: