Best in Show: The Case for Westminster.

The Westminster Kennel Club has awarded Best in Show since 1877, making it America’s longest continuously held sporting event, with the exception of the Kentucky Derby. And we always look forward to the big show, which begins Monday at Madison Square Garden. Everybody has their cherished memories–who can forget when announcer Joe Garagiola cheerfully remarked about a female dog trotting by, “look at that sprightly little bitch”? That’s a moment that just doesn’t comes along very often.

There are always controversies and curiosities and intriguing new breeds (this year we welcome the Rat Terrier). There are favorite dogs denied glory (Cinders, the dignified wire-haired Dachshund, was runner-up a few years back to a possibly alien Pomeranian). There are also, of course, unworthy victors (the infamous Banana Jack, from last year, may be the most upsetting winner in the history of organized sport). Then there are beloved legends, (Josh, the Newfoundland, Stump, the Sussex Spaniel, Hickory, the Scottish Deerhound). These dogs are remembered longer than most NBC sitcoms.

It is indeed a terrific televised event, with deep-voiced announcer Michael LaFave intoning details about the history of each breed, which, when taken together, tell a fascinating story of sporting life, cultural preferences and royal prerogatives. It’s also great to hear that the Scottish Terrier “possesses a keen sense of fair play and openly considers itself superior to its master.” Of interest to the proprietor of this website, an English Springer Spaniel won top honors in 2007. While some of us are eagerly waiting for the day when a Bernese Mountain Dog has its day in the sun.

But it’s just as good to attend in person. Not the evening session, but during the day when there are competitions within each breed. You can walk down onto the floor where four groups are in action at a time, and assess the talent in the room. To be honest, most dogs have had the naughtiness trained out of them–if you hear a bark it’s almost a shock. Then head backstage where all dogs competing that day are lined up relaxing next to their kennels. The owners and trainers and admirers are all wandering around, it’s an incredible cross-section of the country. There’s a blow-drying platform for the toy dogs, there’s a pile of sawdust in the corner for them to do their business, you might even come across Triumph, the insult comic dog–what more could you want? –DC

Hickory II
Hickory the Scottish Deerhound.
Stump II
Stump the Sussex Spaniel.
Cinders the wire-haired Dachshund.
The Newfoundland Josh.

Comments on “Best in Show: The Case for Westminster.

    Jeff on February 10, 2014 11:30 AM:

    You had me until “a blow-drying platform for the toy dogs.” Sounds too much like Honey Boo Boo meets Tiny Bow Wow.

    Sorry for sniping. Perhaps it’s Monday.

    Michael Williams on February 10, 2014 3:09 PM:

    Come for the workwear, stay for the toy dogs.

    Ray Hull on February 10, 2014 3:44 PM:

    Over the years, I’ve had three Newfs that were out of Westminster winners. Never been to that show but it must be a thrill for the owners, handlers and yes, the dogs….they too (at least the working breeds) love a good “job.”

    Bogie on February 10, 2014 9:40 PM:

    You need need to step off my boy Banana Joe before you get wrecked.

    Greg Hlatky on February 12, 2014 7:37 PM:

    A dog show is the only place where a guy can say, “Check out the rear on that bitch” and not get slapped with a harassment charge.

Comments are closed.