February 10 and 11 marked the 138th Annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York’s Madison Square Garden.
It was first held in 1877, making it the second longest running continuous sporting event in the USA. (The Kentucky Derby is first.) At the time, 1200 dogs were entered. Today that number has more than doubled. All of the entrants are purebreds – though this year, for the first time, mixed breeds were welcome to try their luck in agility. Before you rush to enter Buddy for next year, there are a few things you ought to know. Before he sets paw into a ring, he has to be registered with the American Kennel Club or an approved foreign registry. He has to be a recognized breed. He (and his handler) has to be familiar with show conformation which includes such things as show walking, holding a position until released, and allowing an examination by a judge. And, he has to have defeated other dogs in AKC breed competitions and earned points to qualify.
This year’s entrants have toured the country and, sometimes, the world to earn their points. Upon making it into the Westminster, they compete against their own kind to become best in their breed. Next, these lofty winners compete against each other for best in their groups: Hound, Terrier, Sporting, Non-Sporting, Toy, Working, and Herding.
Behind the scenes, the frenzy is on. One of the terriers needs a quick pedicure.
A Dandie Dinmont gets a relaxing massage.
A mastiff needs needs his jowels to be perfect.
And no self-respecting poodle makes the trip to New York without plenty of hairspray.
After much primping and preening, the elite seven are called into the ring one last time. Some strut. Some sashay. Cameras roll. Light bulbs pop. The fans roar. And the 2014 winner is announced.
Congratulations Sky — a wire haired fox terrier and this year’s top dog!