A few weeks ago I attended the Dog Writers Association of America’s Awards Banquet AND the Westminster Dog Show in New York City. I attended the DWAA Banquet two years ago, but this was my very first dog show ever – unless watching The National Dog Show on Thanksgiving while doing 10 other things counts. Please note: it doesn’t count and also Westminster and the National Dog Show are totally different and those in the know (not me) get upset when you confuse the two.
Westminster Dog Show Meet The Breeds & First Impressions
Although it’s no secret that I favor rescue dogs, I LOVE all dogs and attending the Westminster Dog Show was an amazing experience. To use a very bad art metaphor, it was kind of like seeing Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel for the first time when you are used to more process-oriented, open to interpretation painters like Jackson Pollock. And while I personally prefer a little post-modern mystery and messiness in my dogs and art, there’s no denying the perfection of the masters.
As part of my new role as Secretary of DWAA, I received a media pass to Westminster so I was able to attend for free. Yay! I attended most events with my dear friends Bryn from A Dog Walks Into A Bar and Elizabeth from Chronicles of Cardigan. Bryn’s photos are AMAZING and you can check them out on her Facebook page here!
Read on for my mostly silly impressions of attending Westminster. Please note these ramblings are not meant to be a serious review of the show – I’ll leave that to the professionals!
First up, AKC Meet the Breeds, held on Saturday, February 9. Meet the Breeds is basically the opportunity to get up close and personal with some of the nearly 200 participating breeds. The event was held at Pier 92-94, a huge waterfront venue in midtown Manhattan. Even with tons of space, the event is crazy crowded, but if you are patient and/or super tall (I’m neither) you can get pretty close and even pet some of these beauties.
Most of the dogs were perched on stands or pedestals and were almost always surrounded by adoring fans like doggie rock stars. The dogs were crazy beautiful – so beautiful I was almost afraid to touch them for fear of setting off some kind of alarm. In addition to the dogs, there was also a small section for fancy cats sponsored by The International Cat Association. The cat area was quieter and the cats were surprisingly chill and almost Zen-like. Some were even sporting leather jackets and kilts!
Sadly, I didn’t actually see any of the agility or obedience competitions because I was too busy trying to find the Yorkshire Terriers, which (spoiler alert) I didn’t find until Monday.
Breed Judging AKA Finding The Yorkshire Terriers
Sunday was the Dog Writers Association of America’s Banquet where I was fortunate to win an award for my post about Pip. To celebrate, I woke up early Monday morning and headed back to Westminster in search of the Yorkshire Terriers, which seemed like a fun way to honor Pip!
Monday’s events included breed judging across the Hound, Toy, Non-Sporting, and Herding groups. I watched both the Yorkshire Terriers and the Dachshunds compete and was even able to see some of the top competitors waiting in the wings beforehand.
Of course, I always suspected that Pip wasn’t 100% Yorkshire Terrier. But seeing real Yorkies made things crystal clear. My big guy definitely had some other stuff going on! For one thing, Pip was HUGE compared to these petite pretties and his fur was never so straight, silky or smooth. These beauties were also cool as cucumbers, totally comfortable, and confident with themselves and their surroundings. Pip was many things but confident was not one of them; he would have been shaking like a leaf in such a big crowd. But just between us, I will still take my big-hearted, scaredy-cat, pretend Yorkie any day!
The Big Finale: Group Judging At Madison Square Garden
Probably the most exciting part of the trip was attending the Group Judging (AKA the part they broadcast on primetime TV) across the Hound, Toy, Non-Sporting, and Herding groups at Madison Square Garden. Our media pass allowed us to sit in the press area, which was practically on the field with the dogs. There were actual real journalists all around us and it was one of those “pretend you know what you are doing and try not to fall down the stairs and crush one of the fancy dogs” moments. I halfway expected a trap door to open and eject us like Veruca Salt in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Fortunately, that didn’t happen and our nervous giggling didn’t give us away.
In addition to being so close to the field that we could practically touch the dogs, there was also a press snack room. I loaded up on free cookies in honor of Pip – because he was all about free food, his appetite and lack of self-control were probably more clues of his pretend Yorkie status.
I flew home Tuesday morning so I missed the final night and Best In Show. But truthfully, when we left Madison Square Garden Monday night we were pretty sure that Burns, the longhaired Dachshund had Best In Show in the bag. To my untrained eyes, Burns had the looks and the charm and was clearly the crowd favorite. When Burns is finished with the whole show dog thing, he should probably write a self-help book or start a Facebook group about how to be happy and love life – because this sunburst on short legs has clearly found the answers the rest of us are still searching for! You will always be Best in Show to me, Burns!
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My Takeaway: 8 Things I Learned At Westminster Dog Show
1. Pip was not a real Yorkshire Terrier and that’s OK. The only thing he shared with these lovelies was his coloring, big brown eyes, and red bowtie. Pip was bigger, funnier and definitely not as confident as these pint-sized, Breck girl divas. He was kind of known for his Muppet dog, bar hair days and, true confession, his fur was never silky or smooth. Heck, my hair is never that silky smooth. Maybe there are products for this, but if there are, I’m pretty sure we can’t afford them.
2. Ruby may not be a real Yorkie-Poo. If Pip wasn’t a real Yorkie, I think it is safe to say Ruby is not real a Yorkie-Poo. More like a Yorkie-Poodle-Plus-100-Other-Things with an emphasis on the 100 other things. In her defense, she’s a total catch in the shelter world.
3. I would never cut it as a real Yorkie mom (or handler). Real Yorkies have staff as fancy and put together as they are – all glitz and glam, no hat head or bad hair days to be found. I am kind of a jeans and basic black, earth tones on special occasions, non-sparkly kind of person. How these handlers run around the ring, all dolled up, and don’t trip is beyond me. I would probably wipe out, fall down and go boom with my pretend Yorkie, and it would not be pretty.
4. There are way more dog breeds than I ever imagined. Many with names I can’t pronounce or remember. But gosh, they are pretty!
5. Sometimes cats wear leather. This was about as shocking as seeing real Yorkshire Terriers.
6. I still don’t like calling female dogs the B word. I know this is a thing and not an insult, but it feels weird and yucky to me.
7, Boxer slobber is kind of like glue. I walked around for over an hour with Boxer slobber on my coat. A lovely Boxer gave me what I thought was a hug, but it turns out he just thought my coat was a napkin. Even the dogs knew I wasn’t fancy enough for Westminster.
8. Paris, Rome, Westminster, Oh My. Traveling and experiencing different perspectives, history and beauty is incredibly important and sometimes life changing. But coming home to my pretend, but real to me Yorkie-Poo and non-leather wearing cats is just as nice and maybe even better. I love my dogs (and cats) a little messy and imperfect like me.
Final thoughts: Would I attend Westminster again, YES! I had so much fun on this trip and definitely got caught up in the magic and pageantry of Westminster. And gosh, the dogs were pretty and certainly deserving of all the fanfare and praise.
But wouldn’t it be nice if all dogs received such adoration with thousands of admirers lining up just to love on them. Not the real world, I know (maybe kindergarten if you are lucky). But guess what? I never claimed to be a realist so I’m going to keep hoping that some day all dogs receive recognition just for showing up, doing their best, and being themselves – dogs.
P.S.: For more fancy dog photos, visit A Dog Walks Into A Bar.