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It might rain on your parade, but winter storm Nemo isn’t going to ruin America’s Dog Show. The show must go on, despite snow, wind gusts and canceled flights. Westminster Kennel Club (WKC) has a 137-year tradition to uphold, so a blizzard named after a Disney fish is not nearly enough to dampen the spirits of Westminster.
If the pre-show festivities, such as last Thursday’s WKC press conference and fashion show, are any indication, the dog show promises to be spectacular. That Thursday seemed to have a theme. It became a “triumphant day for black & tan Afghan Hounds” but more about that later.
WKC Press Conference: On Feb. 7, an eclectic cast of Westminster participants kicked off the upcoming dog show. The press conference was held in the same room of the New Yorker Hotel that would host the New Yorkie Fashion Show that evening, so a carpeted runway was already in place to show off the show dogs.
Last year’s Best In Show, Malachy the Pekingese, led the procession, and then left for a celeb stop at Bloomingdale’s. The marvelous moppet travels with his ice pack so he doesn’t overheat, and looks so much like a stuffed toy that many shoppers didn’t realize they were looking at the real deal.
Treeing Walker Coonhounds and Russell Terriers represented the two newly recognized AKC breeds that will be at Westminster for the first time. “Steed,” a champion Borzoi, is a therapy dog and blood donor that has also been on stage at the Met with the American Ballet in Gisele. He was scheduled to be at the Ranger game that evening to promote Westminster. “Aristocrat,” a 180-lb. St. Bernard, arrived in a stretch limo wearing his keg to assure those concerned about the impending storm.
Other dogs there included several local pups and their families that were greatly impacted or displaced by Sandy but are still entered at the show. “Juliette,” a Bernese Mountain Dog from Southbury, CT, is a registered therapy dog who continues working with families and students touched by the Sandy Hook tragedy in December. This teddy bear of a dog personifies canine comfort.
Giant Schnauzers, “Bruno,” eight months, and sister “Sofia,” eight years old, may well be the youngest and oldest dogs from the same family entered in the show. They brought along their Afghan Hound house guests visiting from Sweden who actually were born in Chile. “Nacira” has been Best of Breed twice at Westminster, but she didn’t mind that photos of her brother, “Chino,” sipping water from a wine glass, showed up on the Reuters feed that night. MSG had invited the Afghan duo to the Knicks game on Monday where players and cheerleaders pranced them around the court.
New Yorkie Runway Fashion Show: Having champion black & tan Afghans grace the stage during the day was a good omen. You guessed it; “Sisu the singing Afghan” won later at the fashion show, which was a benefit for Angel On A Leash, the therapy dog program founded by David Frei, the voice of Westminster.
Thank you to everyone who voted for Sisu. “Jin Jin,” the 2012 New Yorkie winner, also a black & tan Afghan, thanks you too. Both winners are therapy dogs. Laura Diaz, Sisu’s owner, worked tirelessly campaigning her handsome boy. It certainly helps that our international breed community is close knit. Wearing her crown, Jin Jin passed the torch to Sisu, even though she looked as if she didn’t want to abdicate the throne.
New Yorkie Runway coincides with Fashion Week in Manhattan. The event is the brainchild of Elly McGuire, designer of New Yorkie ensembles for dogs. Many, including Sisu’s victory suit, have a NYC checkered taxicab motif. Miss USA 2011, Alyssa Campanella, emceed the show. Reality show stars and celebs from all walks of life strutted with dog models. Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul and Mary fame carried a cab yellow guitar as he escorted a Cocker in a peace symbol dress, while NBA star, Ron Harper, created a tall contrast to his Basset partner, decked out in Big Apple-inspired Tommy Hilfger. “Uno,” WKC Best In Show 2008 and everyone’s favorite Beagle, made a special runway appearance.
When it was all over, Sisu and Jin Jin (accompanied by their moms) paraded down the runway together in a notso subtle way of announcing that the Afghan Hound reign had been sustained. Now they are rooting for Nacira in the breed ring at the Piers and, dare we say, an Afghan at the Garden.
Note: Timing when writing a weekly newspaper column differs from that of a blog or online paper which is posted within hours of an event. I am typing Friday while the storm rages. The dog show hasn’t happened yet. By the time this goes to print, both the “snowicane” and Westminster will be past tense. If long-term weather predictions are correct, the mounds of snow will be melted into a muddy memory. If you are reading “Pets,” that means the dog show is over and you know who won Best In Show. Please don’t tell me. The suspense about sustaining the Afghan reign is killing me.
Babylon Shelter Adoptables (631-643-9270) Lamar St. W. Babylon: The shelter pups (and plenty of people) do not know that Westminster had a clubhouse and kennels in Babylon from 1880 to 1904, or that Sensation, the Pointer that has always been the symbol of the dog show, was buried here in 1887. The shelter pups also don’t know if or when they will find a loving home. “El Presidente” #12-813, better known as “Prez,” is the current office dog. He is a lovable, young fellow. “Louise” #13-77, a young Kelpie/Cattle Dog mix found in N. Babylon would do well in agility or a performance event home.