2014-02-19 / Columnists

Pets, Pets, Pets

“Is your dog entered at Westminster? OK, then, would you like to come to the Paris Room on the sixth floor with us for a photo shoot with Vogue?” These questions sound like the greatest canine “pickup line” of all times; yet this is what we asked surprised owners in the lobby of the Hotel Pennsylvania the morning before the dog show as we recruited pup models to pose for Vogue.

It was the first time that Vogue ever covered the dog show. Their plan was to combine New York Fashion Week with Westminster—the prepping, the buzz—but the concept needed some shaping because Westminster is quite different from the runway. So we started the Dog Show 101 tutorial from the press room. At first the editor wanted a list of every entered dog. Impossible. There were nearly 3,000 dogs at Westminster and, by AKC rules, the full list cannot be revealed until the first day of the show when the catalogues go on sale.

Fifi at the Vogue photo shoot Fifi at the Vogue photo shoot Next, Vogue wanted to follow top contenders into the ring. Also frowned upon. There is a certain amount of superstition about being too sure. Plus judging conveys its own brand of stage fright. The atmosphere is too tense for handlers to be obliging about photo requests. Handlers are so focused on what they are about to do as they get ready to enter the ring. Any interruption breaks their concentration and their cosmic connection with their dog.

Then Vogue asked to set up in the Piers but space was already very tight. For candid shots, we suggested they wait until after judging and then locate long-haired breeds like the Afghan and Pekingese needing megabrushing during the show, and sculpted breeds like the Bedlington Terrier and Giant Schnauzer, as well as corded ones such as the Puli and Komondor that require days of “coif maintenance” before ever entering the arena.

This was fine for their impromptu pictorial at the show, but Vogue also wanted to do something staged and artsy, similar to a spread they had seen in The New Yorker by photographer Landon Nordeman. They decided their Vogue show dog studio photos should be avantgarde and paired with quotes from fashion notables.

My friend Mar y Bloom, Westminster staff photographer, offered to mentor Suzanne Shaheen, photo editor, Phillippe Jarrigeon, photographer, plus the rest of the adorable Vogue team with an aggregate age younger than me. Mary suggested fabric drop cloths rather than seamless paper because dogs slip. “Spray their pads like handlers do,” Mary said. “Remember stepping on crinkling paper scares some dogs.”

When the Hotel Pennsylvania, where many show dogs stay during Westminster week, lent Vogue the Paris Room as a studio, the crew asked Mary to be their advisor. I got to do some dog wrangling in the lobby. Several top contenders were invited in advance to the Vogue shoot by esteemed Westminster members. The rest would be impromptu and exotic including the Puli in blue wraps found at check-in, a 200-pound brindle Mastiff, a regal Ridgeback, an Afghan from Alaska stepping out of the spa and a Standard Poodle we spied while her handler smoked a cigarette outside.

Mary is the best at posing dogs while garnering their undivided attention with her signature vocal calls, and now a bird app on her iPhone. At first Vogue shot the dogs alone and later added strategically placed flowing hair, hands with rings and laps of the handlers. Hat props lined the room but sat idle because there is no need to dress these supermodels. Google “Vogue.com” and “our favorite fashion quotes” to see the complete slide show.

The cast of canines was top notch yet some wonderful dogs like Maggie, a magnificent Scottish Deerhound, didn’t make the final cut when the lighting or background was off a bit. It was the first trip to Westminster for Maggie and her Mom Jackie. “We purchased Maggie as a pet. She became my first show dog as a favor to her breeder,” said Jackie, “All our other dogs are rescues.” They live in Castle Gwynn, a replica of a 12th century Welsh castle built by Jackie’s husband. Maggie mingles with guests at a Renaissance fair held on their Tennessee grounds each weekend in May.

Ch Protocol’s Veni Vedi Vici (aka “Fifi” or “the Fifinator” to her 366,000 Facebook fans) is a Doberman extraordinaire. “Fifi” exudes the essence of Vogue. She won the Working Group last year at Westminster, recently rocked dog shows in the Philippines and was among those bantered about to win Best In Show this year at the Garden. She is so alert, hanging on her owner Jocelyn Mullins’ every word as if she were about to chime into the conversation.

“Fifi” posed for Vogue and then sat patiently on a chair while Jocelyn spoke to us about her rescue dogs. Then “Fifi” was kind enough to let me take her photo as she dressed for the cold in her breast cancer awareness coat with matching pink ear muffs. In a surprise upset, “Fifi” didn’t win the Breed on Tuesday. However, she remains a spectacular champion, embodying the words of Audrey Hepburn: “I don’t think of myself as an icon. What is in the other people’s minds is not in my mind. I just do my thing.”

For Adoption at Babylon Town Shelter (631-643-9270) Lamar St. W. Babylon: No Dobies this week but there are “Crystal” a white female Husky and male/female German Shepherd Dogs-“Marie & Pierre Curie,” supposedly found in Copiague.

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