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EverythingDogBlog: Cupids and Canines/Clipper Update/Westminster 101

Especially "Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Dog Shows But Were Afraid To Ask!"

EverythingDogBlog: Cupids and Canines/Clipper Update/Westminster 101, The Spectator’s Guide to America’s Dog Show February 11-12, 2013

Local Event: Cupids and Canines

Come meet more than 15 dog breeds and learn about adopting at Cupids and Canines. Enchanted Forest Shopping Center, Saturday, 11 -2.

Update on Clipper’s Birthday Party

Clipper was the perfect gentleman at Clipper’s Canine Café in Savage Mill, graciously welcoming all the canines who brought their humans to his party though he kept eyeing the food table which held a huge dog cookie in the shape of a bone that tasted like roast beef (so I hear). I bet the young-at-heart 11-year old yellow lab was totally tuckered out that night! Here he is with a birthday cake squeakie a few days ago (see photo).

All About Westminster

A choreography of grapely-purple and sparkly-gold on a backdrop of a rich green carpet. A cacophony of canines amidst a murmuring of voices and sporadic cheering.

And so begins another premier dog show, the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, a February TV tradition, a seemingly out-of-reach dog show but, yes! you CAN walk in off the street and, luck permitting, sit in the first row ringside and theoretically ‘reach out and touch’ the dogs competing in the ring during the day (a faux pas – but you CAN go ‘backstage’ and meet them with their owners’ permission – champions all!) for only $25 a day.

And did you know that the lights of the Empire State Building shine Westminster purple and gold during the Greatest Dog Show on Earth?

You’ve watched it (live breed judging videos available starting Monday and Tuesday on the Westminster website, www.westminsterkennelclub.org) on TV (this year, 8-11pm Monday on CNBC and 8-11pm Tuesday on the USA Network). The website also has the exact time your breed will be competing.

But this year is the year to attend in person. It’s in nearby New York City, so you have no excuse for staying home! Read on for all the information you need to have a grand ol’ time at the show! Then you can always say, “I was there!” - one of approximately 30,000 in-person spectators.

Keep your eyes peeled for Jewel, an American Foxhound, from Mechanicsville (http://www.somdnews.com/article/20121226/NEWS/712269739/1044/jewel-prepares-to-represent-american-foxhounds-at-westminster&template=southernMaryland).

Last year, Palacegarden Malachy, a 4-year-old Pekingese, was declared America’s Dog, winning over hundreds of dogs in two days. The excitement was electric. Dogs competed first by breed or variety, then the 7 group finals were held in the evening with winners from the daytime breed shows, and the ‘final final’ on Tuesday evening pitted one finalist from each of the 7 groups of dogs (Toy, Terrier, Working, Sporting, Non-Sporting, Herding, and Hounds) ‘against’ the 6 others. Dogs are judged, not against each other, but against the written standard for their breed - from hundreds of dogs whittled down to winners of almost 200 breeds and varieties to winners of 7 groups to the 1 Best in Show.

Who: All the dogs entered are champions as of 31 October. The top five dogs of each breed receive an automatic ‘pre-invite invitation.’ Other champions vie for the remaining hundreds of places by submitting an application during November and December. Highly populated (and popular) breed classes this year will be 61 Goldens, 54 Labs, 50 Ridgebacks, just to mention a few.

The entry fee for dogs is quite affordable but there is no fee for junior handlers to compete although they must accumulate at least 10 wins in qualifying dog shows in the 12 months prior to Halloween and be between 9 and 17 years old  (inclusive) at the time.

Most of the competing dogs are American but 2009 also welcomed champions from England, Germany, Brazil, Thailand, Russia, and Mexico, which is typical. That year also saw about 10% of the entries coming from California with just a few fewer from New York State: again this year, 2013, the states most represented with more than 200 dogs each are California and New York.

What: The 137th annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, the second longest-continuously-held sporting event in this country, just one year behind the Kentucky Derby (since 1877 – before even I was born!). A two-day event with 2,721 dogs (2013) in New York City that is televised every year.

Where: Madison Square Garden, New York City (Penn Plaza, 7th and 8th Avenues, 31st to 33rd Streets), across from the Hotel Pennsylvania, is the site for the evening competitions. Reserved seating starts at 110$ for the two-evening event with general admission evening prices at 40$ (nearly the same price as the entry fee for dogs but I’m sure this is merely coincidence). An “Everything” ticket will cost 160$ and includes both days and evenings, while you can get a One-Day Ticket for only 25$.

Note that for the second year in a row, the daytime shows (8:30am-6pm) are at a different location due to Madison Square Garden being renovated even as we speak. The day shows take place at Piers 92/94 on the Hudson (with shuttle buses from the Hotel Pennsylvania): one benefit of this location is that instead of having 8 rings on Monday and 6 rings on Tuesday (for larger dogs), this venue can accommodate up to 12 rings! 

Many dogs and their people stay at the Hotel Pennsylvania directly across the street from the Garden. You WILL want to visit the hotel if only to see the dogs check in on Sunday, but there are other goings-on there to see and do as well (http://finance.yahoo.com/news/yorks-hotel-pennsylvania-unveils-exclusive-143500428.html;_ylt=A2KJ3CfXGgxROwQAcDXQtDMD).

When: February 11 and 12, 2013 (always the week of Valentine’s Day), 8 am to 11 pm. Hounds, Toys, Non-Sporting and Herding dogs (and junior showmanship) will be shown Monday with their group finals Monday night at 8. Dogs are shown simultaneously in each of several rings on the floor during the day. The Sporting, Working, and Terrier Groups are shown Tuesday with their group finals Tuesday night as well as the finals for Best in Show, all beginning at 8 pm, preceded by the Junior Handling Finals from the afternoon sessions. The field is thus narrowed from 2721 entries to one final dog, America's favorite for the year.

You can make a week of it! There are related events starting the previous Friday with dog shows on the weekend, often a reception at the AKC (American Kennel Club) Office Sunday afternoon, awards banquets galore, seminars, and a celebration breakfast the day after, as well as champion tours of the morning TV shows.

Why: Why not? It’s an event to remember. You’ve seen the show on TV, now catch it in person.

How: Take the train for a comfortable, elegant, quiet, unrushed, scenic ride into yesteryear and arrive relaxed. Drive to the Amtrak station near BWI airport and leave your car in the parking garage. Come just for the day or stay for Westminster Week. Call Amtrak at 1-800-AMTRAK or visit www.amtrak.com for rates and schedules. If your train stops at Penn Station (trains from the south), where Westminster is located, you don’t even have to venture outside for the evening shows! A real bonus during the blizzard of 2006 (more than two feet of snow fell in 12 hours the weekend of Westminster)! Driving may be easier but parking is not. However, you will not need your car in New York City - it is a walking city. And a taxi and subway city.

Details: General admission tickets will cost 25$ (day) or 40$ (evening) for one day ($110 for both evenings) or 160$ for both days and evenings this year (see www.westminsterkennelclub.org for ‘oodles of poodles’ and much more information).

Breeds and Varieties: Some breeds have a class for each variety - color, size (Poodles, Beagles and Schnauzers, e.g.) and coat length. For example, black cocker spaniels are shown in a different class than parti-colored ones with a third cocker class being ASCOB (Any Solid Color Other than Black). On the other hand, black labs and yellow labs and chocolate labs all compete together.

Benched Show
: Westminster is one of the last benched dog shows in America: dogs are required to be 'backstage' in their 'benched' area during the show. You can go backstage and hang out with the dogs; speak with the owners, breeders, and handlers; watch the dogs being groomed; and shop, shop, shop. However, the crowds are similar to the holiday shopping season, winter coats and all. Westminster is for people who thrive on dogs (and crowds backstage). Wear comfortable shoes.

Shopping: Ah, shopping! ‘Backstage’ at Westminster you can find leashes, books, jewelry, new gadgets galore. Across the street from the Garden in the Hotel Pennsylvania and next door are even more vendors with canine first aid kits, T-shirts, artwork and demonstrations of Search and Rescue (SAR) and agility. Plenty to do across the street! You can even mingle in the lobby as ‘dogs and their people’ check in Sunday afternoon at 3pm: meet the hotel’s canine concierge while you are there.

The required Westminster souvenir is the purple and gold guidebook which you can’t do without (for only $20) but you can also pick up a poster (35$), a catalog ($15), notecards ($10) and maybe a print and DVD to watch over and over again. And I happen to have a couple from years past if you want them.

Judging: The Best in Show (BIS) (the champion of champions) judge is selected a couple of years in advance and is sworn to secrecy, his or her name revealed only six months before the show. During the two days of daytime judging, this judge is sequestered so when the finals begin, the BIS judge is as unbiased as possible. And this year, the judge of the Sporting Group, on TV Tuesday evening, is Karen Wilson of nearby Sperryville, VA.

Sensation: Sensation, a Pointer, is the mascot of the Westminster Dog Show who appeared on the cover of the show catalog from 1936 through 1979, replaced by a head study from 1980-1982, and in 1983 a foil embossed version of the full body engraving returned (see photo of Sensation above).

Charities: Veterinary school scholarships are presented Tuesday night and other charities are supported by the Westminster Kennel Club, including the AKC Museum of the Dog, Take The Lead, the Animal Medical Center of NYC, the ASPCA, Angel On A Leash, Greyhound Friends, and Guide Dog Foundation For The Blind. Scholarships are also given to deserving junior handlers. And this year, a special fund has been set up for survivors of Superstorm Sandy.

New Breeds: Two newly recognized dog breeds will be shown for the first time this year: the Russell Terrier (Terrier Group) (see photo) and the Treeing Walker Coonhound (Hound Group).

There is only one Westminster! Be there in person this year! I’ll look for you. Be sure to bring a suitcase big enough to hold all the excitement and take home all your magnetic memories!

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

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