2009 Westminster begins with young and old, primped and pooped

The 133rd Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show began at Madison Square Garden on Monday, Feb. 9. Over the course of two days, a total of 2,525 entries of 170 different dog breeds or varieties will be shown, but only one will be Best in Show.

Among the assortment of dogs is the youngest entrant, a French Bulldog named Ch. Floresta’s Spontaneous Combustion (call name: Boomer) at 11 months old. The oldest dog, who is in his last show, is a Schipperke (pronounced “skipper key”) named Ch. Chatelet Denell Sega Genesis (Sega for short) at 12 years old. (Unfortunately, neither dog placed in the breed competition.)

Since Westminster is a benched show, dogs that are shown must remain all day – win or lose – until 8 p.m. in the holding area. I decided to explore the area to get a glimpse of the show dogs’ life. The holding area is open to the public so there is a frenetic energy of handlers, owners, dog lovers and vendors of all sorts roaming around. Most of the show dogs are friendly and well-behaved but always make sure to ask for permission to pet the dog beforehand. The handlers and owners welcome questions and love to talk about their dogs. Some have even come from as far as Washington State and Canada in the hopes of winning Best in Show.

Prior to being shown in the ring, the dogs are primped and touched up so that they can look their best under the Garden’s lights. Coats are brushed to create volume and shine. Hairspray is even applied to prevent any flyaway. Also, it is so warm in the holding area that dogs are often cooled down with water, ice cubes, personal fans and cooling cloths. By the end of the day, even the most poised show dogs tire, taking well-deserved naps in their crates.