NYC Goes to Dogs as Westminster Show Nears
Get an inside look at preparations, plus important tips if you’re going
By Sandy Robins
updated 3:42 p.m. PT, Mon., Feb. 4, 2008
New York City is once again getting ready for a canine invasion as the world’s top dogs and their personal entourages of handlers, owners and well-wishers come to town for the 132nd Westminster Dog Show to be held at Madison Square Garden next Monday and Tuesday.
The average New Yorker only becomes aware of the annual hoopla when banners go up around the Garden and the Empire State Building gets “dressed” in Westminster’s official colors of purple and gold, but the behind the scenes, work has actually been going on for months.
The company in charge of staging the show, MB-F, Inc, in Greensboro, N.C., has been producing dog shows for more than 107 years and annually orchestrates more than 900 such events countrywide.
Under the baton of vice president of operations Dorie Crowe, seasoned teams of laborers, carpenters and electricians are once again about to load the famous green carpet and other show paraphernalia on to a convoy of trucks and head for New York to start putting everything in place.
“The chaos varies from year to year,” Crowe said. “It all depends on what events are taking place at Madison Square Garden prior to the dog show and how soon our teams can get to work. Sometimes we’ve only had hours to actually roll out the carpet and position the breed rings. This year, there is a lacrosse game the day before the show opens. So hopefully we will get access in the late afternoon, which means that with a bit of luck, we’ll get some sleep before opening day.”
The famous green carpet is only used four or five times before the organizers feel it’s ready to be replaced.
“Doggie accidents do happen,” Crowe said. “We clean it twice after every show. However, because it’s rolled up for months between shows, the biggest problem is that the seams begin to fray and it wrinkles.
“We’ve thought about chopping up the old one and selling squares on eBay,” Crowe said. “But actually the last one was donated to a charitable organization and used to carpet a building.”
Along with the green carpet, the other most important items on the checklist include dozens of ribbons for the winners, the famous Best in Show cup for America’s top dog and hundreds of packets of purple and gold M&Ms imprinted with the Westminster Kennel Club logo.
“They are treats for the judges,” Crowe said. “They nibble on them all the time. It’s part of the Westminster tradition.”
“This year, we’ve ordered over 200 pounds,” said Geoff Browne, Director of Sponsorships for Mars Pet Care US, the company that manufactures the candy but is also behind one of the country’s biggest pet adoption drives that takes place simultaneously with Westminster.
It’s not only thousands of people with tickets to the dog show that descend on Madison Square Garden, but also local animal lovers and tourists keen to get their hands on the famous yellow Pedigree goody bag that’s handed out free during the two-day event.
“Last year we handed out 40,000 bags,” Browne said.
The sought-after bag contains fun dog toys such as Frisbees and tennis balls, plus beanies, scarves and food coupons.
“It’s all about making people aware of the Pedigree Adoption Drive, one of the large events of its kind nationwide,” Browne said. “In the past, the public has been extremely generous. Last year we raised about $1.6 million for shelters around the country.”
This year, to further promote the Adoption Drive, there will be a booth set up in Times Square located at 46th and Broadway from Thursday through Feb. 21 to sell Dogs Rule ® gear. All proceeds will go to shelter pets. TV star and animal lover Kate Walsh from the show “Private Practice” will be on hand to meet and greet the public. There will also be wonderful shelter dogs in attendance all hoping to be adopted into loving permanent homes.
To meet and pat celebrity shows dogs, the best place to hang out is undoubtedly the Hotel Pennsylvania, across the street from Madison Square Garden. Once again the hotel will play host to more than 1,000 VIPs (Very Important Pooches) participating in the show. More than 70,000 Westminster show dogs have walked across the hotel’s portals during building’s 87-year history.
This year, four new breeds will be joining the list of canine doggerati, bringing the total number of breeds and varieties competing to 169. The newcomers are the Plott, a noted hunting dog that will compete in the hound group, the Tibetan Mastiff that will feature in the working group and the French Beauceron and Swedish Vallhund, both of which will be competing in the herding group.
In the next couple of days, America’s current top dog, an English Springer Spaniel named James, will end his reign as and hand over his doggie crown. Previous Best in Show winners include a Colored Bull Terrier named Rufus, 2006, a German Shorthaired Pointer named Carlee, 2005 a Newfoundland named Josh, 2004, a Kerry Blue Terrier named Mick, 2003, a Miniature Poodle named Spice Girl, 2002, a Bichon Frise named JR, 2001 and an English Springer Spaniel named Samantha in 2000.
There are 2,500 dogs taking part in this year’s show, with California leading the field with 283 entries. International competitors include dogs from Canada, Germany, Brazil, Columbia, Spain, Thailand, and Uruguay.
The ultimate doggie treat reserved for winning dog is a meal of fillet mignon served on a silver platter at New York’s famous Sardi’s restaurant the day after the show. Who will be this year’s chow hound still is anybody’s guess.
Currently, the field is wide open.
Sandy Robins is an award-winning pet lifestyle writer. She is the recent recipient of the Humane Society of the United States’ Pets for Life Award. Her work appears in many national and international publications.
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