In New York City this Valentine’s Day, you might see the Empire State Building glowing purple and gold. Celebrating gay marriage rights? Lovely thought, but no. Purple and gold are the Westminster Kennel Club’s colors and a sign that the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show is back again. This competition is a chance for the best breeders in the world to show off their breeding program, and compete for a title. A dog with champion parents or even having a celebrity owner, doesn’t mean he’s a sure thing though, because this show is reserved to dogs already holding American Championship titles, and competition is fierce.
A prancing poodle with perfect bracelets and a nice round pom might look more like something seen on Toddlers and Tiaras, but that primping is about more than looks. A pretty face but imperfect specimen of dog need not apply, because being picture perfect goes deeper than a nice coat and a hot trot. Grooming is, of course, a key element, but the right diet, trim look, training, and relationship with the handler are important factors when it comes time for a dog’s turn in the ring. Who better to understand the pressure of being physically perfect than former dancers from the New York City Ballet, Heather Watts and Damien Woetzel? They were owners who could understand the pressure, but that doesn’t necessarily help when a dog takes a twirl in the ring, facing being compared to the standards of perfection for the breed. Tutus aside, crowning a champion is serious business.
That serious business will get a little more interesting in its 136th year, as the WKC is making sure the competition isn’t getting predictable by introducing six new competing breeds, in a variety of shapes, sizes, and show groups. From fluffy, like the Finnish Lapphund, a reindeer herding dog, or hairless, like the Xoloitzcuintli, the national breed of Mexico, this change shows dedication to preserving purebred recognized breeds.
A champion dog’s show life might be short, whether bred from a Westminster winner, or with a celebrity sugar daddy, like Bill Cosby, and eventually, each dog will retire to the ease of a pet dog’s life. But while the lights are bright at Madison Square Garden on February 13th and 14th dog lovers everywhere have the chance to see what this sport’s favorite spectacle is really all about.