Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Backstage at the Dog Show

My favorite part of the Westminster Kennel Club Dog show is backstage. After all, the most fascinating scene takes place behind the vinyl curtains that separates the show ring from the mayhem.

Despite being a fan of underdog and lover of mutts with no discernable lineage, I do enjoy going backstage at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. Last night, while the 7-year-old Scottish deerhound named Tiger Woods was busy taking top dog in the hound group, hundreds of dogs that showed in the morning were waiting to make their way out out of Madison Square Garden. 

Pampered show dogs that had spent hours being primped for their moment in the spotlight were found eating popcorn, rolling on their backs in sawdust and sprawled out on the dirty floor.

Being a "bench" show means the dogs are required to remain in their designated spots - a small slot about two-feet wide within rows of benches painted yellow and purple - from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. when the evening group is ready to go into the show ring.

After a grueling day, the dogs are dead tired; by 7 p.m. most are sleeping in, or on top of, their tiny crates, with fans buzzing to keep them cool, and many are fast asleep on the floor. My favorite girl of the evening was the dreadlocked white Puli named Andy who kept her demeanor despite the long, cramped line to exit the Garden.

Tonight only a handful of the 2,552 dogs of 170 breeds that prepared for the show will vie for top dog. I am betting that Andy the Puli is happy he's home in his comfy bed rooting Tiger, who will compete at approximately 10:30 p.m. tonight against six other dogs for the title of Best in Show.

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