Thoughts On Westminster

I won! I won a Maxwell award from Dog Writers Association of America for my book, “American Pit Bull Terrier.”

Now, back to the regularly scheduled column about Westminster.

Things didn’t go exactly as planned Westminster weekend. The big snowstorm meant that my Saturday flight to New York City was canceled, and I didn’t leave until Sunday, missing some time to see old friends. Also, Sinclairville native Jeff Winton didn’t make it to the show with his greyhound Violet, so I didn’t get to chat with Jeff and admire his dog.

On the plus side, I did manage to get a ringside seat to watch Ben and Mandy Swanson in action with their Australian shepherds in Junior Showmanship. I would not have wanted to be the judges. All the juniors were just amazing.

The show site itself was new this year. Group judging was still held at Madison Square Garden, but the breed judging during the day was at Piers 92/94 so there was much more room. I’m sure all the handlers loved it. There was plenty of benching space, and, the handlers could set up their grooming tables right in front of their benches, instead of having to groom in a separate area. The rings were also larger, giving more space to the bigger breeds.

Unfortunately, the space was not better for spectators. At the Garden, you can look down on the rings and watch the judging, even if you can’t get very close. At the piers, there was one row of folding chairs at ringside. Once those were full, spectators had to stand, and most of the time, people were standing three deep. There was also no place to just sit and rest. This was the first year at this venue, so I imagine next year some of the kinks will be worked out. Generally, Westminster Kennel Club does a terrific job. I can’t imagine the effort it takes to host a show for more than 3,000 dogs.

I didn’t find out until the group judging that there was an Irish setter from Fredonia at the show. He won the breed, so if you were watching on television, you saw Grand Champion Northwinds First Reign, owned by Rebecca and Jeffrey Arch.

The German wire haired pointer won the sporting group, and he was a lovely dog.

In the hound group, the American foxhound took the blue ribbon. I really liked the greyhound, but he didn’t even make the cut. I did note that both the Irish wolfhound and the Treeing Walker coonhound were class dogs who each beat several champions to win the breed. I like it when a class dog wins.

In the working group, the Siberian husky was also a class dog. I thought the Doberman was lovely, and personally, I love Leonbergers. None of them won, however. It was the Portuguese water dog who advanced to the Best in Show judging.

The terrier group was won by a smooth Fox Terrier from North Collins.

The Bichon Frise took the non-sporting group. No one breed caught my eye in that group, except I love the Norwegian lundehund. The dog in the group wasn’t particularly flashy and he certainly wasn’t “asking for the win,” but the lundehund is a charming little dog. This one was only slightly taller than a corgi, and I like all the extra toes they have.

The herding group was won by the Old English sheepdog, the dog who went reserve Best in Show. He was a class dog, and only 20 months old, so this was quite an accomplishment. Usually, I cheer for the corgi in this group, but I have to say I was disappointed in all the corgis I saw. They all seemed rather dull and heavy. I did like a Swedish vallhund that I saw earlier in the day. Vallhunds look very much like a corgi cousin, and the one I liked had a lovely tail curling up over his back. I think I’d like a Pembroke Welsh corgi with a tail.

The big winner was the Affenpinscher from the toy group. Grand Champion Banana Joe V Tani Kazari beat them all to be named Best in Show at Westminster. He certainly had lots of personality and is just plain cute.

In spite of being surrounded by dogs for two days, it was wonderful to return home and have Rhiannon and Gael give me an enthusiastic welcome. As Westminster announcer David Frei always says, the best dog is the one sharing the couch with you.