I can almost smell the hair products from my comfy sofa, and my eyes are squinting from the bright lights shining off the sequined clothing of the dog handlers – it’s time for Westminster!
The 142nd Westminster dog show is upon us and a quiet quarrel among the mixed dog-owning company I keep is brewing.
I live on both sides of the dog world, with one foot in rescue, and the other directly in dog shows. I volunteer as a foster home and dog evaluator for the Boxer Rescue and I own, breed, show, and enjoy AKC dog sports with my three Boxers (Debbie, Walter, and Phoenix).
There are a few more people like me who successfully hang out in both worlds, and I wish we had a bigger voice. I wish we could help to educate the world that there is enough room for rescued pups as well as purebred dogs. There doesn’t need to be a divide. In fact, both groups have the same mission: to eradicate the puppy mills.
But both sides of the coin also share the fundamental issue of irresponsible placement of dogs, and whether you rescue a dog or purchase a purebred puppy from a breeder, the obligation falls on both the provider and the acquirer to do right by the dog. It’s the responsibility of the breeder to make sure the puppy goes to the best possible home (and to take the puppy back if it doesn’t work out, whatever the reason), and it’s the responsibility of the adopter/owner to take care and control of the sentient being they have chosen to bring into their home.
Both rescues and purebred dog fanciers have events that, in essence, showcase the dogs they want so badly to place in the right homes. Rescue organizations have regular adoption events; Westminster is that event for the purebred dog fancy. It’s the time to appreciate the breeds preserved through selective breeding, careful selection, and extraordinary amounts of time, energy, and money. The dogs on parade at Westminster are the ideal representatives of their breeds and are the there to represent the top breeding stock. So in theory, the best puppies come from the best winning dogs. To get one of those puppies, you’d better be a great home, because responsible breeders don’t let their animals go to just anyone who wants a [fill in the breed].
While I do show my dogs, I don’t have a dog that is considered ‘a special’ (in show world lingo), but all of my dogs are extremely special to me. I do hope to one day to have a dog that is ‘a special’ so that I can showcase it at Westminster (wearing something spangly). For now, I spend my time trying to achieve that goal and, most importantly, searching for the right home for the dogs that I helped to lovingly bring into this world.
What Is the deal with Westminster?
Just about every dog owning (and even non dog owning) person in the US and many other countries knows about Westminster, but why is it so prestigious – and, really, what does it matter?
A little history
According to a newspaper article titled, “The Dog Show, 125 Years of Westminster” written in 2001 by Maxwell Riddle, “Westminster gets its name from a long gone hotel in Manhattan. There, sporting gentlemen used to meet in the bar to drink and lie about their shooting accomplishments. Eventually they formed a club and bought a training area and kennel. They kept their dogs there and hired a trainer.
“They couldn’t agree on the name for their new club. But finally someone suggested that they name it after their favorite bar. The idea was unanimously selected, we imagine, with the hoisting of a dozen drinking arms.”
Westminster is the second oldest sporting event in the country, after the Kentucky Derby.
Westminster kept growing
Much like the city of New York, the Westminster dog show began to grow in popularity, eventually becoming the multi-evening televised event it is today. (Think about it – how many non-human competitions get this much air time on a sports channel?)
Unlike any other dog show, not just any pup can be entered. Dogs must be invited specifically to enter Westminster because they are the top five ranked among their breed, or they must have won at least one major show (meaning they garnered three, four, or five points from a win at a previous show such as a local AKC-sanctioned kennel club show or even the AKC National Championship Dog Show held every December in Orlando, Florida).
In essence, Westminster is a fancy parade celebrating the historical preservation of the breeds we have come to love. I’m not sure if we’ll see the two new breeds added to the AKC this year – Grand Basset Griffon Vendéen and the Nederlandse Kooikerhondje – but we’re bound to see some beautiful dogs.
If you enjoy purebred dogs in all their glory, tune into Fox Sports 1 between 8-11pm on Tuesday, February 13, 2018 to enjoy the final group choices and Best in Show winner. The group winners picked thus far are:
- Borzoi – GCHG CH Belisarius JP My Sassy Girl (Call name: Lucy)
- Bloodhound – GCH CH Quiet Creek’s Limited Edition
- Beagle – GCH CH Windstar’s Magnum Opus
- Whippet – GCH CH Pinnacle Tennessee Whiskey
- Pug – GCHS CH Hill Country’s Puttin’ On The Ritz (Call name: Biggie)
- Pekingese – CH Pequest Feel The Burn
- Affenpinschers – GCHS CH Tamarin Tailback
- English Toy Spaniels (King Charles & Ruby) – GCH CH Clussexx Paddington Of Flivverway
- Bichon Frises – GCHP CH Belle Creek’s All I Care About Is Love (Call name: Flynn)
- Poodles (Standard) – GCH Hightide Stormsurge
- Boston Terriers – GCH CH Sabe’s Simply Invincible
- Keeshonden – CH Skyline Summerwind Order In The Court
- Border Collie – GCHP CH Majestic Elite Clever Endeavor (Call name: Flick)
- Cardigan Welsh Corgis – GCHP2 CH Aubrey’s Tails Of Mystery
- Old English Sheepdog – GCHB CH Bugaboo’s Let It Go Blu Mtn
- Pyrenean Shepherd – GCHG CH Eclipse De La Petite Ferme De Wihr
Catch up on the winners here.
Those official breed names are so fancy, and so much fun to say out loud. They represent the pedigree of the dog, derived from this formula: [grand champion or champion title] [breeder’s kennel name] [registered name]. So this year’s Toy Group winner’s name, GCHS CH Hill Country’s Puttin’ On The Ritz, is translated as:
- GCHS: Grand Champion Silver – a grand champion who has won 200 grand championship points
- CH: Champion – has acquired 15 points, including 2 majors, won under different judges and at least one point under a third, different judge
- Breeder kennel name: Hill Country
- Registered name: Puttin’ On The Ritz
- His call name is “Biggie”.
If you want to learn more about the prefixes, suffixes, titles, and abbreviations for purebred dogs, you can check out the AKC website here. It’s a great crib sheet for watching the show tonight.
Agility is for All-American dogs
If purebred dogs just aren’t your thing, you can enjoy the Westminster Agility Championship that took place on the piers on Saturday February 10, 2018. It aired on the regular Fox network, but can be caught on replay and is bound to hit YouTube shortly. AKC agility not only permits the All American (aka, mixed breed) to participate, they even provide the dog a special award for competing, and winning, against the purebred counterparts.
Whether you’re #TeamFancy or #TeamAllAmerican, grab your remote and your unbathed pup to watch the fur fly and the couture sparkle. Tonight is going to be BIG. While I’m always going to root for my own beloved Boxer breed, my heart would be happy to see Biggie the Pug take home Best in Show.