Behind the Scenes at Westminster

Behind the Scenes at Westminster
February 11, 2012 by Connie Wilson

Each year at this time I look forward to my annual trek to New York to experience firsthand the excitement, anticipation and fervor of the Westminster Kennel Club dog show. The dogs start arriving the weekend before the show (over 2,000 in all!) taking over Madison Square Garden and the surrounding area, seemingly oblivious to the world-wide media attention they’re garnering. On the other hand, their breeders, owners and handlers are quite aware of the stakes at hand and nervously await their dog’s time in the ring all the while dreaming of capturing a prestigious title and the glamour and celebrity it will bring them. The dogs firstly compete against others of the same breed and those winning dogs are awarded a Best Of Breed designation. The winning Best Of Breed dogs then go on to compete for the title, Best In Group. There are seven groups in all – Toy, Terrier, Herding, Hound, Sporting, Non-Sporting, and Working. Once the judges have chosen the winning dogs for the Best In Group category, those dogs (seven in all) then go on to compete for the coveted Best In Show title. That highly televised conclusion is Westminster's grand finale and, as you can imagine, the tension and expectation is palpable.  

Although only ticket holders gain access to the show and with it, access to the benching area providing close-up encounters with the competing dogs, a visit to many of the hotel lobbies surrounding the Garden will provide a sneak preview of many of the competing dogs while also providing an opportunity to chat with the breeders and handlers.

The Hotel Pennsylvania has developed a name for being “the” place for the canine contenders to stay. From pre-Westminster events such as doggie fashion shows to doggie spas and exercise gyms, it’s a hubbub of activity. Here are some photos I snapped in their lobby:

Here's a young Komondor, a breed which originated in Hungary with the purpose to guard livestock. As they get older, they grow long, dreadlock-like cords of fur.  

 

Here is a fine example of a Dogue de Bordeaux (or French Mastiff)

Here's an extremely handsome Saint Bernard...

 

Just prior to and during the show, check out the lower lobby of the Hotel Penn. It's transformed into a shopping/exhibition area for show goers, plus they've also set up an exercise gym and spa facility for the dog. Here's a rather striking Irish Wolfound and his guardian.

 

Krista Wickens, owner of Dog Tread provided dog treadmills for the hotel's canine guests so the dogs could get some exercise and maintain their peak physique during their stay in the Big Apple. 

 

The Hotel Affinia is also a favourite of Westminster aficianados with its convenient location directly across the street from Madison Square Garden. Their grand lobby is an excellent place to dog-watch (see some of my photos below). I was also pleased to see that hotel management had given careful consideration to their canine guests by setting up a doggie refreshment area that included a bathroom facility on a large outer deck (two thumbs up for the outdoor potty area, the fresh air wisked away odours keeping the experience a pleasant one).

It was also clear that the comfort and needs of their human guests was of great importance, too.  Staff were courteous and accommodating and when shown to our deluxe room, I was pleased to see a newly renovated bathroom, but even better was the super-comfortable bed complete with luxurious linens that included a pillow menu so you could choose the pillow that best suited your needs. I often rate a hotel by the quality of sleep I've had while staying there and based on that criteria alone, the Affinia receives top marks!

Here are some of the doggie guests we met at the Affinia:

Two thumbs up for the outdoor bathroom area located off an upper floor keeping pups safe and odours out doors: 

The Affinia's lobby was a great place to check out the various competing breeds as well as an opportunity to chat with their humans: 

Chinese Cresteds vie for attention:

A Cane Corso and his dog-dad:

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Mon, 08/13/2012 - 18:19

Dog of the Week!

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