Only one annual event approved by the American Kennel Club can be considered a true phenomenon. Known the world over for its history, pageantry and unpredictability, the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show is an entertainment and sporting spectacular unlike any conformation dog show that has ever existed.
This show, held each February, is in a class by itself, but not because it’s the largest (it isn’t) or because of its storied location (New York City’s Madison Square Garden) or even because of the prizes offered (sterling silver, Steuben crystal and a gigantic rosette). This dog show is one-of-a-kind for one simple reason: Everyone wants to win it.
To “go best,” or win Best in Show, here is to be granted immortality. The names of the victorious handler, the talented breeders and the lucky owners are inscribed forevermore alongside the registered name of one extraordinary pooch. Future generations will gaze upon these individuals in awe, and there isn’t a show-loving dog person alive who wouldn’t bet the house to win a BIS in New York on a cold Tuesday night.
The buzz builds
So much speculation abounds in the weeks and months leading up to the actual event that several dogs enter the ring each year as presumed winners. There’s an electric buzz that surrounds these competitors by midyear, and the excitement builds to a deafening roar as December draws to a close.
Some “in-the-know” people declare well before Valentine’s Day that “See Spot Run is guaranteed to win this year,” to which other equally knowledgeable people retort, “Champion Shoe-In’s owner has had lunch at the home of Mrs. I.M.D. Siding,” as if having shared a cucumber sandwich in 1968 with this year’s BIS judge amounts to a fait accompli. By the time Spot and Shoe are standing center stage in midtown Manhattan, an army of admirers for each expects to witness their prophecy fulfilled.
But this is The Garden, where mythical giants are ceremoniously slain in an arena where people have come to expect the unexpected. Win records are immaterial on the day, we are told, and every champion entered has an equal opportunity to remain the last dog standing. So, on this level playing field, let’s examine the chances that one of the following dogs (representing each of the seven AKC Groups) might experience a Westminster Without End.
The Sleeper: Scout
Ch. Ripsnorter’s Mt View Lookout
German Wirehaired Pointer
This all-purpose workaholic with the unshaven face and disheveled hair might look as though he’s overslept, but this bird dog has been on the lookout all year long, with 17 BIS awards and multiple Specialty Bests to his credit. After going Best of Breed at Westminster 2010, Scout has three things working in his favor: He’s German, so he’s always on-time; he can pull off the messy look; and he doesn’t have trouble getting his point across.
Odds of Going Best: 5 to 1
The Dark Horse: Tess
GCh. Silver Ridge Showtyme At Windbourne
Black and Tan Coonhound
When most dogs sleep, Coonhounds like Tess are just getting started. Eleven o’clock p.m. (when BIS is awarded at Westminster) would be just about the right time to add another ribbon to her trophy case. Tess went BOB at Westminster in 2010, and it will definitely be show time for her if she goes all the way to the top in 2011.
Odds of Going Best: 20 to 1
Ladies’ Choice: Ladybug
GCh. Aviators Luck Be A Lady
Portuguese Water Dog
The sky’s the limit for Porties like Ladybug, especially since one of her cousins now resides at the White House. Ladybug’s luck has only grown since she was awarded a Group Third at Westminster in 2010. She’s been turning heads everywhere she goes, picking up 11 BISs to date, and doing so without any help from the Secret Service.
Odds of Going Best: 3 to 1
Double or Nothing: Walker
GCh. Smash JP Moon Walk
The Poodle is the quintessential show dog to many, so Walker will have either a leg-up over his competition or a supreme burden to bear. With an abundance of style that more than makes up for his small stature, this little guy, who had 13 BISs so far in 2010 at press time, will be hard to ignore. If, however, he has a bad hair day, Walker will have to rely on his fancy footwork to secure his place in the hall of fame.
Odds of Going Best: 4 to 1
Even Money: Dodger
GCh. J’Cobe Kemosabe Vigilante Justice
Smooth Fox Terrier
This keen little provocateur with the handsome black face arrives at every event dressed in his officer’s whites, striking a pose that has catapulted him to the top of the all-breed rankings. Dodger has been triumphant at nearly half of the shows where he’s competed since winning a Group Second at Westminster in 2010. With this kind of record, he just might win the World Series of Dogdom.
Odds of Going Best: 1 to 1
The Underdog: Mossimo
Ch. Chaoyangs Take It To The Limit
Who says that lines and wrinkles will cost you the crown? Don’t tell Mossimo, who’s gone BIS four times so far in 2010 without the help of Botox. As his registered name suggests, this hippo-headed competitor won’t be held back by sagging skin. With the right lighting, he just might surpass the Award of Merit he earned at Westminster in 2010.
Odds of Going Best: 10 to 1
The Shoe-In: Meg
GCh. Kridler’s Nutmeg V. Signature
German Shepherd Dog
Is there a breed that appears more ready to get the job done than the German Shepherd Dog? Meg has self-confidence, that signature look that every victor has in common. With five BIS wins to her credit so far in 2010, Meg could possess the secret ingredient necessary to become immortal. dw
Odds of Going Best: 7 to 1
Dan Sayers is a freelance writer, designer, illustrator and dog fancier living in Merchantville, N.J.