Anyone who knows me at all well understands that I am a cat person. But once a year I get this urge to immerse myself in the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. Actually, I think I'm as fascinated by the people as I am by the dogs. They are certainly a different breed.
Take this little guy's owner, for example. Who sets a little dog's hair in paper twists before the show? Is he cute? Yes, of course. He's adorable, although I can't help but see him as one of those people you see at Walmart with their hair in rollers. The NYT has a video up this morning that shows other primping goings-on. They include blow-dryers, barber shears, hair spray, and ear nets for those breeds with long ears that get in the way. Sigh!
And the owners don't spend nearly as much time on their own appearance, I suspect. I couldn't help but notice that nearly every woman handler wore the same basic outfit--a business suit with a pencil skirt that hits above the knees and a buttoned up matching jacket, all complemented by ballet flats to make it easier to run around the ring. A few carried the look off, but most wore expressions that were as uncomfortable as their outfits appeared to be. There were only one or two handlers in slacks or pants suits, who appeared to be much more comfortable. Is there a rule about wearing a skirt even if you look terrible in it, I wonder?
I was also amused by the various attempts to "match" handler and dog--in colors, similar hair bows, and even hair styles. Those dogs with long silky coats often have handlers with long silky ironed tresses. This one was the best, however. The announcer described the dog as playful, loving to play pranks, and needing an owner who was willing to match the dog's silliness. Then the camera panned out to show his handler, dressed in the loudest plaid I have ever seen in a man's suit! I'm waiting for tonight's competition, which will include some pretty strange doggy do's. Will the Puli be handled by a fellow also wearing dreadlocks? Wouldn't surprise me!
Over all, I am amused by the patience the dogs demonstrate while being put through their paces. Judges make a practice of pulling back their lips to check their teeth, ("Did you brush today?") lifting their tails, or feeling their stomachs. It doesn't seem to bother the dogs, although once in a while, you see a dog with an expression on his face that seems to scream, "You're feeling my what?"
Most of the dogs have been well-schooled in proper dog show etiquette. Last night, one young handler had the misfortune to trip and fall flat on her face when she started to run into the ring. She wasn't hurt -- not even a run in her tights -- but she did drop the leash. Her dog (bless him!) stopped anyway, and waited patiently for her to pick herself up and finish the run.
Others are not quite so cooperative, however. Nobody lifted a leg on the judge's shoes last night, but once in a while there's an itch that demands to be taken care of right now.
And then, there was my favorite of the night -- a tiny little terrier of some breed I didn't catch, who suddenly decided he wasn't going anywhere. He lowered his head, squinted his eyes, and braced his front legs. "Not taking another step! No, sir!" Dog and handler had just reached a point in their walk when they had to turn, and this pup wasn't turning. Eventually, it was the handler who walked around the dog. And then they finished their journey. Wish I could find a picture of that little fellow's determination.
So that's why I watch the Westminster every year. It's some of the best entertainment on TV. I"m looking forward to another night -- and so is my cat, who sits on my lap to watch the show and quietly chuckles to herself.
(Pictures courtesy of the official show photographers.)