2015-02-25 / Columnists
Pets, Pets, Pets
The Westminster whirlwind is over…at least for the 2015 Westminster Kennel Club (WKC) Dog Show. “Divine Miss P,” a 15-inch Beagle was crowned Best In Show. Last Monday and Tuesday evening, the folks at home saw six hours of seamless TV broadcasting but they didn’t get to see hustle and bustle happening behind the scenes which at times is far from seamless.
This was the second year I was in charge of gathering the Best of Breed (BOB) info cards (aka “the blue cards;” aka “the TV cards”) supplied by the owner or handler after each dog wins at the Piers. There were 192 breeds and varieties this year with 101 dogs on Monday, 91 on Tuesday and judging spread out in rings in Piers 92 and 94 which are connected by an outside overpass and elevators. I had wonderful helpers as runners, yet many cards are hard to locate, especially if the dogs are with professional handlers who are extremely busy and bench the dogs away from the designated breed rows.
The BOB cards serve two purposes: First the cards contain the registered pedigree name with the most current titles, hometown and state of the owner, handler’s armband number and dog’s call name. I email this data to the network for the graphics that the TV audience sees or hears when each dog is judged in the group at the Garden that night. Registered names are long and can resemble alphabet soup with invented spellings and haphazard capitals. Later in the day when more results are in, the pedigree names can be copied and pasted, but for much of the day they must be typed in carefully.
The WKC press room is upstairs in Pier 92 sequestered from the public, whereas the BOB table with my laptop and a copier is in Pier 94 in the midst of the masses (with constant questions-“Where’s the bathroom?” “Do I need a pass to leave early to go to the Garden?” “What time are the Basenjis judged?”). I can’t be in seclusion because I must interact with the ecstatic owners turning in cards to make sure their answers are complete, and with the runners who need updates about which breeds are still missing. “I feel like I was called up to the teacher’s desk to fix my composition,” said one owner. “You were,” I chuckled, “I am the teacher!”
The BOB cards are needed during the TV broadcast because they also contain the dog’s show record plus anecdotal notes. I have the privilege of sitting next to David Frei, longtime voice of WKC as he speaks about each dog. I hand him each card where we have highlighted interesting details and, if time permits, he includes these remarks. We are familiar with many of the stories because all exhibitors are supposed to submit online media forms beforehand. Dogs with wonderful stories won BOB. More about that later.
So what can go wrong? Let’s sum up Monday 2014 first. The Piers lost internet for over an hour. I tried to rush back to the hotel on the slow shuttle to finish the graphics, only to have the elevators break in the hotel. I was on the 23rd floor and could see MSG from my window but couldn’t get there with the precious BOB cards. It was like having the heart for a transplant in a cooler and not being able to get to the operating room. Finally I took the service elevator but got lost in the basement, until a worker helped me find the hotel lobby.
This year on Monday, wireless was weak only in Pier 94. I lost internet for three hours while the techs were laughing in Russian when working on my computer. I was in a panic because they couldn’t fix it, and I had to keep calling my email provider from the noisy Piers (on hold) to set new passwords. I couldn’t scan without internet so the network sent a courier to pick up copies of the missing BOB cards. Since the paper is heavy, it took four tries each to make copies. (Pity next year’s person when the American Kennel Club adds seven new breeds.)
Then we squeezed into a cab with a lunatic driver who, besides listening to a hate radio station, began fighting with a worker closing 32nd Street who then punched the cab window in retaliation. The driver threatened to call 911. I had visions of going to the precinct with the BOB cards on my lap and missing the dog show. We jumped out at the Garden and didn’t bother to change clothes. Tuesday went much smoother until we were leaving the Piers and a woman almost scooped up our free vendor shopping bag with the BOB cards inside because she thought we didn’t want the bag. Did you hear my ear-piercing scream?
Great Monday breed winner stories: “Benny” the Irish Wolfhound was mascot of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in NYC for the last three years; “Inuk” the American Eskimo Dog won seven consecutive BOBs at Westminster; “Gideon” the Beauceron is also the search & rescue dog of a retired sheriff in Oregon while “Nathan” the Bloodhound is a top champion with a man trailing title.
Great Tuesday breed winner stories: “Cooper” a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever detected his owner/handler’s breast cancer. She just finished chemo and still won the Breed with him at Westminster. “Teller” an Irish Setter uses the refrigerator lever to serve himself ice cubes while “Tipper” an Anatolian Shepherd Dog guards sheep, alpacas and llamas from coyotes. My favorite story was about “Whiskey” a Vizsla who several years ago swallowed a bag with 10 carats of diamonds belonging to his jeweler owner. The scoop: only eight carats were ever recovered. We were hoping to get someone from Tiffany’s to appraise this priceless pup according to the four Cs- color, cut, clarity and carat weight.
For Adoption at Babylon Town Shelter (631-643- 9270) Lamar St. W. Babylon: “Bella” 15-82, a Chihuahua, is so bonded to “Destiny,” a Toy Fox Terrier 15-81, that it would be nice to keep them together. Meanwhile, sweet “Halle,” a light gray tabby 4-483, looks upset because both she and her sister were found in a dumpster. Her sister was adopted over the weekend. “Halle” hopes her turn will come soon, very soon.