2007-02-21 / Columnists
Pets, Pets, Pets
Despite weather woes- last winter's blizzard and this year's ice storm, Westminster remains a unique forum for pairing man's best friend with dog's best friend. So many people crucial to canine welfare have the opportunity to brainstorm and network behind the scenes. I only get a narrow glimpse of dogdom- yet that glimpse of the serious (and the silly) astounds me.
Photographers and writers from round the world visit the Press Room. Some reporters type furiously to make a deadline; others tape interviews for radio shows. Newsday's Denise Flaim never stopped working. Handler Anna Stromberg who rescued my Afghan, the official Westminster blogger, will be featured on a segment of ABC's Nightline. Syndicated columnist Steve Dale is determined to end the bias of Breed Specific Legislation (BSL). He listened to everyone with a new twist toward the fight against municipal prohibition of certain breeds, but he also had time to entertain lighter topics.
Westminster champions (and owners) with unique talents/ backgrounds are invited to meet the press. Several dogs survived rattlesnake bites. Certain trained canines assist people with specific disabilities or travel to prisons and domestic violence shelters. A Portuguese Water Dog visits kids with reading problems while a Keeshond warns his owner of the onset of severe headaches she suffers since a car accident.
On Monday I saw "Nam"- a 14 year old Schipperke, the oldest dog in the show, posed on the Press Room bar. Westminster is a fashion faux pas paradise. Actually I spotted his owner from Bermuda first because he had on a bright red jacket and Bermuda shorts (of course) - culturally correct, but not temperature timely. As the senior Schipperke coughed in cadence, Mr. Bermuda said he was a "tranquiloquist". Could that be the British term for "Jerry Mahoney"? Steve Dale decided to tape them. The bar was too dark for a black dog, so at my suggestion, we moved yappy Nam onto the white tablecloth next to the coffee. Dog people sacrifice hygiene for photo ops.
Meanwhile singer/songwriter Murray Weinstock, who produces canine tunes, including the theme for Westminster's "Angel on a Leash" therapy dog program, thought the rap quality of Nam's raspy voice had potential for a future musical arrangement. While Susan Marino (of Angel's Gate, the LI animal hospice) took Steve's photos, Murray recorded Nam's bark. He played the tape for me during the judging the next night. I had to agree. Close your eyes and Nam sounds a lot like the late James Brown.
You may have seen "George" the Mastiff on the cover of Newsday Part 2 last week. His Baltimore owner Larry Wolfe grew up on LI next door to my friends. This Mastiff, like all Westminster dogs, must stay benched until 8 PM. He can't leave the Garden, even for a potty break. We said good bye to George as we left for dinner, but Larry hid, not wanting to upset his gentle giant. No one brought poor George a doggy bag. Despite the slight, he still greeted Larry on his return as if he had been gone for years. George's huge snozz surely detected Carmine's fried calamari on his sneaky owner's breath but dear dogs are so forgiving.
That night I sat with Bonnie Folz, coordinator of the Vivi search and Shania her Tibetan Terrier pal. (The Vivi search has mushroomed. Last week we placed dogs seized from a NYC hoarder with the help of the most incredible LI shelter director… that's another story.) Vivi has become vogue. Bonnie displayed the new paper Vivi tote bag ($5.95 at vivibags.com. A portion of the profits goes to Bide A Wee, Little Shelter and Bobbi & the Strays.) Bonnie teaches dog handling so I got the inside scoop on each pooch pair in the Groups.
I was so fortunate to have many more special Westminster encounters: meetings with the AKC librarian and Mr. Stifel, the dog show's historian, to review progress in the search for the Westminster clubhouse and logo Pointer Sensation's grave site in Babylon; dining at the Dog Writer's Banquet with the amazing Dr. Patricia Olson, CEO of the Morris Animal Foundation (who missed her physician daughter's thesis presentation in Colorado on Valentines Day because she sat on an ice-delayed plane for 11 hours); lunch in the Cornell sky box as part of my veterinarian Stan Fish's "entourage"; seats in the Press Box; permission to be on the MSG floor during the Group finals…. I felt like Forrest Gump. I felt like Ms. Gump died and went to dog heaven.
The dogs and cats back home at Babylon Town Shelter (643- 9270) Lamar St. W. Babylon need loving homes. This adorable charcoal Briard mix puppy in Cage 19 is only about 4 months and growing fast. "Noah", a sweet teddy bear Chow mix with whimsical ears in Cage 15, was turned in because of family allergies. See more photos on the shelter's Petfinder website. +Males: a Scotty mix in Cage 11; "Boy Bear"- the black Chow mix in Cage 5; a frightened Golden Retriever in Cage 13. + F e m a l e s : "Patches"- a 4 year Akita mixhousebroken and good with kids - in Cage 95; a Cairn Terrier in the Puppy Room. +Last Hope Animal Rescue "Bowl A Thon" on Sun. 2/25 at Massapequa Bowling Center. Call (631)205-5069 or (516)486-3158.
Readers can write to Joanne Anderson, c/o the Record at 85 Broadway, Amityville, NY 11701.