One of my favorite sporting events on the February calendar is the Westminster Dog Show. I watched all six hours of the finals aired on Monday and Tuesday this past week. It is the best people-watching on TV.
“People?” you ask, a bit taken aback, “Surely you mean DOGS!”
“Well, the dogs are great,” I reply, “But really, it’s the people that are fascinating!”
Don’t get me wrong – I love the dogs. But, let’s face it. The dogs are almost boring in comparison to the handlers.
Let’s start with the dogs. They are pure-breds. This means that the dogs we see in the show ring conform to American Kennel Club (AKC) guidelines. Judges look for dogs that best exemplify these specifications in each breed and, over a few days, narrow the field from hundreds down to single Best of Breed representatives. These near-perfect pooches then vie for Best in Group, i.e. the type of dog breeds they belong to, like Sporting, Herding, Toy, Working Dogs, etc. Finally, one dog from each group will compete for Best in Show. Mostly the dogs are pretty stoic about it all. They pose just so and strut their stuff running, on lead, away from the judge and then back again. They’ve got mere minutes to make a good impression. Some dogs are hams and try to win on personality. They work the audience, winning the crowd over by being cutie-patooties, but mostly it’s up to a judge to award Best in Show to the one dog they think comes closest to the ideal of that breed.
In other words, this year’s Pekingese looks almost identical to last year’s Pekingese.
Sure, you can argue that there is an astonishing variety of dog breeds to see. But for real variety, my money is on the handlers. Unlike their poochy protégés, people showing their dogs at Westminster come in all shapes and sizes. They dress in all kinds of different outfits, with all kinds of different, flat-soled shoes. There are standards for the dogs, but not so much for the humans. So, this is how I see it: most sporting events on TV are populated by really beautiful athletes with Adonis builds and perfect proportions. It is so refreshing that Westminster Dog Show isn’t.
This makes me feel good. I am not ever going to look like a Sports Illustrated swim suit model, but I can sure see myself in so many of the athletes competing at Westminster. And I mean the humans, not the dogs (ha ha!)
I also love the commentary. The announcer reads things about the various breeds, right out of the AKC handbook, like, “Clever, confident, friendly and devoted” I muse about similarities between dog traits and people personalities. What if there was a short paragraph about each of us that described our characteristics? Oh, wait, there is! I saw this quiz on Facebook: “What Kind of Dog Breed Are You?” I took the test and it turns out I am a Golden Retriever! Not surprising, I guess. Riley and I are very close.
But secretly I think I am more of a Scottie dog; “A bold, confident aspect that exemplifies power in a small package….independent and stubborn character, but also quite sensitive….staunchly self–reliant, and can be dour and crusty at times….jaunty and humorous….a good walking companion, but not suited to jogging with those incredibly short legs….home-loving and steadfastly loyal to family….reserved with strangers but once your friend will be your friend for life….if the rules are not clear, a Scottie can develop small dog syndrome, thinking it is in charge.” Hmm. That’s me! A small dog with the soul of a lion. I like that!