Love It Or Hate It - Best In Show Edition...
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
By Sarah Spain
Love of Sports Correspondent
Monday night, the Super Bowl of dog shows kicked off at Madison Square Garden.
No, not Animal Planet's "Puppy Bowl" — the Westminster Dog Show.
For two days every year, the finest dogs in the world gather to compete for prizes, including the most coveted honor: Best In Show. From bulldogs to beagles and dachshunds to dalmatians, canines of all shapes and sizes will be groomed, fluffed and paraded about in front of a surprisingly vocal and animated crowd. Lazy-legged bulldogs draw laughter and cheers, while every move of the tiny terriers prompts a chorus of coos.
During the "Hound" group competition Monday, I watched a judge scowl at a competitor, looking for disproportionate haunches, unusual coloring or an uneven gait. I was reminded a bit of children's beauty pageants. The competitor — in this case, an adorable beagle named Lil' Ed — is the one poked and prodded and paraded about, but the one who feels the glory of victory or the sting of defeat is someone else entirely: his owner.
Of course, unlike six-year-old girls, these dogs won't grow up with shattered self-esteem or an unhealthy body image. Enduring a daily bubble bath and a few laps around an arena isn't too much to ask of these pampered pups.
While some people view their pets as just that, others consider their canines to be as much a part of their family as any human could be. The owners of show dogs invest time, love and money — lots of it — in their prized pooches.
While my love for dogs would never lead me to a show ring, I will admit I see them as more than just something to be walked, fed and then left in a corner. I'll never dress a dog up in a tutu or a cardigan, but I would definitely throw a Bears jersey on a pup for game day.
Of course, my affection for dogs can't compare with that of the extreme owners I see walking around L.A. You know those people - the ones who spend thousands of dollars serving their dogs bottled water and boarding them in private rooms equipped with televisions and king-sized beds. I'm sorry, but that's taking it too far.
I'll admit I had to watch the show for work, but I honestly enjoyed learning about all the different breeds and watching the pageantry of the competition. And some of the names bestowed upon the competitors were hilarious.
A Finnish Spitz named "Sir Barksalot." A Miniature Schnauzer dubbed "Ugly From The Front." Even cat-lovers have to admit the show is truly a spectacle.
For people like me, some of the scenes backstage at MSG are pure comedy. Silky-haired terriers getting their manes blow-dried, poodle owners putting the final touches on their dogs' hairless hindquarters and carefully coiffed 'dos. If someone had slipped a few scenes from Christopher Guest's hit mockumentary, "Best In Show," into my coverage, I may never have noticed. For the owners who spend months perfecting their pooches, a berth in this two-day event is an incredible honor, so no expense is spared, no detail overlooked.
But in the end, is the Westminster Dog Show worth all the hype? Are some of these owners borderline kooks with too much time on their hands? Should people pay more attention to the thousands of homeless dogs stuck in shelters, rather than a select few who have been bred for competition?
Of course, but there's still something to be gained by shining a light on the best of the best. Many of the dogs competing this week spend their "offseason" as therapy dogs, bringing joy and healing to sick or disabled people.
Seeing these beautiful dogs reminds people everywhere of the loyalty and courage of man's best friend. That's why I'm lovin' the Westminster Dog Show.
But how 'bout you? Do you Love It or Hate It?