Perhaps Donald Trump’s irreverence reached over to the dog eat dog world of Westminster. Even former Best in Show, Uno, was thrown out of Madison Square Garden this year. The Champion Beagle was “undocumented” according to MSG security.
“The sport is in trouble. Pure bred dogs are in trouble.” Those words spoken by Daniel Helfgott, a California film-maker and owner of a Grand Champion Tibetan Terrier, sum up the back story of Westminster this past weekend. Most young people are not interested. They send the message that the people who breed pure breds are not good people. They are not rescuing dogs in need of a forever home. But Helfgott and his wife, Janice, turned to Kick starter to crowd fund a campaign for a feature film on one individual in the dog show world, Trish Kanzler. At the age of 21, she handled her mother’s Siberian Husky, Cinnar, who won Best in Show in 1980. And the dog wasn’t “perfect.” He had lost the tip of his ear in a dog fight. The filmmakers hope this inspirational story will attract younger people to the sport. As an enticement, the kick starter supporters will have an opportunity to be in the ring for the Best in Show scene– at least in the film if not in reality.
Even Alan Fausel VP and Director of Fine Arts at Bonham’s NY, and a veteran appraiser on “Antiques Roadshow,” was enthusiastic in sharing his abundant knowledge about each piece selected for Bonham’s annual Dogs in Show and Field Art Auction. He conceded that people want more whimsical dog art now. Another difference this year, “traditionally we’ve heard about people helping dogs, now the story is about dogs helping people. People are interested in and are more accepting of these stories now,” said Fausel. “That was harder to sell previously.” Perhaps that’s why a leather lined, Victorian sterling silver dog collar inscribed “Help: The Railway Dog of England,” attracted so much attention at Bonhams Barkfest Brunch benefiting the American Kennel Club Humane Fund. The pre-Westminster brunch and auction preview attracts dog lovers and art collectors.
Seven new breeds were admitted to Westminster by the American Kennel Club this year bringing the breed number to 199. One addition to the herding group, Willow, a Spanish Water Dog whose coat looked like it had a perm, from Strausburg, PA, was shown by owner/handler Susan D’Angelo. “She’s the first dog I’ve ever shown,” said D’Angelo. “It’s fun, all positive.”
Anna Morse, owner/handler of Rat Terrier, Zebulon, drove from Jackson Mississippi to NYC for the big show. She’s been training him to hunt rats for barn hunting, a new AKC sport. “He’s doing what he was bred to do.”Little did she know that we could use him here in NY to hunt the rats as well.
Teenie Weenie and Pupi Doopie, a pair of Yorkies dressed in frilly feminine attire, weren’t showing, but their proud human, Loreen Arbus passed out invitations to their upcoming birthday party requesting donations to one of her favored dog charities in lieu of gifts.
“It’s kind of political here but you never know,” said Southern California breeder/owner/handler, Leah Shirokoff, who entered the competition. The last time a breeder/owner/handler won Best in Show was 1983. She looked proudly at her Parson Russell Terrier with the call name “Finn,” short for “phenomenal.” The owner explained that he’s long-legged, and the AKC wouldn’t use the breed name, Jack Russell Terrier. Another owner/handler said it’s a challenge to compete against “the big boys.”
Politics aside, the common denominator among the guests was a love of canines whether rescues, pampered pets, in the ring, on the field or represented on canvas by the artist. Man’s best friend has forever appeal. And here at Westminster, every dog is a Champion.
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