Westminster, what is all the hoopla you say? What makes it so special? It really is a one of a kind, dog spectacle on the biggest stage, a lot of prestige and a lot, a lot, a lot of fabulous dogs and equally fabulous people coming to watch in the heart of New York City. Biddy and I will begin our journey to compete in the 138th Annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show at the end of the week! Linda over a 2 Brown Dawgs has written some great posts about what happens at the dog show and how it all works. At the regular dog show, owners, breeders and handlers alike enter their eligible dogs to compete for either points towards a Championship or Breed points for rankings. At the Westminster, the nationally ranked Top 5 dogs in each breed receive an invitation to compete and special recognition. They receive "the Golden Ticket" in the mail. All other dogs wishing to compete must show proof of Championship, and for class competitors (not a champion yet) must shows proof of at least 1 major win. So...typically most of the entries in each breed are existing Champions, most ranked and then of course the Number 1 is always there. Class dogs entered (which is relatively new..are strong up and comers). So a pretty tough competition.
Biddy's entry packet. It includes our tickets to all the events, access to her bench location, release form to check out, maps, schedules and even a form if you want to hire a private security guard...I'll be my own security dog for this one !
To give you an idea on the numbers, at this year's show there are 2804 dogs entered in 187 different breeds and varieties. That is a LOT of dogs!! Westminster is really the only benched show left in the country. What this means is that all the dogs are on display on "benches" for the general public to see up close and personal. Normally at the dog show, all the exhibitors will have their crates and tack set up in a designated grooming area. Usually you have room for a chair and all your stuff. The public for the most part does not come back in this area and you can come and go as you please.
At Westminster, everyone has a benching assignment in advance (no reserved grooming or scrum for the free spaces here!). The staff will help you to your spot, and here you will stay for the day. Your dog must be on display for the public for the entire day. You are only allowed off your bench for breed judging and then periodic bathroom breaks, of no more than 30 minutes each. Your grooming table must be folded when not in use and your tack stacked in the back. Your dog must have an open crate that people can see into (versus say a vari kennel) or can be outside on the bench..attached to the leash clip.
Due to the large number of dogs and spectators, the breed judging is divided up into two days. All Hound, Toy, Non-Sporting and Herding breeds are judged on Monday. All Sporting, Working and Terrier breeds are judged on Tuesday. The part that you can watch on TV both nights is the Group judging. It is live both nights, and features the dog that won Best of Breed earlier that day. All of the daytime events (Breed judging) take place at The Piers on the West side. [caption id="attachment_424" align="aligncenter" width="600"] This is where Biddy and I will be for Breed Judging on Tuesday
The evening events (Group judging and Best in Show) take place at Madison Square Garden...which is the part on TV both nights. This is the big dance! All of the Best of Breed winners will compete here for Group Judging and Best In Show on Monday and Tuesday nights! If Biddy makes it to this part, I will roll over and die!!!
So....for Monday dogs, owners and handlers can start moving their equipment in starting on Sunday. Then on Monday evening at around 6:30 pm...there will be a changing of the guard. All the Monday breeds are dismissed from their benches at 6:00 pm and must start moving out. (Approximately 1000 dogs and all of their gear...waiting to get out, get on the bus or loaded into a waiting car. You can have someone move your car into the staging line 2 hours in advance...). At around 8:00 pm Monday night, the Tuesday breeds can begin moving their equipment in for set up the next day. (Biddy and I are on Tuesday). The winners in each breed get dismissed earlier so they have a chance to get over to Madison Square Garden and prepare for the evening Group judging. Westminster staff helps those people make the move and get set up. All the other dogs either go back to their hotel for the night or leave the city.
So for Biddy and I, we are going to have a very tight schedule. We plan on arriving to the Hotel Pennsylvania on Monday. I'm expecting it will take me 1-2 hours to get checked in. Upon getting there, I will get Biddy and all our gear out of the car and into the room. I am counting on hotel staff to help me with this...and I am sure for an appropriately sized NYC tip, they will be happy to help with all Biddy's gear, my things and her... Then our plan is to go downstairs and get in the mix! Since it is NYC with no grassy fields and freezing cold...the doggie bathrooms are all inside. The lower level of the hotel has a huge x-pen and bathing area set up for all the dogs. The x-pens are the dog equivalent to a port-a-potty. This is not going to make Biddy happy at all. Most of the dogs at this event and very experienced show dogs, so using the x-pen is really what they are used to. Biddy...not so much.
She is really a family dog who shows..so this will be a challenge and she will let me know how unhappy she is about this. To make up for this unpleasantness for her...which will be the same at the Piers too...she will have some time to visit the fitness area, also set up in a different level of the hotel. The awesome people from FitPaws and Dog Tread will be there with all of the equipment for the dogs to use. (Click here and scroll down to the bottom to Hunting dogs...that is Tristan, testing out the FitPaws gear!).
Biddy LOVES doing the peanut and we are anxious to try some of the other FitPaws equipment...so this is going to be fun, fun, fun. The main lobby if the Hotel Pennsylvania is also "Red Carpet" central...a see and be seen extravaganza that we are not going to miss! There is a lot of posing and hob nobbing going on. One of Biddy's nick names is "Self Proclaimed Queen of All"..so she will really enjoy the attention in the lobby. While she lounges back in the room, my big challenge will be loading her gear up, getting it on the tram with the masses, waiting in line at the Piers to get in and getting it set up on Monday night. Then back to the hotel and across the street to hopefully catch a little of the Monday night groups. On Tuesday morning, Biddy and I plan to be exercised and in line to take the first shuttle over to the Piers, which leaves at 5:30 am...I plan on being in line at 4:45am...I want to be on the first one. And then on to the Show!!!! Once we get there, she will have time to relax, I will change clothes into my show outfit, and I will touch up her grooming a little.
Fortunately the Brittany is a wash and wear breed, so not a lot of heavy grooming like a poodle! Trim a few fly away hairs, shine spray, spray her furnishing with hair spray, spray my own hair and done!
My show jacket...with a nice black skirt. Some nice sparkle and bling...found online on super sale!
Our benching area is in Pier 92...our show ring is in the other Pier, 94. They tell you in your info packet..due to crowded conditions, give yourself plenty of time to get to your ring. If you are in the other Pier you need to allow time to make the trip. There is a dedicated elevator and covered walkway to the exhibitor entrance to the other Pier. If New York people are saying it is crowded and will take time with your dog to get from one place to the next....I think they mean it! I'm a little nervous about the tram ride over and back...she is too big for a carrier..so she will just be on her leash, in her little winter coat, and if need be, I can hold her on my lap or close.. I'm glad for an early in the day ring time.
We show at 9:00. I feel really well practiced and I am going to remember to take my time, not rush and really present my beautiful dog. We have 19 Brittanys in breed judging...which is a good solid field. The judge is from out West, and we have never shown to her before, but by all accounts, she doesn't play politics and is very thorough with each dog. I have heard from others that the judges all really understand how special this experience is for all the exhibitors.
I feel my girl has just as good of a chance as all the others. She comes into this event as the 2013 #21 Brittany in the country in Breed points (Best of Breed wins) with extremely limited showing comparatively. She is the #20 Brittany in the country in All Breed Points (Group Placements) for 2013. The #4 Brittany Bitch in the country for 2013, Best of Opposite Sex 2013 American Brittany Club Summer Specialty, and an Award of Merit Winner at our American Brittany Club national specialty in 2012. I think there will be one other amateur handler there other than me...the sister of one of our top breeders in the country.
While I am very much an amateur among the pros...my girl deserves her moment in the spot light. Just exhibiting at Westminster is a dream come true for me. If she gets any recognition at all, I will be THRILLED! I am so, so proud of her...and I know she will make us all really proud next week...she loves to show and really shines in the ring. While I myself am really kind of an outsider to the show world, all the big guns know who Biddy is...when we see them at big national events, they greet her by name (they don't know me from Adam's house cat!). Unlike a lot of professional show dogs that are so mild mannered before going in the ring...Biddy is always good for a little pre-show look at me noise...and I am sure it will be no exception at the Westminster!
I won't even get into the numbers...but lets just say this experience (which is priceless for me) is going to leave a mark on my checkbook. Most of the expense is really the travel and hotel part. I am driving from my home in S. Florida since putting my dog on a plane in the cargo area is not something I am interested in doing. We are going to leave on Friday or Saturday morning. I will have one night on the road (thank you LaQuinta for all my rewards points and free nights...shout out to my dog hotel of choice! Pet friendly, clean, acceptable, affordable, close to the interstate and free breakfast...and also a lot of rewards points for free nights!). Then a brief stay at my sister's house in Northern Maryland.
They just got a new Bernese Mountain Dog Puppy...so this is going to be fun! On Monday morning, we will leave her house for our trip into the city. I have to admit...I've had more than a few sleepless nights worrying about the logistics of driving into the city, getting on the trams with all my stuff and my dog....all the people. I'm a small town girl and I've been to NYC once before. My husband goes all the time for work and has given me a lot of good advice...I'm just going to put my big girl pants on and go for it! I've got my show outfit and some winter cloths...whatever I don't have, my sister will outfit me with.
Keep in mind, my official uniform is always shorts, t-shirt and flip flops. I really don't have winter boots etc...so she is going to take care of this for me. I think the weather will be in the teens...what the heck?!? Keeping my fingers crossed that I can work my travel days in between these monster storms and snow.. I don't have any winter weather driving experience...so once again, I am going to put my big girl pants on and learn something new....:) this is the part, where I think I might have bitten off a little more than I can chew...to late for that now!
I'm happy with my show outfit and I think it will look nice against Biddy. I have one more project this week, to finish Biddy's new show bed and drape. It is a pretty olive green silk fabric, which she will look very lovely against...can't have any old tattered dog bed with half the free world coming to visit her in her crate!!! It is all in the details! Biddy having a snooze with the fabric for her new show bed...wondering when it is going to go from fabric to a bed...it is going down tonight! She matches very nicely with it, it is silk!
We will be benched next to one of the members of her Breeder team, so I will have a support team when I get there. It is going to be exhausting and fun all at the same time. Biddy has her own fan base here at home. All of our friends and neighbors are cheering her on! There have been a whole host of people along the way that have helped us to get to where we are. Each one of them has played a part in her success story. We have had several mentors and teachers along the way that have shared their time and experience with us. Her breeders, Geri and Gary Clements and Cheryl Mika have been with us every step of the way. Cheryl will be with us at the show and Geri and Gary will be watching from home. It is hard to explain, but it is a really emotional experience for us all. We all cry tears of happiness...it is really silly, but as those that show and breed dogs know...it is a LOT of hard work and a lot of pride when your dog does well. I am so happy that we are able to represent our Breeders at Westminster..it has been a lifetime of work for them.
So...I will keep you all posted on our experience and how we are doing. You can watch your favorite breed being judged via the online feed. Just visit the website: www.westminsterkennelclub.org and look under the "2014 Breed Judging" link. I expect there will be a few hours delay before the feed goes up. The Monday night Group judging will be on CNBC and Tuesday night with Best In Show will be on USA Network. Check the website for your local listings. The National Agility championships will be this weekend on FoxSport...must watch TV! Biddy, Tristan and I are always out running in the neighborhood...where they make their daily rounds visiting with neighbors and dog friends. When I first got Biddy and my neighbor Bruce found out that we were going to start showing, he said maybe one day I will see you on Westminster.
Well, that day is here...I saw Bruce on our morning run yesterday and he reminded me of that conversation and he got a little choked up as he wished us well. The same for my other neighbor Mr. Culhane..who came out to the street as he saw us coming around the corner, to give me a hug, wish us well and let us know he was cheering for us. So crazy logistics, money, travel, snow, outfits and all aside...for me... win, lose or draw..showing my dog at the Westminster Kennel Club really is a dream come true. I hope you will watch us on the live feed (which you can see at anytime on the website)! Since all the dogs will pretty much look alike...I expect that our position during the breed judging will be near the end. They will judge the few class dogs first, then call in all the dogs for Best of Breed. Males go in first (which they are almost all males entered...the big boys!!!!) Then female champions at the end. Biddy and I are #23, I will be the short, nervous looking gal, in a black skirt and blue jacket! I'll keep you posted!