May 19, 2024

Brighton Journal

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Westminster Kennel Club: In its 148th show, a show of dogs and fidelity

Westminster Kennel Club: In its 148th show, a show of dogs and fidelity

NEW YORK (AP) — Less than three years ago, Mary Ann and David Giordano took turns lying on the living room floor with their Afghan hound, Frankie, feeding the ailing pooch anything she might eat.

She developed severe kidney problems after contracting Lyme disease, despite taking medications intended to repel ticks that carry the bacteria that cause it. Veterinarians weren’t sure she would survive.

But on Monday, Frankie was in Show dogs at Westminster Kennel ClubHealthy and ready to compete. She will face off against more than a dozen other Afghan hounds — including Zaida, winner of last month’s World Dog Show in Croatia — for a chance to advance to the next round of the most prestigious dog event in the United States.

“It was really hard,” Mary Ann Giordano said, her voice trailing off as she described Frankie’s eight-month ordeal. “But she did it.”

For all the magnificence of dogs at Westminster – the coiffed poodles, the knotted toy dogs, the formality of dogs trotting around a ring – it is also an example of the bond people form with dogs, and what they will do for each other.

A dog is groomed during the 148th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, Monday, May 13, 2024, at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York. (AP Photo/Julia Nickinson)

Monday marked the beginning of the traditional judging leading up to the Best in Show award, which will be awarded on Tuesday night. The semi-finals began on Monday night, pitting the winners of each breed against others in their “group,” such as hounds or herding dogs.

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The first semi-final winner was Louis, an Afghan Hound who edged out Zaida, Frankie, her mate Belle and several others to win the breed.

“This breed is supposed to be the ‘King of Dogs,’ and it knows it is,” said Alicia Jones, owner and co-owner of the breed.

Also qualifying for Tuesday night’s finals is Comet, the Shih Tzu dog who won the dog group at Westminster on Monday — taking home the best in show trophy at the American Kennel Club’s televised mega national championship last year.

“He’s everything you want in a Shih Tzu,” co-owner, breeder and handler Luke Ehricht said after Comet won his breed Monday morning. With a flowing coat like a vanilla and caramel ice cream sundae melting on the table, the dog looked at his trainer with the kind expression that is so appreciated in the breed.

“He’s a very sweet, loving dog” who knows when it’s time to perform and when it’s time to relax and play, said Ericht, of Monclova, Ohio.

In total, seven semifinalists will be selected on Monday and Tuesday nights.

The more than 2,500 first-round entrants range from tiny Yorkshire terriers to towering Great Danes. They include the newly added strain, lancashire heels, On Monday, he is represented by one contestant named Mando.

If he knew a lot was riding on his young shoulders, he didn’t show it when he appeared in the first-round ring and an audience member shouted, “Hey! Date!”

“He has a rock star attitude,” therapist Jessica Plourde said afterward.

The show was also the first for Alfredo Delgado and Maria Davila, who traveled from Juncos, Puerto Rico, with their French bulldog, Duncan.

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Their path began when Delgado’s brother found a lost Frenchman. He was soon reunited with his owner, but Delgado was fascinated by the breed.

Years later, he was in the Westminster arena as Duncan’s breeder, owner and handler, and Davila was cheering him on.

“We have achieved the dream of being here,” Davila said afterwards. “Being involved with experienced people on the track was great.”

In the grooming tent nearby, Valarie Shames petted Csoki, a poly, before episode time.

Hungarian Shepherds generate long, thick cords that form naturally, although owners aid the process by separating them. It gets so dense that dogs can take 24 hours to dry off after a bath, using a combination of box fans and sometimes even a portable dehumidifier, Chemis said.

Why go through all that?

“These are fun dogs. They’re full of personality,” said Chimis as she pet Polly’s rival, Csoki, before ring time. Sure, she can be stubborn and barky, but she’s also lovable, Chimis said, as Csoki takes care of her geese and chickens at her home in Kingfield, Ohio. Maine, they even lie down next to baby geese.

Comet, a Shih Tzu, right, competes in the judging breed group at the 148th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, Monday, May 13, 2024, at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York.  (AP Photo/Julia Nickinson)

Comet, a Shih Tzu, right, competes in the judging breed group at the 148th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, Monday, May 13, 2024, at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York. (AP Photo/Julia Nickinson)

Master, a police dog who won his breed’s merit award on Monday, also puts his breed’s ancient instincts to work. Co-owner, breeder and handler Rene Wagner, of Niagara Falls, New York, said he is qualified to track down missing people, although his calls so far have been resolved before they arrive in the field.

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The 148th Westminster Show kicked off on Saturday with an agility competition – won by a mixed breed dog for the first time since Westminster added the event in 2014. Winner Nimble was handled by Cynthia Hornor, who claimed the trophy with a border collie last year.