Westminster: Welcome to the Big Time, Kid

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  1. “It takes all your time, all your money, everything you got. If you’re lucky you might win enough money to get across the George Washington Bridge.” — Owner of a Chow Chow, in the benching area at Westminster, 2010

    The Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, held every February, is and has always been the most famous and important dog show in America. It is a vast and overwhelming two-day affair that brings nearly 3,000 dogs and exponentially more breeders, owners, handlers, salespeople, psychics, dog masseuses, and hairstylists to New York City, where they take over Madison Square Garden for two days while living on take-out and chablis across Seventh Avenue at the Hotel Pennsylvania.

    The 1700-room Pennsylvania, a slightly dowdy grande dame that is the city’s fourth largest hotel, transforms itself for the occasion into the world’s most dog friendly hotel, complete with “his and her relieving areas” — the boys’ room is the one with plastic fire hydrants, in case you are confused — the world’s largest “doggie spa,” and a makeshift “Paw Mall” of vendors hawking treats, leads, combs and dog-imprinted gear. The Pennsylvania’s PR machine loves to promote all of this, celebrating the “five paw service” overseen by doggie concierge Jerry Grymek, who spends 11 months concocting puns that he wields liberally in person and in press releases. Jerry is fully to blame for all the quotation marks in this section.

    The ostensible purpose of Westminster, according to the Kennel Club’s by-laws, ...

Originally published in Byliner, February 2012