Westminster 2015 is now in the history books, but it was an important show because of several unplanned outcomes that helped ensure that America’s second oldest, continuous sporting event will continue to appeal — even grow in popularity. My dog of choice will always be the standard poodle, and naturally I was excited when one was chosen best of the Non-Sporting Group. Still, I wasn’t unhappy when the 15-inch beagle beat her out for Best in Show. I know that underneath all the poodle’s puffery and glamorous hair there beats the heart of a silly, playful “real dog,” but I am very aware that many people haven’t come to that understanding. The beagle, on the other hand, is all out there — what you see is what you get — charm, energy, a bundle of cuteness. Picking that adorable dog as winner will help Westminster’s image as a dog show for the average dog lover, not an event for the elite to strut their pampered animals.
Another stereotype this year’s Westminster helped to smash was that the dogs spend their lives either cloistered in cages waiting for the next show or eating bon bons from their owner’s fingertips. It was gratifying that several of the prize dogs spent their off hours as therapy animals visiting wherever people needed a little extra TLC. The Terrier Group winner, Skye Terrier “Charlie,” was one example.
It was also noteworthy how often the announcer pointed out the dogs were being shown by breeder-owner-handlers. These people bred their dogs, whelped the puppies, kept them at home, taught them how to perform in the ring, and then ran them around the ring themselves. Like Bess in Almost Perfect, these people let their dogs sleep on the bed, schlepped them from show to show building up their records, and finally achieved the honor of being eligible for Westminster. Appearing at Westminster is an earned honor, and there is a lot more to qualifying than filling out an application. (For more details, follow Breaker’s Almost Perfect journey with Benny and Bess).
Finally, Westminster is a major, American sporting event, but it is international in scope and appeal as the top winners remind us. Flame, the winning Standard Poodle and Non-Sporting Group winner, is from Canada and so is Best in Show winner Miss P, the 15-inch beagle. People all over the world tune in for Best in Show on the internet and on international television. As such, it is one of the most loved and watched events in the world.
Do we really have to wait a whole ‘nother year?