Not All Dog Days for Westminster Contestants

Owners reel off their prized pooches’ must-haves, obsessions and quirks


By Sandy Robins

updated 6:28 p.m. PT, Thurs., March. 2, 2006


It’s show time! As New York City gets ready to host the 130th Westminster Dog Show on Monday and Tuesday, the pressure is on the canine contestants to prepare for their appearances on the famed green carpet at Madison Square Garden.

Backstage, the backbiting and competitiveness rivals any human beauty pageant. Although doggy contestants don’t have to worry about a swimsuit competition and wriggling into glamorous evening gowns, dieting, pampering and preening are still the name of the game. After all, there are important titles to be won and huge endorsement deals up for grabs.

But what do these pedigreed pooches enjoy doing away from the spotlight?

According to many owners, at home they behave like ordinary pets and enjoy doing real doggy stuff, such as chewing shoes and begging for junk food.

MSNBC asked the owners of several of this year’s top contenders to dig up some fun facts and dish the dirt on their show dogs.

Pat Hoffmann
Hoffman, of Chester, N.J., is owner of Champion Kimani’s Life in the Fast Lane, a Rhodesian Ridgeback known to his family and friends as Gibson.

Favorite toy to take to Westminster: A lion toy and his favorite leopard-print blanket go everywhere.

Favorite treat: We share a banana every morning and a yogurt at lunchtime. He also loves pizza crusts.

Favorite bad habit: He has lots. He barks when I am on the phone and shreds faxes if they fall from the tray. He steals important papers off my desk and also likes to remove laundry from the tumble dyer when I am not looking.

Favorite way to celebrate a dog show win: He gets dog cookies and a giant new toy.

Quirkiest quirk: There are lots of dogs and dog beds in our house, but Gibson will only sleep in his crate or on the floor. He refuses to get on the bed.

Favorite outing: I ride at a local barn, and he loves to roll in fresh horse manure. He also likes to go dog and cat food shopping. The food aisles are the best place to pick up extra treats.

Favorite obsession: Running through my flower garden and chomping at my flowers!

Pet hate: Anything that is not his idea!

If your dog were a human celebrity, who would it be? Ron Howard, especially when he played Opie on the Andy Griffith show. Gibson has reddish hair and is full of mischief.

If your dog could talk, what would its favorite saying be? Like Sir Winston Churchill said: Never, never give up!

Carol Gundl Falk
Falk, of Lancaster, Penn., is owner of Champion De Lamer’s Beach Blanket Baby, a Schipperke known to her many fans as Beach.

Favorite toy to take to Westminster: Schipperke means “little captain” in Dutch. She loves her bone-shaped toy with a ship’s motif that keeps her in touch with her seafaring heritage.

Favorite treat: Filet of beef.

Favorite bad habit: Bad habit? No … not Beach!

Favorite way to celebrate a dog show win: Eating filet of beef and basking in the limelight.

Quirkiest quirk: She “smiles.”

Favorite outing: She loves to go to the beach and dig in the sand.

Favorite obsession: Chasing the other Schipperkes in the yard.

Pet hate: She hates losing. She definitely knows when she’s lost because she has to walk out of the ring behind other dogs and she gets really miffed.

If your dog were a human celebrity who would it be? Katie Couric, because they are both petite and very perky from the moment they get up in the morning. And like Katie, she’s very outgoing, intelligent and loves an audience.

If your dog could talk, what would its favorite saying be? Where’s the beef?


Kathy Kraft
Kraft, of Pleasant Valley, N.J., is owner of Champion Timberwind’s Take To The Sky, a Belgian Tervuren known around the house as Skye.

Favorite toy to take to Westminster: A smoked-barbecue flavored chew bone.

Favorite treat: Liver, which she gets in the show ring.

Favorite bad habit: Chasing squirrels!

Favorite way to celebrate a dog show win: A McDonald’s hamburger and a special dog toy bought at the show.

Quirkiest quirk: She sleeps on her back.

Favorite outing: Going tracking — she’s fantastic and can follow the scent of a person who has walked 400-500 yards in to a field, making four to five turns on the way.

Favorite obsession: Food, and her puppies when she has a litter.

Pet hate: Squirrels and cats, although she has learned to tolerate my adopted cat Noel.

If your dog were a human celebrity who would it be? Katherine Hepburn — smart, sassy, beautiful and confident!

If your dog could talk, what would its favorite saying be? I love you, too, Mom!

Rhonda and Tony Graham
The Grahams, of Lusby, Md., are owners of Champion Ap’s Thoth Kamen Septu, an English Bulldog known informally as Al.

Favorite toy to take to Westminster: He doesn’t go anywhere without his furry, squeaky mouse.

Favorite treat: Munchy Sticks.

Favorite bad habit: Trying to romance our girl bulldogs.

Favorite way to celebrate a dog show win: A new toy and all the leftover treats after the show.

Quirkiest quirk: Before he gets a bath, he runs into the living room and we have to tell him how beautiful he is and that he’s a good boy. Then he runs into the bathroom and jumps in the bathtub himself.

Favorite outing: Anywhere that involves people and lots of attention.

Favorite obsession: Our girl bulldogs!

Pet hate: He hates having his toenails clipped.

If your dog were a human celebrity who would it be? Michael Clarke Duncan, gentle, funny and strong with lots of personality!

If your dog could talk, what would its favorite saying be? I didn’t do it!

Denise Myers
Myers, of Clarkson, Mich., is co-owner of Champion Nuance Night and Day, a Bull Terrier known around the neighborhood as Nikki.

Favorite toy to take to Westminster: She takes several bone-shaped fleece toys with squeakers and a bright yellow stuffed duck.

Favorite treat: She loves homemade shortbread cookies.

Favorite bad habit: She likes to eat the toilet paper off the roll.

Favorite way to celebrate a dog show win: Following a great dog show, Nikki likes to take a shower to wash the make-up off and relax in the warmth of the bathroom with a nice big towel wrapped around her. She will lie luxuriating in her success for at least an hour.

Quirkiest quirk: Nikki loves to nurse on her fleece bones as if she was a nursing puppy.

Favorite outing: Going to a dog show is her favorite outing. She gets very excited when she sees luggage being packed into the truck.

Favorite obsession: Food. She tries to trick everyone in the household into feeding her.

Pet hate: An empty food bowl.

If your dog were a human celebrity who would it be? Hillary Duff. She knows how to strut her stuff.

If your dog could talk, what would its favorite saying be? I don’t think you’ve fed me yet!

Terry and Allen Patton
The Pattons, of Fairfax Station, Va., are owners of Champion Felicity’s Diamond Jim, a Springer Spaniel that away from the dog show circuit is known as James.

Favorite toy to take to Westminster: Without question his stuffed acrylic frog that says, “rabbit.”

Favorite treat: Chicken hot dogs.

Favorite bad habit: He has to have body contact with someone all the time.

Favorite way to celebrate a dog show win: He jumps up and down non-stop. We like to go shopping.

Quirkiest quirk: He loves having his feet massaged.

Favorite outing: Going anywhere in the car, especially if it involves going through a drive-through and getting ice cream or French fries.

Favorite obsession: He obsesses over his stuffed frog.

Pet hate: Being reprimanded too firmly.

If your dog were a human celebrity who would it be? The late John F. Kennedy, Jr. He was a real gentleman and terribly good-looking.

If your dog could talk, what would its favorite saying be? Don’t Worry, Be Happy.

Sandy Robins is an award-winning freelancer writer based in Irvine, Calif. Her work has appeared in numerous publications in the United States and internationally.


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