Westminster Brings Out Doggie Divas, Parents


From takeout pizzas to ‘pupperazzi,’ participants have special requests

By Sandy Robins

updated 4:35 p.m. PT, Mon., Feb. 4, 2008


Yes, it’s doggie show time again as the crème de la crème of the world’s poocherati arrive in New York to strut their stuff on the famed green carpet at Madison Square Garden and compete for the coveted Best in Show title at the Westminster Dog Show.

“It’s undoubtedly America’s dog show,” said David Frei, the communications director for the Westminster Kennel Club.

And indeed it is. But it’s also been nicknamed the biggest doggie beauty pageant in the world. Consequently, on the other end of those fine leather leashes there are show dog moms and dads, some of whom will stop at nothing to ensure that their doggie darlings get VIP treatment and lap up every luxury.

“It goes with the territory,” said veteran doggie concierge Jerry Grymek, who will be once again at his post at the Hotel Pennsylvania fielding requests and meeting the demands of these doggie divas.

“And no request is ever turned down. I start getting calls weeks before some of the guests actually check in that have me jumping through hoops.

“In the past I’ve been asked to roll out a red carpet and ensure that the Pupperazzi are planted to capture a dog’s grand entrance in a glory of flashing cameras bulbs. I don’t actually notify photographers of individual doggie arrivals, but the press is always around in full force. In fact there will be a live satellite feed from the foyer of the hotel before the show kicks off. Brittney Spears may even give a little sigh of relief to find their focus is elsewhere, however fleetingly.

“This year, we’ve hired a pianist to play some especially composed canine compositions to drown out noisy sounds that scientists now claim affects dogs.”

It’s going to be interesting to find out whether these lyrical notes will even be heard above the barking cacophony that usually fills hotel foyers during Westminster week.

A common request made to housekeeping staff at all the dog-friendly hotels in the area is for an extra cot and blankets to be brought up to a particular room.

Although the requests are always prefixed by saying “it’s for the dog,” veteran hotel staffers know that more than likely the dog will be getting the bed and the additional bedding is for the owners or handler.

Superstitions are rife in doggie divadom, too. Dogs check in with their favorite blankets and fuzzy toys. Some have special outfits they wear before the show. Thus housekeeping services are kept busy laundering and pressing.

Then there are the special food requests that have bell captains dispatching bellhops to fast food outlets such as McDonalds almost 24/7. Cheeseburgers — hold the onions — are popular with the doggie set. Some dogs are treated throughout their stay, while others know it’s show time when the Big Mac arrives.

Pizza is another popular takeout food for canine contestants, with pepperoni and chicken being the toppings of choice. I guess it’s chomped down well when it’s washed down with a special malt-flavored doggie beer …

For show dog moms and dads keen to sniff out the competition their furry stars will face in the breed ring, hotel elevators are a great place to hang out for hot gossip.

The weather during the show is always a topic of interest, too. Two years ago, many competitive pet parents breathed a sign of relief when a huge blizzard hit New York just before Westminster began, cancelling flights from all over the country and preventing many top dogs from making it to the Garden, dramatically narrowing down the field of competitors.

For many with big dreams, there’s more than just a dog show title at stake. Some have made huge sacrifices in their own lives to be here – even saving their frequent flyer miles so that their dogs can fly first class for this grand occasion. After all, this could be a shot at fame and fortune that extends beyond their wildest dreams and most certainly exceeding any doggie dreams of chasing rabbits…

So what could be in store for the next reigning king or queen of dogdom? Well, anything from product endorsements to a walk-on part in a TV sitcom or a role in a movie. All this translates well into big doggie dollar earnings as well as delicious treats and kibble.

According to Bizbash,  a magazine for event planners, the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show ranked in its top 100 events in New York City for the fourth straight year in a row. It was listed alongside such events as the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and the Tony Awards.

Whether you look at Westminster as America’s greatest dog show or as the biggest doggie beauty pageant on earth, one thing is certain; it’s big business.


Sandy Robins is an award-winning pet lifestyle writer. She is the recent recipient of the Humane Society of the United States’ Pets for Life Award. Her work appears in many national and international publications.

URL: http://nbcsports.msnbc.com/id/23000223/


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