Did Anyone Watch the Dog Show after the MacyDay Parade?

And does anybody besides me think it’s a little weird that the the female judges at all these big dog shows dress like they got confused and thought they were going to opening night at the Opera House?  I mean, nobody else is covered with sequins and bugle beads.  The owners and handlers are all in nice business attire and half the audience is probably wearing jeans.  So is this just some kind of dog show tradition?  I realize this is not a pressing national issue but my family got tired of hearing me kvetch about it so I thought I’d run it past you guys.  Anyone know the story on this?

Posted by marindenver on 11/28/08 at 12:55 PM • Permalink


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I have noticed it as well.  They always look like they have the absolute worst taste in attire.

I watched it and all I can say is John O’Hurley is a poor substitute for Fred Willard.

I can’t believe we forgot to watch the dog show! Must have been all the turkey and pie and
chocolate made us forgetful.

You should watch the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in February, though it hasn’t been the same since Roger Karas (sp?) died. It’s not just the judges who are all dressed up but also the handlers who are putting on the dog (so to speak).

And speaking of the judges, I am personally more weirded out by the interest the male judges take in “feeling” the male dogs, if you know what I mean. What exactly are they looking for?

Btw, marindenver, I will forevermore think of you as “John Wayne.” : )

Comment by J. on 11/28/08 at 03:03 PM

I watched it and all I can say is John O’Hurley is a poor substitute for Fred Willard.

Heh, one of my favorite movies.

J., I have seen the Westminster, didn’t remember so much everyone being all glitzed out but wouldn’t be surprised!  Must just be a good dog show tradition.

Perhaps they dress as they do because they’re desperately afraid the dogs will be just that much more attractive than themselves in normal clothing.

It’s one of many instances of bizarre behavior displayed by the show dog world. I actually went to Westminster one year, and, even better, the toy dog competition that’s traditionally held the night before.

It was at the Hotel Pennsylvania, which turns into Canine Central every February—it’s across from Madison Square Garden, and all the showdogs stay there, so you can sit in the lobby and see anatolian shepherds and duck-tolling retrievers and wolfhounds parading through with their handlers, people in seriously plaid pants and breed-specific jewelry.

The Toy dog show took place in a Hotel Penn ballroom, and who should join the hunt for the proper elevator but a small bass-voiced lady in a huge fur coat and giant shades who turned out to be Sylvia Sidney. She was draped in pounds of Baltic amber. We chatted while walking down miles of busy carpeting, found the ballroom, paid our admission and had our hands stamped. “How will you see it among the age spots?” she asked.

Then we parted company. I did tell her I’d enjoyed her work very much, especially in “An American Tragedy”, and told her to stay out of rowboats.
  “What?” she said.
  “Well, in ‘American Tragedy’ you’re pushed out of a rowboat by the bounder who wants to dump you for the boss’s daughter—-”
  “Oh my dear, I can’t remember everything—-I’m a hundred years old!” said Miss Sidney.

The actual dog show I found hard to take with a straight face, since I’d no preparation for the spectacle that is dozens of very large people in chunky gold jewelry running at full speed around in a circle, all towing tiny wall-eyed bits of fluff. In the on-deck grooming area, teacup poodles were being teased into living topiary by men with beautifully shaped eyebrows and (I suspect) Grecian Formula’d goatees.

The judges were spangled, as was much of the audience. People will own, or partially own, a show dog and never see it except at a show, like owning a racehorse. That explains the spangle/non-spangle divide: the handlers must wear clothes with pockets, so that they may keep pieces of liver to hold the dogs attention in the ring. Even worse, they moisten the liver in their mouths before holding it out to the dog. A lot of the tweediness of the dog handling community is because dog hair doesn’t show up on tweed.  Handlers walk around backstage holding their docile charges splayed against their chests, while the dogs’ ears and topknots are protected by snoods.

The judges don’t have to come in contact with the dogs at all, except for lightly running their hands over them and of course feeling up the boys to make sure they’re “intact”. The proper attire for fondling dog balls always depends on the time of day, of course; in outdoor shows, tweed is acceptable for fondling dog balls, but this is New York, after all, and we wouldn’t consider fondling dog balls after 7:00 in anything but evening attire.

I think you’ve described my fascination with dog shows perfectly!  On Thursday we were dumbfounded to see one of the handlers inserting the liver into her charge’s mouth while the judge was busy fondling, then, when it was time to gallop off she (handler) popped the treat back into her own mouth, chewed and swallowed!  We backed it up and looked again twice to make sure we’d really seen that.

I felt sorry for that poor little 7-month old puppy (one of the toy dogs).  She just refused to walk and laid there like a lump.  It was pretty funny actually.  Even the judge had to smile.

I am a show dog owner, and erstwhile (yet amateur) handler.  My bitch (yes, we call them that with a straight face) just “finished” her championship.  We had sent her out with a professional handler, as my own skills in the ring weren’t up to the “big” classes (you need two “major” wins to get champion status) and the local shows weren’t turning out enough of the breed to create “majors.”

The persnickety and arcane culture of “the Fancy” is enthralling and hysterical by turns. It’s fun because it is its own crazy world but they are very welcoming of strangers, in fact you will be lucky if you ask a simple question at a show and aren’t held captive for a half-hour, because they love to proselytize for their breed, and for proper treatment thereof. This is excepting the groomers floofing the noble animals who are waiting in the wings. The amazing thing about Westminster and the Progressive toy dog show is that complete doofuses like me are allowed to walk around the “benching area”. Nothing stops us from asking dopey questions as the next national best-of-breed is having french chalk rubbed into his coat. “ What’s that white stuff?” “Do you have to cut his hair that way?”
It’s like being able to walk right up to Michael Phelps and say, “gee, you shave your whole body?” just as he’s tucking his hair into his bathing cap before the Olympic gold-medal relay.
The benching area is full of crated dogs, dogs being blow-dried, dogs in snoods, and dogs being “exercised” in ex-pens, fenced doggie bathrooms. That’s all very well at an outdoor dog show, but Westminster is unbelievably stinky, stuffy, hot and crowded. You have to love dogs immeasurably to put up with it.
Dog shows are very much about breeding, bloodlines past and future, and conforming to the breed standard. If you want to warm the heart of a showdog owner, tell the him/her that the dog is very “typey”. One of the mass delusions of “the Fancy” is that they are improving the breed, when what they are usually doing is inbreeding, often for questionable aesthetic standards. Dachshunds’ backs have gotten longer and weaker, collies’ heads have narrowed so much their brainpans have shrunk and now they couldn’t find Timmy if they were lowered into the well with him. German Shepherds are just a health train-wreck, starting with the caboose. It’s incredibly sad.
The reason for the ball-fondling is because the doggies have to be “intact” so as to pass on their winning typey spermatazoa to those lucky bitches out there. Non-intact dogs are ineligible for AKC competition, so you’ll keep on seeing more bugle-beaded, diamond-bedecked old ladies’ fingers cupping more dog balls.
Oh, and the handler moistening the liver in her mouth, holding it out to her dog and then popping it back in her mouth? The mouth is your standard liver-storage area in the ring. Keeps it nice and warm and aromatic. MMMmmm.
Congrats to sunkawakan on her dog’s championship. Very typey dog.

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