Living in New York City for almost seven years, you would think I’d have seen every nook and cranny of this island. But here’s a little secret: most who live here haven’t even been to the top of the Empire State Building. Okay, so I got that out of the way during my first ever trip here when I was just sixteen—I also went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, saw “The Phantom of the Opera” on Broadway, ate at Windows on the World on top of the World Trade Center, took tours of Radio City Music Hall and NBC, and stayed at the Plaza Hotel. I crammed more into those four days than my first four years as a resident.
Sure I’ve been to Yankee Stadium—both the old and new one—kayaked the Hudson River, played softball in Central Park, strolled the High Line. But I’ve never been to the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, Lincoln Center, the Guggenheim, or the Westminster Dog Show.
Now I can cross that last one off my list. I’ve watched this annual event from the comfort of my living room for years, when all the while it was just a few subway stops away. I’m squarely on Team Dog, if you didn’t already know. Yet, year after year, I kept putting it off, telling myself, “Next year.” Finally, last Tuesday, I’d had enough of that silly phrase. So, right after work, I headed down to Madison Square Garden to see these furry friends in action. (And, in a bit of synchronicity, as I approached the ticket counter, a woman approached me with her ticket and said, “Here, take this. I’m done for the day. Just tell them that you’re going back in.” How awesome is that?)
For two days, dogs from all over compete for Top Dog at the annual show. What many people might not know is that, during the day, people can visit these dogs backstage. Usually, they’re arranged by group—Working, Sporting, Terrier, etc.—and then by individual breed, but, because of renovations to The Garden, Boxers milled around with Mastiffs, Labradors sat right next to Norwich Terriers, and the body heat off of everyone with two and four legs turned it into a panting puppy palace.
Walking past the throngs of Bull Mastiffs, Neopolitan Mastiffs, and Leonbergers that are all part of the Working Group, I spotted the Dogue de Bordeaux,which is French for “dog of drool.” It’s also a fancy term for French Mastiff, an easier explanation for when people ask me what kind of dog The Beast is. He’s often mistaken for a Sharpei because of his wrinkly face. One time, a woman asked me if The Beast was a pug. I shot back, “Lady, have you ever even seen a pug??” The Dogue de Bordeaux is sweet, stubborn, and great with kids. But if slobber ain’t your thing, this ain’t your dog. Having been granted AKC status in 2008, the breed is still fairly rare and the community of breeders in the United States is pretty small. Some had heard of my dog’s dad, or “sire” as they them. One had even heard of The Beast. I met folks from Illinois, Pennsylvania, New Orleans, and Oklahoma. One woman had driven for four days from Arizona, with dog in tow. I didn’t tell her that I’d only decided at ten o’clock that morning that I was going to pop by.
I got to see the other breeds, too, including a Mastiff named Wilbur, who weighed in at 237 pounds! His handler was a petite blonde woman who must have been 115 lbs. soaking wet.
I met the guy on the right just after he took a big drink of water. The owner told me he’s an “Spunoni Italiano.” I joked “He’s an ice cream?” “No, that’s ‘spumoni,’” she said, clearly having heard that one too many times.
I wandered around a little more, but didn’t stay for the evening’s competition. It was time to cross this one off my To Dew list. If I learned anything, it’s don’t put life on hold until next year. Just Dew it.
Plus I couldn’t wait to get home and see this guy, who is always Best in Show in my book.