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2014 Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show

Monday, February 10, 2014

My trip with Frodo to New York City went smoothly. It was a bright sunny day — but snowier, still, than I expected. I wished I’d brought my boots for Frodo’s pit stops. 

$45 in tolls, one way. Ouch! And 45 minutes to go a quarter mile, past Madison Square Garden, to the New Yorker Hotel. I was proud of myself for not allowing the New York City cab drivers to bully me and force me left from the straight-ahead lane. I set my course and kept slowly moving forward because I knew the cab drivers were only bluffing hitting me. I figured if one of us (me) stayed completely predictable, we’d be OK. There seemed to be some camaraderie among out of towners, as an SUV from Florida let me in, and then I let in a car from Iowa.

Everyone at the New Yorker was friendly, helpful and efficient, and I could relax right away once I was in their care. You bet I kept an eagle eye on my valet parking ticket though since I, literally, had no idea where my car was parked. It would not have been a good time for the zombie apocalypse!

doggy potty at New Yorker HotelThe New Yorker had a good sized room set aside in the basement for a big, walk-in doggy potty filled with cedar shavings (and plastic sheeting halfway up the wall) which Frodo took advantage of after only a quick inspection. I could see right away that my training him to use public exercise pens (ex-pens) at the Fredericksburg shows last month had paid off.

Our room was small but nice, and at the end of the hallway, which I appreciated because Standard Schnauzers are watch dogs and Frodo feels it’s important to make sure I know when someone walks by outside. I thought he would eventually settle in and enjoy the bone I brought him.

Frodo Gets Ready for BedWe had to get up at about 3:30 am to have time to get a shower, dress, check out and drive to the Piers. The queue for unloading started at 5:00 for unloading at 6:00.  Our ring time was at 9:00 but we had a couple of breeds ahead of us so it was 9:25 before we could go in. Still, that didn’t leave a lot of time for grooming, acclimation to the venue, and breakfast, so I was determined to get an early start.

I brought a nice sandwich and I didn’t think I would have any trouble going to sleep early.

The skyline background on the New York NBC news showed the Empire State Building lit up with purple and gold for the Westminster show. Purple and gold are the official colors that AKC uses for Best of Breed awards. Really neat!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

3:15 am, time to get up! The info packet said cars could start lining up at the Piers at 5:00 for 6:00 unloading. I didn’t want to be late and have to rush grooming and getting ready. Thank goodness for Siri and my iPhone which helped me navigate through the dark and mostly empty streets.

I arrived on time at the Piers and they let us unload early, at 5:30. By 6:00 I had everything set up and got to park on the roof which was so convenient I could almost ignore how much it cost. After a quick bite to eat and a complimentary coffee, it was time to start grooming.

Spectators were already starting to come in by 7:30 and Frodo got to see his first of many telephoto lenses of the day. At first he wasn’t sure these “giant eyeballs” were ok, but once he started getting treats he couldn’t wait for the next one.

Soon after, out of the crowd materialized a friend I had not seen in about ten years!  Anne and I owned litter sisters born in 1996 and I had groomed her Gracie until they moved. Anne helped me out so much! She fetched hot lunch for me (the benching area was cold), kept an eye on Frodo when I went to change and helped me get a lot of equipment back up to the car before the mad exodus at the end. Meeting up with old friends is something dog shows are good for and I loved seeing Anne again.

Judging time came quickly and before I knew it I was showing the usher my exhibitor wristband to be let into the holding area. All spectators were on the other side of the rings and there seemed to be rows and rows of them, so I stopped looking over there!
Leslie Shriner Shows Standard Schnauzer Frodo
Frodo and I had to wait ringside a little bit of extra time while some earlier breeds got pictures taken. It was a challenge keeping him focused on me but treats to the rescue again! We were first in the ring, as he was the only non-champion entered. The judge, Doug Holloway, guided us through the examination and movement phases. He showed good humor about Frodo’s puppyish demeanor and admonished him, kindly, not to make a fool out of his Mom!

Frodo's Westminster Dog Show RibbonsAfter we received Frodo’s Winners ribbon the rest of the standard schnauzers, all Champions, entered the ring. I knew some of the exhibitors already, Penny and Liz, and they were showing a nice female and a male, respectively. Mr Holloway put the new dogs through the same paces as he had Frodo and began deliberating. He came down to the end of the line and took another long look at Frodo and I was thrilled that Mr. Holloway had not forgotten about us. He awarded Best of Breed, Best of Opposite, Select Dog and Bitch from among the Champions but then awarded the optional Awards of Merit to the Select Dog and to Frodo! Awards of Merit do not come with points, but they allow a judge to give special recognition of quality at prestigious events.

Doug Holloway was formerly a professional handler and his top winning dog, one of the very top winning show dogs of all time, was a Standard Schnauzer named Pa. The first time I went to Westminster, as a spectator, was the year Pa and Mr Holloway went Best in Show and were featured in Time Magazine. It was a great honor for him to recognize Frodo in this special way! When it was time for pictures, Mr. Holloway helped Frodo and me try to get a great photo in spite of Frodo’s antics. I think Frodo had had enough of “stand here, stand there, stand like this.” Throughout, Mr Holloway complimented Frodo, especially his head with its “clean planes and lines,” calling him “a beautifully-headed dog.”
2014 Westminster Dog Show Win
Westminster Dog Show benching areaBefore we knew it, judging was over. It felt like mid-afternoon to me but it was only 10:15 a.m. Westminster is a “benched show.” That means the dogs are required to stay all day to be viewed by the public instead of being able to leave after judging. When we returned to our set-up the benching area was full of people. A happy, groomed dog with a happy owner draws a crowd and we, mostly Frodo, had many pictures taken. Frodo loved all the attention and I think he really believed all those people were there for him!

The meet and greet went on for many more hours, though they went by quickly. Finally, we were allowed to leave, at around 5 pm. If you can imagine long lines of people with fully laden dollies in one hand and dogs in the other trying to get on a shuttle bus or on a freight elevator that temporarily broke down on two occasions then you can imagine the chaotic scene! Frodo and I finally got in the car and before we were even out into traffic, Frodo was asleep in his crate, lucky dog!  He didn’t stir for about three hours when we took a short pit stop in Delaware. Snow was on everyone’s mind, including mine, so I drove straight through, got home before midnight and slept well into Wednesday morning.

I had a great time. Frodo was happy, looked great and won a special award. I met new friends and reconnected with old ones. Also, since returning, I have talked with many of you about the trip and thank you all, so much, for your ongoing support of me and Georjeans Dog Grooming. I love being a part of Warrenton, Virginia!