Westminster Kennel Club Show Is Here

I’m on my way to New York City today for the 144th Westminster Kennel Club dog show. For the past few years, the competition included dogs who had not yet earned their championship, but this year, it is once again a champions-only show.

This year, the group and best in show judging will still be at the Garden, but because of renovations at the Piers, breed judging will be Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, instead of just Monday and Tuesday.

Sunday will be hounds and herding, Monday will be terriers, toys and non-sporting breeds, and Tuesday will be working and sporting groups. I’ll miss some of the judging on Sunday because our Dog Writers’ banquet is in New Jersey this year, so I’ll need to catch a train, but fortunately, the Pembroke Welsh Corgis will be judged at 8:30 a.m. Sunday. Seating is always at a premium, so I’ll get to the Piers early to secure a seat. After the Pembrokes will be the Cardigan Welsh Corgis, so I’ll watch them, too, and then decide what other breeds I want a glimpse of. It’s hard to see them all because there are multiple rings being judged simultaneously. It’s also hard, because, to paraphrase a song from “Finian’s Rainbow,” “When I’m not near the dog I love I love the dog I’m near.”

Corgis have had my heart for over 35 years, but that doesn’t mean I don’t admire other breeds, especially when I’m away from home. It’s hard to be “dogless” so I try to just revel in all the different breeds around me. I hope to see the elegant Cirnecho dell’Etna, and I’d love to see the Norwegian Buhunds. The Pyrenean Shepherds are really cute, but they won’t be judged until 3:15, so I’ll have to miss them.

Even though I’ll miss seeing many breeds in the show ring, my hotel will make up for that. I’m staying at the Hotel Pennsylvania and many handlers and dogs stay there, too. Besides seeing random furry guests in the lobby, the hotel is hosting several specialties during Westminster week.

These shows are single breed only shows, and there are eight of them being held at the hotel. I hope to see a little of one or more of these shows Saturday. Breeds include the Miniature Pinscher, Boston Terrier, French Bulldog, Chihuahua, Chinese Crested, Shih Tzu, Cavalier King Charles, Havanese and Pug.

I hope I get to see some Havanese, as this little dog from Cuba is absolutely adorable. I always think of them as white, but all colors are acceptable. They’re full of bounce and have a soft, silky coat. I’ve only ever seen them with long, flowing coats but apparently some people cord the coats, like the coats of a Puli or Komondor. Maybe I’ll see some corded ones this weekend. Maybe someone will let me pat one.

One breed I definitely want to see on Sunday is the Azawakh. The breed is an ancient one, but was only recognized by the American Kennel Club last year. Its appearance at Westminster gives me a chance to see one in person, rather than just photos on the Internet.

The Azawakh was bred to hunt gazelle in West Africa, so, while he looks delicate and fragile, he is, in fact, hardy and tough. He’s about the size of a Greyhound in height, but with a more level topline. He has drop ears, and weighs much less than a Greyhound.

A Greyhound may weigh between 60 and 70 pounds, depending on whether it is a male or female. The Azawakh has a range of from 33 to 55. This is closer to the size of a Saluki, which weights between 40 and 65 pounds. The Azawakh is said to be reserved with strangers but gentle and affectionate with those he knows.

You’d think surrounded by every type of dog that I wouldn’t miss my two as much, but seeing happy people with their happy dogs makes me want to be with my dogs even more. I love going to New York but I’m always happy to return home.

For those of you staying home with your favorite canine, the group judging will be shown Monday and Tuesday nights, Feb. 10 and Feb. 11, from 7:30 to 11 p.m. on FS1. Monday night will be hound, toy, non-sporting and herding groups. Tuesday night will be sporting, working, terrier and best in show.

Daytime judging will be streamed at westminsterkennelclub.org, the WKC app and the Fox Sports app.