Sat, 07/16/2022 - 4:00am

Three Terrific Days in Tarrytown

Desi Murphy relives the 146th Annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show

We have to remember that Westminster -- held this year on June 20 to 22 -- is the second-oldest sporting event in the country. It is only one year younger than the Kentucky Derby. Even during the war years, the show was held, when very few shows were.

No other club has ever had the obstacles to overcome that the Garden has had to deal with. Just in recent years, the breed judging could not be held at the Garden. Two piers were used to do the breed judging. Then only one pier could be used, which meant breed judging had to be done over three days. In 2021, there was no way the show could be held in New York City. A weekend date in early June was secured at Lyndhurst. This was no easy feat, due to many, many factors. The biggest was having to erect a huge tent for the Group and BIS judging in the evenings. This tent had to have climate control, proper lighting, bleacher seating and a floor built on uneven ground. It had to be made to look as close as possible to the floor of Madison Square Garden. One had to witness it to appreciate how closely they could duplicate the feeling of being on the Garden floor.

The main concern about being at Lyndhurst was weather related. Everyone realized that the temperatures could be close to 100 degrees, or there could be torrential rain. Twice the Tuxedo Park Kennel Club show at Lyndhurst had to be cancelled due to severe storms the day before. Luckily in 2021 the weather was wonderful during the show, when just a few days earlier it was 98 degrees for several days.

When the 2021 show was over, the Westminster gentlemen were so happy with the way everything went and were looking forward to being back in New York City for the 2022 show. Originally a pier on the East Side was going to be used for the breed judging. Being a smaller pier, tents would also have to be used. Sorry to say, due to many factors it became impossible to hold the 2022 show in New York City. With many mixed feelings, the decision was made to return to Lyndhurst for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday dates. We have to remember the show has to revolve around the TV production.

Without the revenue from TV, the show could not be staged to the extent it is. We also want the public to witness how great our sport is. Very few shows get a large gate now. For some reason, the public has no interest in attending dog shows. Westminster and the Kennel Club of Philadelphia still get huge gates. Now that it has been resurrected, it is hoped that the legendary International Kennel Club of Chicago will draw a huge gate, as it did in its glory days. Even though most shows cannot draw huge gates, the public attends Meet the Breeds, held in major cities throughout the country. The International KC in 2023 will also hold a Meet the Breeds, which should help to get people to attend the actual show.

When the “Powers That Be” realized that for ’23, they were praying that the weather would be like 2021. The odds were not favorable, and it was a miracle that the weather was fabulous again. So many just do not realize what the weather can be like at this time of year. Again, this year the weather was wonderful. All Monday the judges were even able to stand in the sun all day. It was in the mid-70s and very low humidity. Tuesday was overcast and very comfortable for both man and beast. Wednesday had a very slight mist in the afternoon, but such a fine mist that judges and viewers could stand out in it. The weather gods were so kind with the rains. Late on Tuesday night it rained hard for several hours. When we exited the big tent after BIS the following night, it was torrential rain. So far, for two years the Garden has enjoyed exceptionally good weather. The odds are it will NOT happen three years in a row.

On Monday, June 20, the Hound and Herding breeds were judged. Even though it only required six rings, it was impossible to watch all the breeds I would like to have seen. Juan Miranda had 37 Whippets, and the depth of quality was extremely good. It was 16 males and 21 bitches. After two large cuts in bitches, he had to whittle it down to the final cut. There were some top, top quality Whippets that had to go without even an AOM. There were several top-quality males, but as usual greater depth in bitches. The winning bitch, like so many others, is sired by “Whiskey.”

Juan all day long was like a kid in a candy store. He never stopped smiling. Even though at times he had such serious decisions to make, he constantly smiled. So nice that his parents could watch in person, and how proud they must be of Juan. Judging his own breed, Afghan Hounds, was a treat, since he had good quality to work with. Every ring on Monday was so full of quality.  

Monday evening Dog News and Purina® Pro Plan® hosted a lovely cocktail party to honor the awards that were given for last year. A large group of fanciers attended a memorial service in New York City for Iris Love. Two large buses picked us up at the Sleepy Hollow Hotel. The service was held at the famous St. James Church on Madison Avenue. Seven of Iris’s closest friends spoke of reflections of her life. The details were fascinating in so many areas of her unique life. There were 26 honorary pallbearers. After the service the buses took us to the Colony Club for a very lovely reception. Around 9:45 p.m., the buses returned us to the Sleepy Hollow. It truly was the most touching memorial service I have ever attended.

Tuesday Non-Sporting and Terriers were judged. Shawn Nichols had most of the major Non-Sporting breeds to judge. Shawn started with 24 Bulldogs, followed by 41 Frenchies. In both breeds there was great depth of quality, since all the top dogs were present. Jenny Wornall brought “Princeton,” the record-holding Frenchie, out for a surprise appearance. “Princeton,” who has won 59 BIS, was Select Dog to “Winston,” the number-one dog in the country today. Shawn also judged Dals, Chows and Poodles. He certainly made for a very strong group.

The very famous Dr. Ian Gabriel did several Terrier breeds. He had 20 Smooths and the quality was stronger than any show other than maybe Montgomery. All the top Smooths were present, plus some we had not seen before. I did not envy the difficult decisions he had to make. The Terriers and the Toys had all the icons of the sport judging within the groups. Even though I was watching the entire day there were many breeds I did not get to see.

Tuesday evening the Hound, Toy, Non-Sporting and Herding were judged in the magical setting of the big tent. They really captured the feeling of being in a “mini-Garden.” Surprisingly, even though tickets were extremely hard to get, not all the seats were full, since some people did not show up. Wednesday evening there was not one empty seat. At one point I even sat on the stairs. I was just glad I could be in the tent to watch live. Every group was so full of quality, and I felt sorry for the judges who could not even pull some great dogs. In one of the groups everyone was surprised that four super-quality dogs did not even make the cut, but the judge could only cut so many dogs.

On Wednesday the Sporting and Working breeds were judged. Labradors, a breed I have a passion for, were judged by Beth Sweigart. Beth started in Labs decades ago, and is still breeding them. It was most likely the strongest collection of Labs ever seen at an all-breed show. People were commenting it was like a mini Potomac. There were 49 Labradors, and all of top quality. She had to make many cuts. Beth only had five AOMs, so this meant many top, top quality dogs went without a ribbon. It had to be the thrill of a lifetime for Beth to have so many wonderful Labs in her ring. She had to be mentally drained when she finished her assignment.

Nancy Talbott had the biggest entry of the show – 70 Goldens and only five AOMs. It was so nice to see so many Goldens in one place. It was not easy to whittle down to the nine dogs that would get a ribbon. Exhibitors are disappointed when they leave the ring without a ribbon, but people do not realize that judges feel so bad when top dogs cannot get an award.

Dr. Niksa Lemo, a worldwide highly respected judge, did Dobes, Boxers and Danes. Niksa is from Croatia, and these breeds are very different from the European type. Niksa judges often in the Western Hemisphere, so he is very used to the American type. We have to remember that in Boxers we have not only American and European type, but also English type, which is between the two.

This year Westminster had five foreign judges. Besides those already mentioned there was Bert Easdon of the famous Yakee from the U.K. Bert Pekingese had dogs he bred win the group at the Garden three years in a row – 2003, 2004 and 2005. In recent years the Pekes that have won at the Garden go back to Bert’s breeding. On Tuesday Bert had 155 dogs – most of the major Toy breeds plus Bostons, which he is also known for.

Wednesday evening the Sporting, Working and Terrier groups were judged, followed by BIS. Everyone felt it was as strong a final as we have seen at the Garden. All seven were exceptionally top specimens of their breed. The eventual Best in Show winner, the Bloodhound, was the dog with the least of a record going in there. This dog just started to be shown in January. In April 2021 I saw him win two specialties in Timonium under Polly Smith and Jimmy Mitchell. I told Heather he would have a great year. She felt he was not at his peak yet and would not be campaigned until the start of 2022.

The Reserve Best in Show-winning Frenchie, the number-one dog in the country, is the first of his breed to get an award that high at the Garden.

I believe it was the last show for the Samoyed, “Stryker,” who was the number-one dog in the country last year, and has won more than 100 BIS. Canada must be so proud of this Canadian-bred dog. The English Setter, the Bloodhound and the Frenchie were all owner-breeder-handled. This shows that today our best dogs are bred by handlers. The Lakeland and the Maltese are also owned by their handlers.

When Donald Sturz stepped out on the stage, you could see the joy and emotions running through his mind. Donald is one of the youngest judges to do BIS. Donald has been in dogs since he was around 10 years old. It has to be the thrill of a lifetime to judge BIS at the Garden. I am sure Nancy Talbott and Beth Sweigart felt the same about their breed assignments.

It was three great days seeing so many, many great dogs. We all owe a great deal of thanks to Westminster for staging a very demanding event. David Haddock and David Helming had a great committee behind them. Kudos always have to go to Florence Foti, director of operations. Florence is seen so rarely on the floor because she is in the office holding everything together or solving problems that arise. Hopefully in the very near future we will know a date and location for 2023. Not having either makes it difficult to do a judging panel. Ann Ingram had to cancel this year due to the conflict of the Garden and the World Dog Show in Madrid starting the day after Westminster.



© Dog News. This article may not be reposted, reprinted, rewritten, excerpted or otherwise duplicated in any medium without the express written permission of the publisher

Stay Connected

YES! Send me Dog News' free newsletter!