18 February 2003
Caught in the devil's bargain
Those of us who have seen only the six-hour telecast (which is about 4:08 after you fast-forward through the commercials) from the Westminster Kennel Club show have no idea what goes on for the rest of the time, and if I'm reading Greg Hlatky correctly, we may not want to know:
Westminster is nice if you're an grand high AKC mucky-muck, a wealthy patron of the sport, an eminent judge, a member of the dog press or of the general public. If you're an exhibitor, it's hell. John Mandeville, in a quiz in Dog News, implies that for the exhibitor Westminster is only slightly better than the Bataan Death March. He's wrong: the Bataan Death March had nicer people supervising it.
And there was more room to stretch out, too:
THERE ARE JUST SIX RINGS for breed judging in the show area. Four are quite tiny. The other two are larger, but are rectangular instead of square. This is bad because the momentum of the dog and handler is broken when going around. The floor was covered in slick carpeting and I saw numerous dogs and handlers slipping and almost falling. If the benching area was hot, the ring area was even worse and hopelessly overcrowded to boot. Only for Variety Group competition does the space open up to what you see on TV. Otherwise it's much worse than at most show sites.
I once went to a show in Oklahoma City, with 14 (I think) rings, and it seemed crowded with only 2000 dogs. (And there's something disconcerting about the phrase "only 2000 dogs," if you ask me.) No carpeting, either; concrete and plasticky mats with a grooved pattern. And the only person who slipped was yours truly, but this was because I was being kneecapped by an exuberant Irish Wolfhound puppy the size of and comparable in greenness to the Incredible Hulk. The owner was profusely apologetic, and I wasn't injured, but it was a weird experience just the same.