NEW YORK – Scissors, blow dryers, bobby pins – they’re as much a part of the Westminster dog show as commands, crates and treats.
Take Sophie, for example. With perfectly trimmed pompoms and fluffed out fur, she’s the very essence of poodle pulchritude.
What Westminster won’t tolerate, though, are PEDs – performance-enhanced dogs.
That means no tattooing a boxer’s nose to make it more black, no braces for a pointer to straighten its teeth, no removing a basset hound’s inner eyelid to improve its appearance.
“It goes against the spirit of showing dogs in their appropriate state,” Westminster President Sean McCarthy said Monday, the opening of the two-day show.
Cosmetic surgery isn’t permitted, either, along with steroids. Yet detecting illegal drugs is virtually impossible while a dog has its few minutes in the ring.
“Our judges are not all veterinarians,” longtime Westminster television host and breeder David Frei said. “They can’t tell if a dog is on greenies.”
There were 2,721 entries this year, though some missed out after getting stranded by the recent blizzard that hit the Northeast. The 137th Westminster features dogs in 187 breeds and varieties with a pair of newcomers, the treeing Walker coonhound and the Russell terrier.
The herding, toy, nonsporting and hound group winners were to be chosen Monday night. Often a sellout, the crowd was down this year as the show split the day and evening sessions between exhibition space along the Hudson River and Madison Square Garden.
Among the hundreds of competitors during the first day of the show Monday was Christi Halliday of Bedillion Road, Waynesburg.
Halliday and her 5-year-old female German shepherd Zale were up against 22 other shepherds to capture Best of Breed. It appeared from the Westminster Kennel Club website, Zale finished out of the running.
In an interview last week, Halliday said Zale, whose father, Zane, won Best of Opposite Sex in 2004, 2005 and 2007, was not an accomplished dog yet, but because she was a champion, she was taking her to Westminster to see how well she could do.
The top working, sporting and terriers come today, and judge Michael Dougherty was set to pick best in show shortly before 11 p.m. on USA Network.
A Doberman playfully called Fifi, a big-winning wire fox terrier called Sky and a highly ranked American foxhound named Kiarry’s Pandora’s Box were among the favorites to walk off with prized silver bowl.
An affenpinscher called Banana Joe was picked Monday as the best of his breed for the third straight year. The three-peater known for his monkeylike face ranks among the nation’s top show dogs.
Sophie the standard poodle did her best, yet didn’t advance. She sure got a lot of attention backstage, with little girls petting her white coat and nuzzling her muzzle. When co-owner Jay Ponton of Norfolk, Va., moved close, Sophie chawed on his nose and licked his face.
There were pump and spritz sprays on the tables in the poodle grooming area, but none of the heavy-duty aerosol hairspray cans that are a no-no. It takes plenty of primping to get poodles ready to compete, though there are limits.
“If you’re putting in teeth, that’s a different beast. It’s a different animal,” said Roxanne Wolf of Baltimore. She’s the fiancee of Sophie’s handler, Kaz Hosaka, who guided a miniature poodle to the 2002 Westminster crown.
Some things are OK. Corn starch is often used to get water off a coat, and that helped on a rainy Monday as dogs piled into the halls on the Hudson piers for early judging.
Crufts, which expects to show 25,000 dogs next month in Birmingham, England, might change regulations that have been in place for nearly a century.
“The Kennel Club set up a working party to look at the rules surrounding the use of hairspray, chalk and other products at dog shows, and whilst this review goes on the strict prohibition of these substances remains in place, including for Crufts 2013,” club secretary Caroline Kisko said.
“The Kennel Club regulations state that the use of products that could `alter the natural color, texture or body of the coat’ may not be used,” she said.