Westminster Kennel Club: In its 148th show, a show of dogs and fidelity

NEW YORK (AP) — Less than three years ago, Mary Ann and David Giordano took turns lying on the living room floor with their Afghan hound, Frankie, feeding the ailing pooch anything she might eat.

She developed severe kidney problems after contracting Lyme disease, despite taking medication intended to repel ticks that carry the bacteria that causes it. Veterinarians weren’t sure she would survive.

But on Monday, Frankie was in Show dogs at Westminster Kennel ClubHealthy and ready to compete. She will face off against more than a dozen other Afghan hounds — including Zaida, the winner of last month’s World Dog Show in Croatia — for a chance to advance to the next round of the most prestigious dog event in the United States.

“It was really hard,” Mary Ann Giordano said, her voice trailing off as she described Frankie’s eight-month ordeal. “But she did it.”

For all the magnificence of dogs at Westminster – the coiffed poodles, the knotted toy dogs, the formality of dogs trotting around a ring – it is also an example of the bond people form with dogs, and what they will do for each other.

A dog is groomed during the 148th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, Monday, May 13, 2024, at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York. (AP Photo/Julia Nickinson)

Monday marked the beginning of the traditional judging leading up to the Best in Show award, which will be awarded Tuesday night at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Selection of seven finalists began Monday night. Each represents a group of breeds, such as hunting dogs or herding dogs.

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One is Louis, an Afghan Hound who beat out Zaida, Frankie, her teammate Belle and others to win the breed.

“This breed is supposed to be the ‘King of Dogs,’ and it knows it is,” said Alicia Jones, owner and co-owner of the breed.

Other finalists included Sage, a miniature poodle who gave “100%” in the ring, trainer Kaz Hosaka said; Mercedes, the award-winning German Shepherd whose trainer, Kent Boyles, He led another German Shepherd to the Best in Show award In 2017; And Comet, a Shih Tzu who took first prize in the American Kennel Club’s hugely televised national championship last year.

“He’s everything you want in a Shih Tzu,” co-owner, breeder and handler Luke Ehricht said after Comet won his breed Monday morning. With a flowing coat like a vanilla and caramel ice cream sundae melting on the table, the dog looked at his handler with the kind expression that is so prized in the breed.

“He’s a very sweet, loving dog” who knows when it’s time to perform and when it’s time to relax and play, said Ericht, of Monclova, Ohio.

Three more finalists will be chosen on Tuesday night before all seven compete for best in show.

The more than 2,500 participants in the first round range from tiny Yorkshire terriers to towering Irish wolfhounds. There are the bushy Old English sheepdogs, the hairless Xoloitzcuintlis, the huge, lean mastiffs Azawakh The newly added strain, lancashire heels, On Monday, he is represented by one contestant named Mando.

If he knew a lot was weighing on his young mind, he didn’t show it when he appeared wagging his tail in the televised semi-final. And he didn’t seem to mind going solo earlier in the first-round episode, with an audience member shouting: “Hey! Date!”

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“He has a rock star attitude,” therapist Jessica Plourde said afterward.

The show was also the first for Alfredo Delgado and Maria Davila, who traveled from Juncos, Puerto Rico, with their French bulldog, Duncan.

Their path began when Delgado’s brother found a lost Frenchman. He was soon reunited with his owner, but Delgado was fascinated by the breed.

Years later, he was in the Westminster arena as Duncan’s breeder, owner and handler, and Davila was cheering him on.

“We have achieved the dream of being here,” Davila said afterwards. “Being involved with experienced people on the track was great.”

In the grooming tent nearby, Valarie Shemis petted Csoki, a poly, before episode time.

Hungarian Shepherds generate long, thick cords that form naturally, although owners aid the process by separating them. It gets so dense that dogs can take 24 hours to dry off after a bath, using a combination of box fans and sometimes even a portable dehumidifier, Shames said.

Why go through all that?

“These are fun dogs. They’re full of personality,” Chimis said. Sure, they can be stubborn and barky, but they’re also lovable, as Csoki takes care of her geese and chickens at her home in Kingfield, Maine, even lounging next to the baby geese.

Comet, a Shih Tzu, right, competes in the judging breed group at the 148th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, Monday, May 13, 2024, at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York.  (AP Photo/Julia Nickinson)

Comet, a Shih Tzu, right, competes in the judging breed group at the 148th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, Monday, May 13, 2024, at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York. (AP Photo/Julia Nickinson)

Master, a police dog who won his breed’s merit award on Monday, also puts his breed’s ancient instincts to work. Co-owner, breeder and handler Rene Wagner, of Niagara Falls, New York, said he is qualified to track down missing persons, although his calls so far have been resolved before he hits the field.

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The 148th Westminster Show kicked off on Saturday with an agility competition – won by a mixed breed dog for the first time since Westminster added the event in 2014. Winner Nimble was handled by Cynthia Hornor, who claimed the trophy with a border collie last year.

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