The extraordinary thing about domestic dogs, as everyone knows, is how they so completely share their lives with us. We provide them with security and a safe environment, and they give us companionship, protection and, for some, a livelihood. Our relationship with dogs is an ancient alliance. It’s symbiotic.

This symbiosis is demonstrated everywhere, but nowhere is it expressed so dramatically as it is at a dog show.

Wherever exhibitors step into the ring with their dogs, a partnership is at work. When a team is successful, it’s due in part to the harmony that exists between the pair. Top Ten dogs reach the top because they adore their handlers, and their handlers adore them. Though breed standards are the tools by which judges ply their trade, final decisions are often made based on the performance.

Madison Square Garden, in the center of midtown Manhattan, has hosted the world’s most legendary performers, not a few of whom have been four-legged. Since 1877, the Westminster Kennel Club has held its singular conformation show in the same arena where Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley and Billy Graham have made audiences swoon. Spectators fall in love here every February still, as the world’s greatest dogs and their handlers work in concert, giving the performance of their lives.

Who can forget Mark Threlfall’s loose lead work with the English Springer Spaniel, Robert, or the other-worldly connection between John Oulton and Kirby, the Papillon? To have witnessed the victories of Scott Sommer and JR, Bill McFadden and Mick, or Aaron Wilkerson and Uno is to have witnessed examples of one of nature’s most extraordinary collaborations at work.

Great dogs all, but it is the symbiotic performance with their handlers that we remember.