I remember my aunt once remarking about one of the dowagers of our acquaintance, “You say, ‘How are you doing?’ and, bless her, she will tell you.” I frequently get phone calls and emails bemoaning the state of our sport and the challenges of the weekend’s coming shows. At no time of year do I hear more tales of trepidation than the week before the Westminster Kennel Club show. And while it is true that New York presents its own challenges, it accompanies them with all sorts of delights. So here are 10 things to like about New York and Westminster.
10. It’s easy to find and get to. Everyone who shows dogs has been lost on their way to a dog show. I normally travel with a GPS, but I think I can rely on most New Yorkers to direct me to Piers 92 & 94, and Madison Square Garden. And did I mention I can get a nonstop flight, an increasing rarity these days?
9. In New York, you can always find people who are just like you. It’s both a humbling and satisfying feeling to know that you are not alone in the universe. If you are a color-blind Catholic paper hanger, there’s a meeting on Tuesday in your building basement, and if you are a Sealyham Terrier owner looking for a gaggle of short, you’ll find the white, scrappy dogs in the Pier 92 benching area.
8. Food, glorious food. Even if you live in a major foodie mecca like San Francisco, New Orleans, or Washington, DC, nothing matches New York for quantity, quality and variety of dining. From haute cuisine to street food New York is the place to indulge your taste buds. I left New York in 1976, and I still have not had better pizza, cheesecake or bagels anywhere else.
7. Shopping. I know quite a few women (and several men, as well) who have won the breed at Westminster and immediately thereafter hailed a cab and sped off to buy a new outfit to wear that evening in the group judging. Even if you didn’t win the breed, visit one of the major stores and/or unique shops in Manhattan. Wear a size 12 narrow shoe? You can find it in Manhattan. Walk through the ground floor of Tiffany’s, and imagine you have Audrey Hepburn on your arm. If you only know Macy’s from your local mall, visit the two-million-square-foot, 10-story store at 34th and Broadway, just a block from Madison Square Garden. If you can’t find it there, you don’t need it.
6. Landmarks. The word “iconic” was invented for New York. You will already be visiting one of New York’s most famous landmarks, Madison Square Garden, and just a few blocks away is the only tall building made famous by a gorilla, the Empire State Building. For sheer emotional impact, it’s hard to match the National September 11 Memorial downtown. I encourage people to find their own personal landmarks in New York. Although I lived in New York for several years, I found my own personal landmark in the Angel of the Waters fountain at the Bethesda Terrace in Central Park after seeing “Angels in America” in 2003. Manhattan has literally hundreds of streets made famous by film and television.
5. People watching. Whether it’s the Naked Cowboy, Woody Allen or just one of the startlingly beautiful people in New York, you won’t find better people watching. Nowhere else will you see so many interesting people on the street. In Los Angeles, they are all behind tinted glass. In Manhattan, they are side by side with the regular folk. Walk through the cosmetics counters at Macy’s, and you will have a lifetime of beautiful faces to remember.
4. The entertainment. After a year of spending your money on dog shows and the occasional Netflix rental, indulge yourself on the finest the world has to offer. Whether it’s the Met (Saturday evening it’s “Carmen”), Broadway (check out the TKTS app for your smart phone and get discounted tickets), or Radio City Music Hall, it doesn’t get better than in New York.
3. The breed matchups. This past year, we have been lucky to watch the Top Two Dogs All Breeds go head to head, several times. Unfortunately, that does not happen often. Most of our top competitors spend much of the season avoiding such slugging matches. However, the possibility of being immortalized as a Westminster winner is enough to embolden nearly all. Look for several thrilling meetings at all levels of the competition.
2. Old friends. For many of us, Westminster is the only time of year we get to see friends we have known for years. For me it’s kind of an annual tune-up to realign my doggy sensibilities and reinforce my values. There is no better course correction than the words of a friend of forty years.
1. It’s my birthday! Every year I get to celebrate my birthday (February 11th) during Westminster week. I was literally born to be a dog show junkie. Is it any wonder that I was buying Dog World magazines when other 10 year olds were buying Marvel Comics?
So look for me around the Piers and at the Garden, and share some of your enthusiasm for New York and the world’s greatest dog show. And that’s today’s Back Story.