Many of the nation’s top dogs will be spending this weekend at the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center in Oaks, Pa., for the chance to be selected Best of Breed at the National Dog Show Presented by Purina. A breed win at Saturday’s show, hosted by the Kennel Club of Philadelphia, all but guarantees that the lucky dogs will make a television appearance before a devoted audience of dog lovers when the show airs on Thanksgiving Day.

Now in its 11th year, the National Dog Show has become a Thanksgiving Day tradition for the 17- to-20 million viewers who tune in to see their favorite purebred dogs compete. The AKC sanctioned all-breed show follows the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on NBC, and will be broadcast on Thursday, November 22, 2012, between 12 noon and 2 p.m. in all time zones.

Kennel Club of Philadelphia President Wayne Ferguson speaks to the media at a press conference to announce the 2012 National Dog Show Presented by Purina.

At a press conference held last week at the Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House, Kennel Club of Philadelphia president Wayne Ferguson was on hand to greet the media alongside show chairman Bill Burland and one of the show’s familiar co-hosts, David Frei. David, who is president and CEO of Angel on a Leash, spoke about the show’s relevance in the dog world, and the important role many show dogs play in providing comfort and hope in our world. “That’s the first time she’s smiled all week,” he said is the comment he so often hears through his work with therapy dogs.

To demonstrate the good work performed by dogs in our society, David introduced the latest members of the National Dog Show Therapy Dog Ambassador Team: two laid-back Dogues des Bordeaux and an oh-so-sweet Staffordshire Terrier mix.

David Frei, co-host on NBC’s Thanksgiving Day broadcast, listens as Steven Kramer speaks to the media about the National Therapy Dog Ambassador Team.

Dogues Li’l Abner and Stella are certified with Therapy Dog International and accompany owner Steven Kramer of Langhorne, Pa., to local schools and healthcare facilities. Staffy mix Vivian is a graduate of New Leash on Life USA, a prison-dog training program. The Bully was adopted by Michele Pich of Glassboro, N.J., a veterinary grief counselor at PennVet who works with her dog to provide comfort to those coping with the loss of a beloved pet.

Shirley Miyahara with her Polish import Russell Terrier, Gabby, and Curt Willis and his Treeing Walker Coonhound, Emmy, present their dogs at last week’s press conference in Philadelphia’s University City.

Two breeds granted full recognition by the American Kennel Club this year were also present for the benefit of the media as well as staff members and guests of the Ronald McDonald House. The Polish-import Russell Terrier, Gabby, delighted everyone with her kisses in the arms of her owner, Shirley Miyahara of Penndel, Pa., and tri-colored Treeing Walker Coonhound, Emmy, displayed an unshakable calm accompanied by her owner, Curt Willis of Indiana, Pa. Both breeds will be appearing at the National Dog Show this weekend for the very first time.

The National Dog Show Therapy Ambassador Team’s Steven Kramer (with Dogues des Bordeaux Li’l Abner and Stella) and Michele Pich (with Staffordshire Terrier/Boston Terrier mix Vivian) share the spotlight with some of the guests at the Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House.

The National Dog Show, hosted by the Kennel Club of Philadelphia, remains one of America’s few remaining benched shows, requiring exhibits to be available “back stage” in designated areas to meet the general public throughout the day. Both Saturday’s televised event and Sunday’s show will be benched.

Tomorrow’s show will be hosted by the Penn Treaty Kennel Club, and Friday’s event by the Greater Philadelphia Dog Fanciers Association. This weekend’s four days of shows at the Expo Center in Oaks, Pa., comprises more than 4,800 entries in over 160 breeds.

The National Dog Show showcases many of the happy and healthy dogs that are produced through the dedication of responsible breeders. The Thanksgiving Day broadcast also demonstrates how these same dogs often contribute to society in deeply meaningful ways. A grand champion, after all, can light up the face of a sick child just as it can light up the show ring.