As I prepare for my trip to New York for this year’s Westminster Kennel Club show at New York’s Madison Square Garden, I remember my last time showing at “The Garden”. It’s been 36 years since the last time I had a dog at the show. It was a major milestone for us. I had been transferred to our San Francisco office and was leaving New York the week after the Garden. It was 1976, the 100th anniversary of the Westminster Kennel Club show. That was back in the days when dogs who had already won their first championship point could enter. We entered our Maltese, Barnone The Pooh Bear of Brenbill, in the Open Dog class.
After previous visits to the Garden I had learned how to travel light. I arrived at the show via subway from my Brooklyn home, with a small grooming table in one hand, the dog crate in the other and my grooming bag over my shoulder. After arriving at Penn Station in the bowels of Madison Square Garden, I made my way upstairs to the benching area. Many exhibitors today never have been to a benched show and even in 1976, there were only a hand-full in the US.
We didn’t win the points that day, but we did win our class. On Tuesday evening we watched the Springer Spaniel, CH Loujon Executor, the Saluki, Canem-Dei’s El Salta Aun, the Ch Bear Acres Mister Snowshoes CD–the Herding Dogs were part of the Working Group in 1976–,the Lakeland Terrier, CH Jo Ni’s Red Baron of Crofton, the Pekingese, CH Yang Kee Bernard , and the Miniature Poodle, CH Montmartre Supe Lad, all do their best to impress BIS judge William W Brainard Jr.
The one that succeded was the Lakie, Baron, handled by the legendary Ric Chashoudian. Baron was the 1975 Dog of the Year with a career 76 BIS and 156 Terrier Groups. It was the end of a magical chapter in my life. At the time, I was overwhelmed by the crowds, cramped conditions, and logistics issues. In retrospect, it was a golden opportunity for a 27 year old newby to spend all day with the best minds in his breed and then spend the evening watching the best dogs in the game handled by the best dog people in the game. After 40 something years in dogs the memories I have of my visits to the Westminster Kennel Club show are among the most vivid in my memory. If you consider yourself a serious dog person, put a visit to the Garden on your bucket list. And that’s today’s Back Story.