Attending the Westminster Kennel Club dog show at Madison Square Garden is like going to see a play but with the added freedom to move around the theater with access to makeup rooms, wings of the stage, and the green rooms. Though the atmosphere is fun and lively, the pressure on the players is intense and palpable, and from time to time some of the actors actually bark.
I had intended just to walk around the Garden this afternoon to pick up any outside vibe that champion dogs may be on the premises, but as this area of Midtown is not a walking-your-dog type neighborhood (in contrast to my own canine-friendly Greenwich Village), all the action was inside. In sum, I decided to spend a happy afternoon among the great family of dogs and man. Hanging out with the dogs as they awaited their turn in competition or watching them get prettied-up back stage or petting them as they chilled out in a vast area offstage cluttered with crates and human junk food pulled me into the drama of the competition. I feel now, as I await the televised show of the final acts, that I have several dogs in the chase.
I had a different sense watching the show in person than on television. First of all, I saw many more dogs in person that one would consider conventional and normal-looking, the kind that you would take to the park to play catch. Sometimes, the TV competition provokes the reaction of "What kinda dog is THAT?" The retrievers, setters, and other sporting dogs I saw this afternoon had a way of imposing themselves in noble fashion amidst the lap dogs of the bourgeoisie. Second, I was struck by the intensity of the judges as they concentrated on making their selections. It was exhausting, really.
At the end of the day, I was happy coming home to the Village and seeing my good dogs, beautiful friends of complex and diverse heritage, and bringing them a few of the treats they were giving away at the show. Now I will settle on the couch with them later tonight and watch them fall asleep as I turn on the TV.
Images from the afternoon of February 10, 2009 of the Westminster Kennel Club dog show at Madison Square Garden by Walking Off the Big Apple.