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New York ticks all the boxes

BIS winner Rufus about to tuck into a steak,
prepared especially for him at top New York restaurant Sardi’s

However you planned to arrive at the venue for the 130th Westminster Show, you had to confront snow, snow and more snow. The weekend’s blizzard delivered up to 27 inches of the white stuff around town, writes Lucille Dangerfield

Madison Square Garden was housed in a solid sea of white which I found very pretty and postcard-like but treacherous, however, whether handlers such as "The Green Team" would have found much to please them as they ferried dogs, crates, a change of clothes and all other necessary equipment into the venue in time for Monday’s 8a.m. beginning, I don’t know.

Tuesday was Valentine’s Day so the external whiteness was complimented by an internal emphasis on red. The majority of dogs’ benches were adorned with roses, cards, balloons, chocolate and ‘candy’. How dogs that did not receive anything for Valentine’s Day felt I don’t know! Did it affect their performances?

Regardless of the difficulties encountered in getting to the show, there was a very low absentee rate among the show’s 2500 entries. All judging took place in the single storey arena which by day housed seven rings. These turned in to one good sized ring by night. Both days brought plenty of hustle and bustle in this intimate setting as everyone knew exactly the time and the place of any particular breed judging.

Tiered seating going way up into the gods helped take the pressure off the numbers who crowded the floor level to get a closer look. Stewards - used to controlling a crowd at a basketball match or a Billy Joel concert – insisted that unless you are sporting the correct credentials you "Move on please". By the end of the first day, more than half of the 165 breeds were judged. Four of the groups were finalised that evening.

This judging began after that spine tingling minute when the national anthem was played and everyone (except us foreigners) stood to attention with hand on heart (literally). Never have I seen the sense of national pride so great. Maybe, a positive spin off from 9/11?

Tuesday saw a repeat performance of breed judging occupying the daytime slot and group judging followed by best in show had an 8p.m. start. The best in show judge was resplendent in evening dress as were all other group judges and officials of the host society - Westminster Kennel Club. Both evenings’ events were broadcast live on national television and the best in show winner grabbed headlines the next day. Rufus was guest of honour at the post show party and following day’s luncheon at ‘Sardi’s’ where he dined on prime fillet of beef. He'd already put in appearances on prime time television shows!

The combination of outstanding dogs, superb handlers and great judging made Westminster a memorable show for all. However, I think it fascinating that the dog show that many people justifiably argue is the best in the world is the manifestation of a private club that was formed in 1877 by a group of gentlemen who cared passionately about the sport of pure bred dogs. Long may the members of this still private club continue to exert such a positive and stylish influence.

OUR DOGS exclusive full report from Westminster together with a range of great photos will appear in World Shows.