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Westminster 2009
Westminster, The World Stage

Jason Lynn gives an overview of Westminster providing a perfect insight into the politics surrounding pedigree dogs at this moment in time.

A WEEK in New York City for the 133rd annual Westminster Kennel Club show was the perfect cure for the blues from the bitter winter weather we have been experiencing here in Britain, not to mention the politically-charged climate surrounding our sport and purebred dogs in general here at home.

Ironically, we were travelling as guests of Pedigree Dog Food, a company which recently has done much to malign our collective reputation as dog breeders both deliberately by their
mounting disassociation with the dog fancy, and passively by allowing the media to add its own spin as to the reasons for the company's decision to pull sponsorship of Crufts in 2009.

That said, our hosts were very accommodating; we were booked into a fantastic dog-friendly hotel within walking distance from Westminster's venue, Madison Square Garden, and were given exclusive front row seats on both nights of Group competition. The Pedigree brand is still very much a presence in the American dog show scene as is the case with many other countries worldwide. It continues to sponsor one of the weekend's most extravagant and sought-after parties, the black-tie and invitation-only 'Pedigree dinner' held at the Museum of Natural History. The dinner is an annual celebration of the previous year's top winning show dogs, and the cost of putting on the lavish evening must be staggering. It is one of several pre-Westminster parties held across the city that weekend, many of which honour top winning pedigree dogs, like the Showdogs Awards at the Hyatt on Saturday night.

International collaboration

To compare Westminster and its British counterpart, Crufts, brings to mind apples and oranges. It is far better to embrace each for the excitement, fervor and passion it generates than make a failed patriotic attempt at proving one superior to the other. Besides, today it is hardly enough for the serious breeder and fancier to remain content and complacent with the scene in his country alone unless the rest of the world is to pass him by. The universal exchange of ideas, dogs and breeding stock that has been accelerating for years has created a whole new dimension to our hobby and has allowed for unique opportunities for advancement for those willing to embrace the idea of worldwide cooperation. Shows like Westminster, Crufts, and now the AKC/Eukanuba Invitational in California are like classrooms where the sport's greatest minds and talents gather to celebrate the purebred dog and lay the groundwork for new theories and application. The chances for international networking abound at these events.

With that in mind it was not suprising to see several fanciers from the UK in and around the rings at The Garden. With American dogs faring so well at the NEC each March for the past few years it is important to point out that British exhibits are a presence felt in New York as well. This year the ultra-competitive Toy Group was won by the popular Smooth Griffon Ch Cilleine Masquerade, bred in England by Denise Barney. This win was yet another jewel in the crown for this fabulous four-year-old male, whose wins include over 40 all breed Best in Shows making him second top winning Toy of 2008. Westminster's Toy Group also saw British victories in Maltese with Christine Gillies' homebred and owned Ch Delcost Marc By Design adding BOB at the Garden to his win at the UK Club Show last fall. The Breed winner in Cavaliers was the well known Ch Timsar Mister Moonlighter, a former Crufts winner now leaving his mark on the breed in America. The breed-winning Wire Fox was Neal Dams' Ch Tamedale Orinoco. In Smooth Dachshunds it was the Hunts’ Ch Grandgables Ms Supernatural at Carpaccio winning the purple and gold rosette. This Mini bitch was bred in Canada but has a British sire, and has been shown to great success in the UK and US as well as her native country, and was awarded Dachshund of the Year in Britain by Mike Gadsby. The PBGV breed winner for the second year in a row was the English-bred Ch Afterglow Ebeneezer, bred by Mike Gadsby and Fred Ellingford and the winner of some 20 all breed bests in America. It was also interesting to note that the Best of Breed winner in Basenjis is a littermate to the tricolor bitch 'Million Dollar Baby' who has made such an impact here in Britain, Finally, in the highly competitive Pembroke Welsh Corgi breed Liz Cartledge's homebred Ch Ryslip History Boy was awarded best, defeating the top Herding exhibit of 2008.

I apologize if I have left out other pertinent British winners. The point is that with international collaboration it is possible to achieve great things, and it is a fact that the pedigrees of today's show dogs are more multi-cultural than ever. This certainly flies in the face of the recent criticism by the media that show dogs are currently being inbred to the point of debilitation in the name of winning ribbons.

PETA doth protest too much

Outside of the show we were reminded that the US is experiencing its own trials and tribulations with the animal rights extremist movement and the anti-purebred front. You may recall reading about a call on the USA Network by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) to withdraw television coverage of Westminster, using the BBC's landmark decision and the Pedigree Dogs Exposed docu-drama as fuel for its agenda. Thanks to an outcry from the American dog fancy and general public, and no doubt level-headedness of the network, the attempt fell flat and coverage proceeded as planned. Americans have grown suspicious of PETA and its radical agenda which calls for an end to pet ownership (‘enslavement’) of all kinds, not to mention breeding and showing dogs. Not ones to resist publicity and the chance to make a headline, PETA organized a protest in front of Madison Square Garden which included two members dressed as Ku Klux Klan ‘wizards’ with ‘AKC’ emblazoned on their robes passing out anti-purebred literature and shouting their views to the horrified passersby. As one could imagine in as diverse a city as New York, many of the spectators to this insanity were themselves from ethnic backgrounds targeted by the real KKK. It made a very interesting spectacle. PETA claimed that it was ‘drawing parallels’ between dog breeders and the racist views of the KKK. The scene evoked memories of the Nazi footage in PDE that caused much, but not enough, controversy here at home. Once again PETA and this animal rights extremist front has illustrated that it has little to do with animal welfare and more to do with controlling the human population.

Inside the Garden the atmoshpere was buzzing. American crowds are very vocal in their support for their favorite dogs, akin to what you would hear at a football game or rock concert! During an intermission between groups on Tuesday night, a special presentation was made to last year's Best in Show winner, the Beagle, Ch K-Run Park Me In First. ‘Uno’ walked into the center ring with the demeanor of a top winner and the gleeful baying of a true Beagle. The Westminster Kennel Club's own charity Angel On A Leash was proud to honor Uno for his work as a service dog and companion among hospitals and oncology wards across the US following his win. His involvement has brought joy and much-needed diversion to the minds of those suffering from illness and injury. In an unforgettable ceremony a young, wheelchair-bound cancer victim, her hair missing due to invasive treatment but with a beaming smile of youthful optimism, was ushered into the center ring to be reunited with her friend, the Beagle. Next, an American soldier who lost both legs in war was joined by his fiancée and escorted to the ring to see Uno once more. The crowd roared, Uno howled with delight, and no one in the building could help but be moved by the power of the moment. What a fantastic and very public highlight of show dogs and the purebred dog community at their best (to learn more go to

In the Best in Show line-up it was of course the veteran Sussex Spaniel who claimed this year's top spot. It was a great feat for a rare breed and a glowing endorsement for the health and longevity of carefully-bred dogs from show breeders. Amazingly the 10-year-old Sussex became his breeder's second homebred Westminster Best in Show winner. Doug Johnson of the Clussexx prefix is well known here in England for his outstanding Clumbers, including the BIS winner at SKC's summer show Ch Clussexx Crayola Crayon. Therein lies another nod at global cooperation.
Next stop: Crufts!

As the curtains fell on Westminster 2009, as the celebrations came to an end across the street at the Affinia Hotel bar, and as the last guests cleared out of The Blarney Rock pub in the wee hours of Wednesday morning, another installation of the Garden was ready for the history books. Now as the purebred dog fraternity sets its sights toward the NEC in March our focus should be not only on Crufts but the future of our sport. We are already being warned about the likelihood of protest and demonstrations by groups who are seeking to take away our rights and our beloved community. I am excited to be part of Crufts 09. It is a historical moment in the fancy in which our ideas and ideals are being challenged and scrutinized as never before. Keep in mind this year that we are in a battle for public opinion, and as the huge crowds of spectators descend upon the NEC many will be curious to find out what all the fuss has been about. Take time to talk to them. It is up to us to take advantage of the captive audience and inform and educate about what we are doing and have been doing to confront health concerns. I for one am tired of hearing the changes in breed standards being used as if it is the most powerful tool in our portfolio. Independently passing out information on hereditary disease, the Kennel Club's Accredited program, and the truth about the animal rights agenda can be accomplished simply by printing off pages from our home computers. It is crucial now more than ever before we rise to our own defense and not wait for the Kennel Club, RSPCA or Government to do it for us.

We all know the BBC was wrong for how they portrayed us and their subsequent decisions over Crufts. Let's prove it to the country and our world community that the British dog fancy is made up of dedicated, devoted and determined dog lovers who are here to stay.

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