Yellow lab with N.Y. Yankees link steps up to plate at Westminster dog show (with TV schedule)
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The Associated Press
New York Yankees president Randy Levine poses with Labrador retrievers. Mitch, a 5-year-old Lab owned by Levine, will be competing at the Westminster dog show.

By BEN WALKER
The Associated Press

Primping pooches: Do's and don'ts at Westminster
The Associated Press
NEW YORK —
Scissors, blow dryers, bobby pins - they're as much a part of the Westminster Dog show as commands, crates and treats.

Take Sophie, for example.

With perfectly trimmed pompoms and fluffed out fur, she's the very essence of Poodle pulchritude.

What Westminster won't tolerate, though, are PEDs - performance-enhanced dogs.

That means no tattooing a boxer's nose to make it more black, no braces for a pointer to straighten its teeth, no removing a basset hound's inner eyelid to improve its appearance.

"It goes against the spirit of showing dogs in their appropriate state," Westminster President Sean McCarthy said Monday, the opening of the two-day show.

Cosmetic surgery isn't permitted, either, along with steroids.

Yet detecting illegal drugs is virtually impossible while a dog has its few minutes in the ring.

"Our judges are not all veterinarians," longtime Westminster television host and breeder David Frei said. "They can't tell if a dog is on greenies."

There were 2,721 entries this year, though some missed out after getting stranded by the recent blizzard that hit the Northeast.

The 137th Westminster features dogs in 187 breeds and varieties with a pair of newcomers, the treeing Walker coonhound and the Russell terrier.

The herding, toy, nonsporting and hound group winners were to be chosen Monday night.

The top working, sporting and terriers come Tuesday, and judge Michael Dougherty was set to pick the best in show shortly before 11 p.m. at Madison Square Garden on the USA Network.

A Doberman playfully called Fifi and big-winning wire fox terrier called Sky are among the favorites to walk off with the prized silver bowl.

A highly ranked American foxhound named Kiarry's Pandora's Box was beaten out in early breed judging.

An affenpinscher called Banana Joe was picked Monday as the best of his breed for the third straight year. The three-peater known for his monkeylike face ranks among the nation's top show dogs.

Sophie the standard poodle did her best, yet didn't advance.

She sure got a lot of attention backstage, with little girls petting her white coat and nuzzling her muzzle.

When co-owner Jay Ponton of Norfolk, Va., moved close, Sophie chawed on his nose and licked his face.

There were pump and spritz sprays on the tables in the poodle grooming area, but none of the heavy-duty aerosol hairspray cans that are a no-no. It takes plenty of primping to get poodles ready to compete, though there are limits.

"If you're putting in teeth, that's a different beast. It's a different animal," said Roxanne Wolf of Baltimore. She's the fiancee of Sophie's handler, Kaz Hosaka, who guided a miniature poodle to the 2002 Westminster crown.

Some things are OK. Corn starch is often used to get water off a coat, and that helped Monday on a rainy as dogs piled into the exhibition space at the piers on the Hudson River for early judging.

Crufts, which expects to show 25,000 dogs next month in Birmingham, England, might change regulations that have been in place for nearly a century.

"The Kennel Club set up a working party to look at the rules surrounding the use of hairspray, chalk and other products at dog shows, and whilst this review goes on the strict prohibition of these substances remains in place, including for Crufts 2013," club secretary Caroline Kisko said.

"The Kennel Club regulations state that the use of products that could `alter the natural color, texture or body of the coat' may not be used," she said.
EDITOR'S NOTE — Tonight's opening of the Westminster dog competition will air on CNBC, and closing night Tuesday will be on the USA Network.

Tonight the Hounds, the Toys, Non-Sporting and Herding Groups will be on CNBC beginning at 6 p.m. (competition coverage is 8 p.m. to 11 p.m.)

On Tuesday, the Sporting, Working and Terrier Groups, followed by Best in Show, will be shown on USA Network 8 p.m. to 11 p.m.



NEW YORK — Ladies and gentlemen, now warming up in the Westminster dogpen, the Bronx Bowser.

Meet sweet Mitch, a 5-year-old yellow Labrador retriever.

He’s a rookie at America’s top dog show, yet he comes with a pinstripe pedigree — his co-owner is New York Yankees President Randy Levine.

“He’s like Derek Jeter. Very calm,” Levine said.

So on the week baseball spring training begins for pitchers and catchers, Levine will be among the pinschers and cockers.

The Westminster Kennel Club show judging starts tonight, with Mitch set to walk the show ring Tuesday morning.

“I don’t think Randy would be half as excited if it was the World Series,” fellow co-owner and breeder Tom Flaherty said.

Mitch is following a long trail of Yankees pawprints. Lou Gehrig brought his German shepherd to Madison Square Garden, and former ace Mike Mussina sent his Irish setter.

Jacob Ruppert, the team owner who acquired Babe Ruth, showed St. Bernards.

The 137th Westminster features 2,721 entries in 187 breeds and varieties and includes a pair of newcomers, the treeing Walker coonhound and the Russell terrier.

Among the top contenders are a prime Doberman named Veni Vidi Vici that reached the best-of-seven final ring last year, a big-winning wire-fox terrier, a German wire-haired pointer ranks as the nation’s No. 1 show dog and a prized American foxhound.

“A strong field,” veteran Westminster broadcaster David Frei said.

Malachy the Pekingese wobbled off the green carpet with the best in show bowl last February. His 9-month-old grandson is entered this time.

The herding, toy, nonsporting and hound group winners will be chosen Monday night on CNBC. The working, sporting and terrier champs come Tuesday night on the USA Network, with judge Michael Dougherty making his pick — along with a first runner-up — shortly before 11 p.m.

Wearing a Yankees dog collar, and falling asleep on a pinstriped blanket while listening to Josh Groban songs, Mitch is among 54 Labs in the show (golden retrievers lead with 61).

“Mitch is one of the kindest dogs ever. A very kind nature, a very kind face,” said Flaherty, of Mount Bethel, Pa. “He has never met anyone or any animal he didn’t like.”

Labs have long been among the country’s most popular dogs but have never won at Westminster. Nor have golden retrievers, Dachshunds or Chihuahuas.

“A Labrador is not a flashy dog. They’re not showy dogs. They’re just not something your eye is drawn to,” Flaherty said.

Officially named Hedgelawn’s Sharper Image, Mitch has achieved grand champion status in the dog world. He’s also a descendant of Mr. Reid, Levine’s beloved Lab.

Frequently a spectator at this show, Levine is eager to participate this time.

“This is Mitch’s first time. Let him get his paws wet,” he said. “I’m excited. It’s like a playoff game for me. It’s Westminster, it’s the whole environment.”

Levine realizes some fans paying $25 per ticket might stop by to chat with him about pennants, more than pooches.

“That’s OK,” he said. “Let them come to cheer for Mitch.”

Last modified: February 11. 2013 3:12PM
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