Westminster Dog Show 2024 Live Updates: Best in Show Judging and Group Winners

The stars who traveled to New York last weekend to gather for the biggest event of their careers, arrived in chauffeured cars, or on planes surrounded by an entourage. They didn’t even have their own passports with them, let alone their kibble or squeaky toys.

However, each of them is a very good dog.

Some 2,500 top-ranked dogs are in New York to compete in this year’s Westminster Kennel Club dog show. Breed judging, the flagship event, will begin on Monday, while several hundred other dogs have already competed in events testing agility, obedience and the ability to dive as far as possible from a dock.

Getting into performing takes years of training and effort. Getting to the salon requires extensive planning on the part of owners and managers, who plan car or plane trips of several hours or days, carry thousands of dollars’ worth of equipment – grooming tables, industrial-strength hair dryers , leashes, collars, toys, kibble and more – and pray that neither delays nor cancellations disrupt their itineraries.

Treats are non-negotiable.

“I try to stock up on healthy, single-ingredient treats, like freeze-dried duck or freeze-dried liver,” said Shell Lewis, 71, who came to New York with a Russell terrier and a Cairn terrier. However, on show days, his dogs receive “something special and of great value.”

“It’s a drive-thru at McDonald’s to pick up two sausage biscuits: I eat the biscuits, they get the sausages,” she said.

In the United States, accumulating titles at local, regional and national dog competitions requires constant driving, with long journeys being the norm. Most dogs, their trainers say, are used to the road.

Ms. Lewis drove 14 hours from Geneva, Illinois, to have Spangle, her 2-year-old Russell terrier, compete in the agility test. (Alas, Spangle was eliminated in the preliminaries.) Ms. Lewis also brought Nora, her 7-year-old Cairn terrier.

“They haven’t learned to drive yet,” Ms. Lewis said, “but they are excellent travelers.”

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