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Westminster Kennel Club: At the 148th show, a display of dogs and devotion

NEW YORK (AP) — Less than three years ago, Mary Ann and David Giordano took turns lying on the living room floor with their Afghan dog Frankie, hand-feeding the desperately ill dog everything he wanted to eat.

She had developed serious kidney problems after contracting Lyme disease, even though she was taking medication designed to repel ticks carrying the bacteria that causes the disease. Vets weren’t sure she would survive.

However, on Monday, Frankie was at Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, healthy and ready to compete. She would compete against more than a dozen other Afghan dogs — including Zaida, winner of last month’s World Dog Show in Croatia — for a chance to advance to the next round of America’s most prestigious dog event .

“It was really hard,” Mary Ann Giordano said, her voice breaking as she described Frankie’s eight-month ordeal. “But she did it.”

For all the dog pageantry of Westminster – the coiffed poodles, the knotted-on-top toy dogs, the formality of dogs trotting around a ring – it’s also an illustration of the bond people form with dogs and of what each will do for the other.

A dog is groomed during the 148th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, Monday, May 13, 2024, at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York. (AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson)

Monday marked the start of the traditional judging that leads to the Best of Show award, which will be awarded Tuesday evening at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. The selection of the seven finalists began Monday evening; each represents a group of breeds, such as hounds or sheepdogs.

One of them is Louis, an Afghan dog who beat Zaida, Frankie, his partner Belle and others to win the breed.

“This breed is supposed to be ‘the king of dogs,’ and he knows he is,” said owner and co-owner Alicia Jones.

Other finalists include Sage, a miniature poodle who gave “100 percent” in the ring, as his owner Kaz Hosaka put it; Mercedes, a very winning German Shepherd whose owner, Kent Boyles, led another German Shepherd to the Best in Show trophy in 2017; and Comet, a shih tzu who won first prize at the American Kennel Club’s hugely televised national championship last year.

“He is just everything you would want in a shih tzu,” said co-owner, breeder and handler Luke Ehricht after Comet won his breed Monday morning. With a coat flowing like a vanilla and caramel ice cream sundae melting on the table, the dog looked at his owner with the tender expression that is prized in the breed.

“He’s a very gentle, affectionate dog” who knows when it’s time to play and when it’s time to relax and play, said Ehricht, of Monclova, Ohio.

Three more finalists will be chosen on Tuesday night before the seven compete for best in show.

The more than 2,500 participants in the first round range from tiny Yorkshire terriers to towering Irish wolfhounds. There are old bushy English sheepdogs, hairless Xoloitzcuintlis, massive, skinny mastiffs Azawakhs and a newly added race, the Lancashire hooker, represented on Monday by a single candidate named Mando.

If he knew a lot rested on his small shoulders, he didn’t show it when he made a tail-wagging appearance during the televised semi-finals. He also didn’t seem to mind going it alone earlier in the ring in the first round, where someone in the audience shouted, “Yeah!” History!”

“He just has a rock star attitude,” manager Jessica Plourde said afterward.

The show was also a first for Alfredo Delgado and Maria Davila, who came from Juncos, Puerto Rico, with their French bulldog, Duncan.

Their path began when Delgado’s brother found a lost Frenchie. He was soon reunited with his owner, but Delgado was intrigued by the breed.

A few years later he was in the Westminster ring as Duncan’s breeder, owner and manager, with Davila’s encouragement.

“We fulfilled a dream by being here,” Davila said afterward. “Sharing with experienced people in the ring was great.”

In a nearby grooming tent, Valarie Cheimis petted Csoki, a puli, before ring time.

The Hungarian Shepherd breed sports long, thick cords that form naturally, although owners make the process easier by separating them. They get so dense that dogs can take 24 hours to dry off after a bath — and that’s with a set of fans and sometimes even a portable dehumidifier, Cheimis said.

Why go through all this?

“They are fun dogs. They are full of personality,” Cheimis said. Sure, they can be stubborn and barky, Cheimis said, but they’re also endearing: Csoki takes care of her geese and chickens at her home in Kingfield, Maine, even going so far as to lie next to goslings.

Comet, a Shih Tzu, right, competes in breed group judging during the 148th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, Monday, May 13, 2024, at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York.  (AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson)

Comet, a Shih Tzu, right, competes in breed group judging during the 148th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, Monday, May 13, 2024, at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York. (AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson)

Sir, a bloodhound who won an award of merit in his breed on Monday, also puts the ancient instincts of his breed to good use. He is qualified to find missing people, although his calls so far have been resolved before he enters the field, said co-owner, breeder and handler Renee Wagner, of Niagara Falls, New York.

The 148th Westminster Show kicked off on Saturday with an agility competition – won by a mixed breed dog for the first time since Westminster added the event in 2014. Nimble, the winner, was managed by Cynthia Hornor, who took home the trophy with a border collie last year.

A dog walks in the grooming area during the 148th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, Monday, May 13, 2024, at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York.  (AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson)

A dog walks in the grooming area during the 148th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, Monday, May 13, 2024, at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York. (AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson)

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News Source : apnews.com

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