A King Is Crowned

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King, a Wire Fox Terrier, won “Best in Show” at the Westminster dog show in New York City.

A new king was crowned at the 143rd Annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. Actually, a seven-year-old Wire Fox Terrier named King won Best in Show. The coveted award was presented at Madison Square Garden in New York City on February 12.

King’s handler, Gabriel Rangel, was not surprised by the terrier’s victory. “I look at King,” Rangel said before the competition, “and he’s like a beautiful painting, a piece of art. The way he stands and performs, he’s the whole package.”

Judge Peter J. Green agreed. “King is as good as it gets,” Green told reporters after the show.

Westminster is the second-oldest sporting event in the United States. (The oldest is the Kentucky Derby.) The all-breeds dog show has been held annually since 1877 in New York City.

At Westminster, dogs compete against members of their own breed in the early rounds. In the final event, the best of each breed vies for the top award: Best in Show. The competition starts with 3,200 dogs.


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Marley with Donald Sturz, who judged the Junior Handler competition

Dogs with unique histories entered the show in the late 1800s, including two Deerhounds bred by the Queen of England and a Siberian Wolfhound that belonged to the Czar of Russia.

This year, a Havanese named Bono, a Sussex Spaniel named Bean, a Boxer named Wilma, a Longhaired Dachshund named Burns, and Baby Lars the Bouviers des Flandres made it to the final round, only to be beaten by King.

While the finals are held at Madison Square Garden, the overall breed and Junior Showmanship competitions are held at Piers 92 and 94 on the Hudson River. The morning of February 12, bundled-up judges, breeders, dogs, and dog lovers made their way to the piers through slush and snow.


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Marley talks with Connie Sobie, while Maggie the Mastiff waits patiently.

Jonathan Hale, who owns a Bullmastiff named Baby Beans, explained how he prepares for the show. “Our dog is in the working dog group,” Hale said, “which is not really judged on aesthetic appeal, so it’s very easy for us. All we have to do is keep him clean. We give him a bath and clip his nails. It’s so simple.”

Connie Sobie, who traveled from North Carolina with her Newfoundland, Maggie, said that her preparations for the show are more involved. “It takes about four hours to get her ready for a show,” Sobie said. “Every day, I have to brush her.”


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Marley with Junior competitor Erin Turman and her dog Picasso, an award-winning Australian Shepherd

Judges look for certain qualities that are unique to a breed. “Each breed has a standard,” said Donald Sturz, a judge for the Junior Handler competition. “It’s like a blueprint for a house that tells you what shape it should be, what size it should be, and what proportions. The coat texture is also a factor. Whichever dog best meets the standards of the breed wins.”

The show doesn’t just allow the dogs a moment in the spotlight. It also enables dog lovers to see which breed they might enjoy having as a pet.

Erin Turman offered advice for prospective dog owners. “If you’re going to get a dog,” said the 17-year-old handler and owner of Picasso, an Australian Shepherd, “you really need to love your dog. It can’t just be like, ‘Oh, I can say I got a puppy on Instagram. It’s a lifelong journey. The dog has to be a part of your family. My dog is my best friend. I love him to death.”

Top photo courtesy of the Westminster Kennel Club; other photos courtesy of the author