This week, thousands of show dogs, their trainers and their owners are descending upon New York City, where the Westminster Kennel Club 136th Annual Dog Show will be held at Madison Square Garden on Feb. 13 and 14.
While only one of the 2,000 or so dogs competing will win the coveted "best in show" award, many are already local celebrities, treasured by their hometown communities.
Take Indy, for example. The Dalmatian from St. Charles County, Mo. -- one of nine Dalmatians competing at this year's Westminster dog show — is a frequent sight at local festivals and parades. Owner Kathy Ryan-Hogan loans her out to local fire departments that do not have dogs of their own. "When the average child comes to the fire department, they want to know where the fire dog is," Ryan-Hogan told Fox 2. "So here she is."
Then there's Kinderteckel's Charlotte My Lady in Red, better known as "Charlie." The standard smooth female dachshund from Woodland Hills, Calif., was recently profiled in the Los Angeles-area paper, the Daily News. This is owner Richard Van Elgort's second year at Westminster. Last year he was there with another dachshund, Freddie, who he says is currently "engaged" to Charlie.
Over in Wilton, Conn., a 3-year-old white Samoyed named Suka is preparing for this year's show, as is her owner. "I've had butterflies in my stomach ever since we found out Suka is going to the show," Heather Hubbard told the Wilton Bulletin. Suka is a favorite with the neighborhood children, who come over and ask if she can come out and play. "They invented a game called 'Scatter,' in which Suka tags the kids and then they scatter and she finds them," said Hubbard.
Some dogs were born to compete at Westminster. Owners Michelle Soave and Scott Tomassi told Powhatan Today that they named their 19-month-old Havanese Madison after Madison Square Garden. That's not the only reason they're excited to attend they show: trainer Soave and fan Tomassi met and became a couple at Westminster in 2010.
For other dogs, this may be their last time in the ring. Fort Merrill Topsfield Yahoo, a basset hound from Corpus Christi, is already the country's top-ranked dog in his breed, and Westminster will be his retirement show. "We hope he goes out in a blaze of glory as opposed to a cloud of defeat," co-owner Joan Urban told Caller.com.
One of the most inspiring dogs heading to Westminster is Kalahari's Call to Attention (a.k.a. Patton), a Leonberger from Plano, Texas, who is not just a frequent award-winner but also a service dog. "I have multiple sclerosis, and my balance is awful," owner Janis Cook told NBC Dallas-Fort Worth. "He kept me from falling." Patton not only knows how to navigate a show ring, he has also been trained to open handicapped-accessible doors for Cook. You can watch Patton's story here:
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