Tuesday, November 20, 2012

What's New for This Year's National Dog Show?

Russell Terrier
By Linda Cole

For most families, the holiday season is about tradition. One tradition many dog lovers look forward to every year is the National Dog Show. I recently sat in on a media conference call with David Frei, Director of Communications for the Westminster Kennel Club, and Mary Carillo, retired tennis pro and dog lover who reports behind the scenes of the benched competition. David and Mary discussed what's new for this year's National Dog Show.

November 22 is the 11th year for the National Dog Show, which draws around 20 million viewers every year. The dog show is only one of six where the public is allowed to mingle with the pets, handlers and groomers for an “up close and personal” look at what goes on to get the dogs ready for competition.

Treeing Walker Coonhound
If you're in the Philadelphia area, you can take in the show first hand November 17 - 18 at the Expo Center in Oaks, PA. You can check out the contestants in the bench area, talk to their owners/handlers, and enjoy demonstrations by canine athletes showing off their mad skills in Freestyle Flying Disc and Diving Dog. Two new breeds, the Russell Terrier and the Treeing Walker Coonhound, will be introduced this year at the show. This brings the number of dog breeds officially recognized by the American Kennel Club up to 175.

A new therapy dog ambassador team will be introduced this year at the National Dog Show. Li'l Abner and Stella are Dogues de Bordeaux, and Vivian is a Staffordshire/Boston Terrier mix. They will be walking in the footprints of two very special therapy dog ambassadors who passed away earlier this year. Eli, a Belgian Sheepdog, was at ground zero after the 9/11 terrorist attack. He also worked with troubled teens and was part of David Frei's Angel on a Leash organization. Eli died on April 11, just weeks before his 13th birthday. He was owned by Sherry Hanley.

Rufus, the colored Bull Terrier, made history when he won Best in Show at Westminster in 2006. He was called the 100 year dog. He also performed his therapy work through Angel on a Leash. Rufus died August 9 at the age of 12. He was owned by Barbara and Tom Bishop. Eli and Rufus will be honored with a moment of silence at the National Dog Show. They will both be missed.

Mary Carillo takes television viewers behind the scenes of the National Dog Show, and she has lots of great opportunities to get to know the dogs and their handlers/owners. I asked what she enjoyed most, and if she had met any special canines or people over her years. “I get to meet the special dogs being honored every year, the service dogs, so I've gotten to know some of these owners. They're proud to be there, and proud to be showing their animal. They take so much time to explain to you, they want you to know why it's such a special thing to be taking care of these kind of animals,” she said.

Mary continued, “Last year at the National Dog Show, Eli was the therapy dog - just a beautiful dog. It was nice getting to know Eli and why he's become such a special dog. I'm used to sporting events where you've got three minutes. At a benched area, it's all very different. There's a lot going on, and there's obviously tension in the air because they're getting their dogs ready for the show, but when you get to talk to some of these people, they're very patient with somebody like me who's endlessly curious.”

David Frei added to what Mary said, “The great thing about a benched dog show is that the dogs are required to be on the bench, in the benching area, when they aren't being shown, and that provides an opportunity for people like Mary or the general public to come through and talk to these owners and handlers. They can find out about the breed, to see if it's the right dog for their family. I think a benched dog show does a wonderful service for responsible breeders who are trying to find great homes for their dogs, and for potential owners who are looking for a great family dog.”

Thanksgiving is a day to relax with the ones you care about and reflect on what you're thankful for. The National Dog Show follows the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on NBC, and it’s become a not-to-be-missed event for many dog lovers across the country. We get to kick back and enjoy some colorful floats and marching bands in the parade, followed by an impressive assortment of purebred dogs strutting their stuff around the ring. And of course, football after the dog show! The day offers something for everyone, and it’s just as filling as that sweet slice of pumpkin pie after a hearty meal.

Top photo: Russell Terrier by Carol Beuchat
Middle photo: Treeing Walker Coonhound by Curt Willis
Bottom photo: David Frei and Mary Carillo, courtesy of WKC.

Read more articles by Linda Cole

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