It's one of the oldest events in American sports... the annual Westminster Dog Show in NYC. Each year canine champions compete for the ultimate honor of "Best in Show." Thousands of fans turn out in the stands at Madison Square Garden and millions gather in front of the TV to root for their favorite dogs.
Posted 27 Jan 2009
The winner is "Uno!" This 15-inch, 28-pound Beagle won "Best in Show" at the 2008 Westminster Dog show becoming the heavyweight champion of the canine world. Part of Uno's unique appeal is that he's the first beagle to ever win the coveted title. Uno's subsequent media tour included an invitation to the White House.
There's no doubt that Americans love Westminster because they love their dogs. The affection for man’s-best-friend is a significant part of the booming $43 billion pet industry. There are 74 million dogs in the U.S. in nearly 39% of all households.
Dogs often dominate the silver screen and primetime TV. Remember Dorothy Gale's trusty companion "Toto" in the 1939 film classic "The Wizard of Oz?" "Toto" was a black Cairn Terrier whose name was Terry. Terry was paid a $125 salary each week, which was far more than many of the human actors (the Singer Midgets who played the Munchkins only received $50.00 a week), according to Wikipedia. Terry starred in 13 other films.
The Collie starred in the 1954 television series Lassie which aired for almost 20 years. Lassie was also the main character for 59 books and 12 films. Today, many of the original episodes and movies are still shown or are available on DVD. The Lassie branding is now featured in a line of pet food and on the reality televisions series, Lassie's Pet Vet on PBS stations.
The hit movie Marley & Me was released on December 25, 2008 and made over $134 million dollars in ticket sales at the box office. The movie was based on the autobiographical novel and New York Times bestseller Marley & Me: Life and Love with the World’s Worst Dog written by John Grogan. The real Marley appeared in the 1998 film The Last Home Run directed by Bob Gosse.
Moose, considered a veteran canine actor, is best known as Eddie on the television sitcom Frasier. The Jack Russell Terrier appeared in 192 episodes in the 10 year television series. He also appeared in the film My Dog Skip directed by Jay Russell which grossed $34 million in at the box office.
Snoopy is a fictional curious dog in what was perhaps the most famous and longest running comic strip in history, Peanuts. Charlie Brown’s pet beagle is one of the most recognizable comic characters in the world. Although originally Snoopy’s character was an ordinary dog, he grew into a dynamic cool character. Later as Snoopy’s popularity grew he had a television special based on him Snoopy!!! The Musical. Snoopy has a gallery and gift shop http://www.snoopygift.com/ in Santa Rosa, California.
Scooby-Doo, is the famous talking dog from the cartoon series, Scooby-Doo, Where are You! The original series aired in 1969 and continues to air on television today. Since Scooby-Doo’s television stardom he has released 11 video games, over 4 dvds and two action movies that yielded $458 million in global box office revenue. He's also a balloon favorite at the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Parade in New York City.
Dogs have celebrity status during the annual Westminster Dog Show. Each year, New York’s Hotel Pennsylvania provides an indoor puppy spa and workout area to ensure it’s one of the top destinations for Westminster contenders.
The competition is tough. Just to be eligible for the Westminster Dog Show, a dog must be a veteran show winner and must meet the American Kennel Club champion requirements. Each year 2500 champion dogs from 170 breeds compete. Only the best are allowed at Westminster.
Owners who believe their dogs have what it takes to be a champion often "campaign" a dog. Campaigning involves traveling to shows and advertising in specialty magazines, such as “Canine Chronicles,” to ensure the dog remains on people’s minds. Advertising in the trades can be expensive…front pages often run from $3,000 to $10,000.
It's an expensive sport with little financial reward. Traveling to dog shows on weekends, paying for the right grooming, the right handler… it all adds up. The total bill: mid to upper six figures, and in some cases, much higher. Participants say they do it for the pleasure of owning a dog that wins.
Judging the nation’s top dogs is both an art and a science. What do the Judges look for in a Westminster Champion? Appearance, movement, and temperament are important. The dogs are competing to see which one is the most perfect specimen of their individual breed.
Judge Donald Jones: "Uno is probably the most, nearly perfect dog I’ve ever judged."
After more than two thousand championship dogs competed in the strenuous two day event, Stump, a 10-year-old Sussex Spaniel, was crowded "Best in Show" at the 133rd annual Westminster Dog Show on Thursday, February 10, 2009.
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