Walter White had come all the way from Lafayette, Indiana to show off his goods Monday at New York's Pier 94.
He bided his time and rested his head on a pillow. He would need plenty of energy to make his case later. For now, he had his rep hand out business cards promoting his Facebook page. There was also a poster, emblazoned with his mug and name. Pretty good for a 2 1/2-year-old bulldog.
Walter, an all-white dog who has the English breed's signature undershot jaw and stout, sturdy body, is just one of 2,798 dogs from 49 states, Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico competing in the 141st Westminster Kennel Club dog show. He didn't ultimately win best of breed -- that honor went to a dog from Georgia -- but the vaunted canine contest isn't just about titles and ribbons. It's about dogs and their people.The benching area for Walter White the bulldog. (Amy Kuperinsky | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)
Westminster, which started in 1877 as a gentlemen's sporting event, began this year with an agility competition on Saturday, where Mia, a beagle from Medford, emerged as the ultimate crowd-pleaser not for her speed and derring-do, but for her penchant for distraction (and impromptu butt-sniffing).
The traditional portion of the dog show -- agility was added in 2014 -- continues with group competition on Monday night and ends on Tuesday with the contest for best in show at Madison Square Garden. Dogs competed against others in their breed -- portions of which aired for the first time on Nat Geo Wild -- for the chance to advance to the group contests, and from there, a shot at Westminster's top dog. Last year, C.J., a German shorthaired pointer from California, pulled out the win.
Walter White's owners, Doug and Mindy Welks, drew obvious inspiration from the protagonist of TV's "Breaking Bad."
"He's doing New York!" proclaimed his "grandmother," Karen Jasmund, just an hour before Walter was to compete against 16 other bulldogs, waddling in unison under the bright lights of ring 9. As she spoke, the dog dozed in his cage.
In the next ring, Bikfic (Bic-fits) the pumi, 2, had his turn in the spotlight as one of 188 dogs competing from New Jersey.Scenes from Westminster dog show 2017
It was not only his first time at Westminster, but also the entire breed's introduction to the New York show. Though hundreds of years old, the Hungarian herding dog, recognized by the American Kennel Club just last summer, was added to the Westminster lineup this year alongside the sloughi (sloo-gee) and the American hairless terrier.
Marika Foreman of Somerville, 70, Bikfic's owner, also served as his handler. With just two years of experience in dog shows, the retired engineer and physics teacher, who once led students at Immaculata High School in robotics competitions, squared off against professional handlers to notch Bikfic a red ribbon for "best of opposite sex" among the group of seven dogs (the winning pumi was a female dog).
"He's the best male!" she exclaimed, proudly holding Bikfic's award, plucking a treat from her pocket to reward him for his performance in the ring.
Foreman's curly-coated dog would not advance to the herding group competition at the Garden, but no matter.
"This is the next best thing," she said.
But a Jersey dog came out on top in another type of competition. Winning first place for the second year in a row in Westminster's Masters Obedience Championship was Linda Brennan of Columbia, Warren County, and Heart, her black labrador retriever.
And the winner of the Masters Obedience championship is Heart, the Labrador Retriever! [?] : Sandra Dukes #wkcdogshow pic.twitter.com/N4aDTSBtSA-- Westminster Dog Show (@WKCDOGS) February 13, 2017
The obedience contest puts the close relationship between dog and owner/handler on display -- dogs must stay put in the ring as their humans walk away, and perform intricate routines with their instructor, often involving props.
Heart, whose call name is Rhumbline's Once in a Blue Moon, once appeared on "Saturday Night Live" and won the inaugural obedience competition last year. This year she triumphed over 22 other dogs, including three from New Jersey, to defend the title. Brennan, who makes and sells dog-training videos, has been training dogs for more than 25 years.
Viewing information for the Westminster Kennel Club dog show:
- Portions of breed judging will again air from 2 to 4 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 14 on Nat Geo Wild.
- Daytime breed judging streams live from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Feb. 14 at Fox Sports Go.
- Group competition (hound, herding, toy and non-sporting groups) airs from 8 to 11 p.m. on Feb. 13 and from 8 to 11 p.m. on Feb. 14 (sporting, working, terrier groups and best in show) on FS1 (Fox Sports 1). Visit westminsterkennelclub.org for more information.
Amy Kuperinsky may be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @AmyKup or on Facebook.
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