Westminster had two new breeds to introduce to the public this year, Treeing Walker Coonhounds and Russell Terriers. The photographers who showed up at the Affinia Hotel for Westminster’s news conference swarmed the little stage when the dogs walked in, as if they were paparazzi and the dogs were movie stars.
The photographers kept at it, flashes blazing, clicking sounds madly flying through the air, as Curt Willis showed off his Treeing Walkers Tank and Meg, and Sue Sobel let Madison and Pepper pop around merrily for the crowd. Later they were joined by Candace Lundin and Roxanne Sutton with Russell Terriers Turbo and Legs.
The coonhounds seemed amused. Tank would lift his head and stare at the cameras being shoved towards his face; he wrinkled his brow, which set off clicking. He turned head to head with his kennelmate, Meg, and the two touched noses, which set off a whole new round of clicking. The two of them turned their heads to look up at their owner, Curt, who reassured them that these were in fact normal human beings and not aliens from an unknown planet. The dogs couldn’t see any faces; all you could see was lenses. Tank was reassured that all was right with the world, so he reared up onto his back legs to give Curt a kiss, which set off a deafening round of clicking.
In the meantime the Russell Terriers were clearly annoyed at the reporters' antics. Every time they gave a little jump, photographers leaned in closer, until the terriers took refuge on Sue and Candace's laps. They stared down the reporters but did not bark at them, which I thought showed great restraint.
As they entered the Affinia, Curt had been muttering under his breath that his girlfriend Amanda Alexander had managed to send him off with the two most difficult dogs in the kennel, an exuberant young male and a bitch just coming out of heat.
So I wasn't surprised, when I looked over, to see that while Curt was busy informing reporters about the stellar qualities of Treeing Walkers, Tank had pushed Meg out of Curt's eyesight and begun the delicate process of canine courtship known as "humping."
"Curt!" I screamed, not wanting to add, "Tank is humping Meg!"
He thought I was notifying him to finish up the conversation so he nodded in my direction as you would to indicate, "I'll be right there."
"Curt!" I screamed again, this time joined by the voice of Westminster photographer Mary Bloom, which has far more power and authority than mine. This time he looked up and we both pointed frantically at Tank. Tank got a hard jerk on the lead to make him behave and hung his head with a look of ‘I-never-get-to-have-any-fun.’
Westminster spokesman David Frei explained that while these are in fact old breeds that have been around a long time, what’s new is that their breed clubs asked for AKC recognition. That’s why it’s their first year at Westminster.
The whole Westminster show was an incredible success, with a record entry of dogs and everyone happy with the new, more spacious location at Piers 92-94.