James Dolan hates this dog.
You'll believe this because at this point you'll believe anything negative you hear about Dolan, the owner of the Knicks, Rangers, Madison Square Garden, MSG Network, and all related properties. But it's true. The three-year process of bringing the aged Garden kicking and screaming into semi-modernity is playing hell on the Westminster Dog Show.
Yes, it's Deadspin's sixth year at Westminster, and the first after a summer of literally 24/7 construction at MSG. The Garden Floor is still as green and as perfect as ever, even if it's very strange that the Willis Reed tunnel no longer exists. The judging process will look exactly the same on TV tonight, but the heart of the event—the two days where the public can mingle with hundreds of dogs, and gosh darn it are those dogs fun—has been cut.
There's less room due to the ongoing renovations, and that means fewer dogs: 20 percent fewer this year. I know that doesn't sound like much, being surrounded by, say, 20 bulldogs rather than 25. But trust me. It makes a difference. It also means more people crowded into the back, where the dogs hang out before and after their judgment. Too many people and not enough space makes for an uncomfortably low dog-to-person-in-between-you-and-the-dog ratio.
Next year, the Dog Show is pretty much banished from the Garden altogether, going from the "world's most famous arena" to a second-rate expo center. Because of the next, more invasive stage of MSG construction, everything save the prime-time judging will take place in an unused cruise ship pier-turned-exhibition space on the Hudson, far from public transportation or the charms of Midtown.
It's not clear what will be waiting back at the Garden for Westminster in 2014. Half of the floor space the dogs usually use has already been replaced by 18 luxury suites. James Dolan is making money at the expense of puppies.
For those of you new to the Dog Show experience, the judging is routinely the most boring part. Also the most incomprehensible. For example, these are the best four pugs in America.
A judge says this is the best pug in America. His name is Walter.
Each dog reacts differently to winning, but a good 75 percent look actively excited when they're chosen. They're usually just feeding off the energy of their handler, but you get the sense they know they've done something good.
Walter, on the other hand, clearly has no idea he is the best pug in America.
A winning dog poses for its picture. It's not unusual for a photographer to wear a utility vest. But at Westminster, those pockets are stocked with squeaky toys to hold the dog's attention long enough to get the glamour shot.
Okay, enough judging. Let's get to what we all came here to see: hardcore nudity!
Oh man, this shiba inu, you guys. This shiba, from Alaska, she's pretty much a dog hero:
Does lure coursing with sighthounds and has dabbled with carting alongside working dogs, even though her cart isn't much bigger than a boot box. Nami is also a therapy dog, with a specialty in geriatrics, including visits to shut-ins, rehabilitation centers and recently the owner's mother in ICU. The dog is also a service dog for the owner's father in detecting diabetes problems and assists the owner's 90-year-old mother in closing drawers and doors about the house. Nami and the owner-handler are active with a nonprofit girls group and mentor teenage girls.
This one wins "most handsome."
This one wins "looks most like an emoticon."
And this one wins the award for dog I would most want to throw myself into face-first and nuzzle like a giant stuffed animal.
Some dogs prefer their own stuffed animals. Here's a beagle sleeping on his stuffed beagle, because beagles.
Hey, we sports now! Reese, a Tibetan terrier from Sheboygan, is supposedly a Packers fan, down to the stuffed bear and color-coordinated hair clips.
And here's a downer. The show program is a little like a yearbook where owners and trainers buy ads to congratulate their champion dogs. Then there's this page, which for all the world looks like it was purchased in memory of a departed dog. (It's actually in honor of the kennel's founders, but you wouldn't know it from the champagne toast in front of the framed Afghan hound.)
Dogs sleeping: never not cute.
Dogs in pairs: never not cute.
A pair of sleeping dogs? Gold.
Herding dogs are just so eager to please and do whatever is asked of them. They're the undrafted free agents of the dog world.
And we close with a corgi, because this is the internet and you have to have one.
More from day two of Westminster tomorrow.