| NEW YORK
NEW YORK Feb 11 Hundreds of America's
best-kept and well-behaved dogs paraded before judges and an
adoring public on Monday in the 137th annual Westminster Kennel
Club Dog Show, where Labrador lovers longed for an upset victory
for Best of Show.
Judges were picking the best in the hound, toy, non-sporting
and herding groups on Monday. The best of the sporting, working
and terrier groups were to be picked on Tuesday evening, before
the winner of each of the seven groups goes forward to compete
for Best in Show.
In all, more than 2,700 dogs were due to compete over two
days, including at least 50 Labrador retrievers in the sporting
group whose owners are hoping to make history and bring home the
Among the 100-plus breeds competing on Monday were
papillons, dainty toy dogs known for their floppy butterfly-like
Each dog was brought into the ring by a handler who
periodically fed them nibbles of chicken meat or liver - known
as 'bait' in dog show circles - and teased at their coats with
combs and brushes.
One by one, they cantered about in a small circle before
being lifted onto a table to be inspected and palpated by the
"You judge against the standard," said Burton Yamada, who
judged Westminster's Best in Show in 2004, as he watched from
the crowded sidelines. "If it says it should have round eyes and
they have almond eyes then that's a fault. The standard might
say alert. Well, what's alert?"
The American Kennel Club sets the standard, and the process
reminded Yamada of his work in missile engineering, which also
requires following tight specifications, he said.
"The rest of it is how they move, expression, if they're up
that day," Yamada said.
All 19 papillons had been called back to the ring for a
final trot and appraisal by judge Peter Green, who called
forward InVolo The King Of Pop, also known as Jackson, as the
best in breed.
Jackson's owner, 22-year-old Gia Garofalo of Washington
Township in New Jersey, chose to handle her dog herself,
although many owners hire professional handlers who can command
many thousands of dollars in fees and tips in the case of a
She posed with the dog and the judge for a picture, which
the photographer took with the help of a squeeze squawking
"It's awesome because we're owners and handlers. It's a
thrill," Garofalo said before hurrying away, Jackson tucked
under her arm.
The Labrador retriever has for years been America's most
popular breed, just not with Westminster judges. Wire fox
terriers, for example, have won Best in Show more than a dozen
This year, two newly recognized breeds have been approved to
appear in the show: the treeing Walker coonhound, a tall,
flappy-eared descendant of the foxhound; and the Russell
terrier, the subject of some controversy stemming from the
differing taxonomic habits of kennel clubs in the United
Kingdom, United States and Australia.
For the first time, the show is being held in two venues.
Judges were deciding the best in breeds at exhibition halls on
piers on the Hudson River. The winners will then head to the
show's regular venue at Madison Square Garden, where best in
group judging will take place on Monday and Tuesday nights
before culminating in the Best in Show event, to be judged by
Michael Dougherty of Escondido, California.
This year's dogs come from all 50 states, organizers said,
with the majority from New York and California. There are more
than 100 foreign entries, including dogs from Brazil, Germany,
Croatia and Japan.
The 2012 show was won by Palacegarden Malachy, a male
Pekingese, who, as is traditional, has since retired.
(Editing by Daniel Trotta, Bernard Orr)