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T.J. SIMERS

Dog show makes a mess of things

Nobody likes an ugly dog, except the judges at Madison Square Garden

February 11, 2009|T.J. SIMERS

FROM NEW YORK — I smell like dog, like everyone and everything else here, so I'm not expecting anyone to snap at me.

It's true I might be the only one in Madison Square Garden -- and I'm including Times videographer Myung Chun -- who hasn't kissed a dog like they've been dating for some time, but I'm the guy shaking hands with the judge who has just finished feeling the male equipment on seven different Dogues de Bordeaux.

So I'm taken aback when things don't go well with the top dog here, Thomas H. Bradley 3d, who turns out to be one of those purebred humorless sorts.

He's the chairman of the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, la-di-dah, and the first 3d I have interviewed. I figure he's the guy to ask about the four ugly critters chosen Monday night to be included in Best in Show, but eventually he freaks.

He grabs a young woman's forearm, apparently misplacing his leash, and storms out of the room. In dog terms, he shows a marvelous gate.

It's a legitimate question, maybe not asked the same way as the endearing writer from the Canine Chronicle, but for the past year Westminster has been using Uno, the 2008 Best in Show, as bait to keep the public's interest.

But what sick kid in a hospital is going to get excited about a visit from an ugly dog?

On Monday night, the Westminster got one good hour of TV before the network switched to professional wrestling, sending the dogs further down the cable.

Interesting, though, what Westminster elected to show in its prime TV hour, going with only one of four dog groups while using the rest of the time to show Uno again, this time hanging out with a sick kid and a soldier who has lost his legs.

Try and pander to the public with an eyesore.

The AKC bluebloods like to say it's all about the dogs, which is ridiculous, like any of the dogs care or know whether they have won or lost.

It's all about owners, breeders, written standards for each breed, politics and ego, but it's the cute dog that got Westminster into the White House last year.

This year is when it really counts, though, and President Obama has already talked about getting a labradoodle or Portuguese Water Dog.

A labradoodle is not AKC approved, so what a bummer that would be for the blue bloods. If a Portuguese Water Dog advances to Best in Show tonight, however, I wouldn't be surprised to learn A-Rod has something to do with it.

We know this, the White House publicity machine is not going to invite the Best in Show winner to the White House if it's one of the hideous things selected Monday night.

So that's what I'm telling the 3d, who lowers his nose only long enough to say, "You're crazy -- you have no idea what you're talking about."

But if you were watching Monday night, which means maybe you need more than a dog in your life, the first winner was a malnourished mangy mutt, also known as a Scottish deerhound, who appeared as if he'd just been pulled from a local pound.

He looked lucky not to have been put down by now.

I mention that in the media room here, and some woman jumps up and wants to know, "Are you married? See, there's a dog for everyone."

She's never even seen my wife. . . .

The ugly trend here continues, a judge going with a frou-frou standard poodle and the accompanying hideous haircut, a reminder to everyone at home this is a hobby only for the elite.

You think President Obama wants to be seen standing beside a frou-frou poodle while the unemployment rate continues to rise?

Later, another judge will settle on Manny's dreadlocks. They call it a Puli here, but take the dreadlocks off any Dodgers fan, throw them on the floor atop a rat, and you've got a Puli.

Westminster begins Tuesday's final day with an ugly problem, only three Best in Show openings available, and I'm thinking Rolex maybe saves the day.

I've taken a liking to the big brute from Murrieta, the No. 1 representative for the newest breed here, and so gentle the owner's 2-year-old daughter is leading him by the leash.

Inside the judging ring, though, the news is cruel. The husband of the judge who picked the malnourished, mangy mutt the night before is the one who will be giving Rolex and 14 other Bordeaux the once over.

More than that, this is a breed judged on the sizable head of each dog, while this judge has spent much his career breeding Afghans, who look as if their heads have been squashed in a vice.

His wife didn't know pretty the night before, and when it comes time to pick the winning Dogue de Bordeaux, he goes with someone other than Rolex.

"That dog is not pretty," says Rolex owner Chelsea Conway, and Westminster is on quite a roll.

Three dogs to go, and Westminster passes on a public-appealing golden retriever for a Sussex spaniel, a breed which, according to AKC literature, "has a somber and serious expression."

Now they're not only picking ugly dogs, but dogs that suggest they are no fun.

No kid in America is safe as the Brussels griffon, the nasty little snapper, takes the next spot. Maybe they'll take him around the country wearing a muzzle.

One more entry to go, the entire upper level in the Garden sitting unsold, and that was after getting a boost from Uno.

This would have been Rolex's moment, maybe a St. Bernard now the only one who can save this thing, until it becomes clear they've just been going through the motions, the No. 1 dog in the land all year -- Spirit, the giant schnauzer, completing the Best in Show field.

And the winner is the Sussex spaniel, the cutest one available, but no Uno, that's for sure.

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t.j.simers@latimes.com

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latimes.com

/sports

Video on the web

Get a glimpse inside the Westminster dog show in New York with T.J. Simers and videographer Myung J. Chun.

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