Showing Fancy at Westminster This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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     February 9, 2004

It was 6 a.m. on the firstday of the famous Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York City. I would beshowing in junior showmanship, a class in which 10 to 18-year-olds are judged onhow well they handle their dogs. To add to the excitement, it was my birthday.

Being an exhibitor, my mom and I arrived early so I could get a groomingspot for my Siberian Husky, Fancy. We loaded all our grooming supplies, a crate,and ourselves onto our hotel elevator. Sixteen floors below, we reached the lobbyand met up with our friend, Barb. Her niece, Kandice, is a friend of mine whoshowed at Westminster two years ago.

One block of walking brought us tothe back entrance of Madison Square Garden. After showing our pass to a guard, helet us in. We had to pull our dollies through many tunnels until we reached afreight elevator. After a short ride and more walking, we came to the limitedgrooming space that was quickly being claimed. We moved fast to stake out a placeby a wall, a prime spot because we could only get squished on three sides. Wewalked to the benched grooming area to take a look before the hordes arrived. Westopped once in a while to admire items venders displayed and managed to buy twoWestminster Kennel Club sweatshirts, as well as collect free dog foodsamples.

By then the area was filling up with spectators, so we escapedback to the hotel room to rest. Siberian Huskies were scheduled to show at 9a.m., so we had 45 minutes before we were off again, with my dad coming along towatch breed judging.

Once my mom, dad and I were in the Garden, we hadto squeeze through the crowd trying to catch a glimpse of the dogs. Aftersearching for a few minutes, we found three open seats in the tenth row. Withbinoculars and cameras in hand, we watched the 27 Siberian Huskies be judged. Itwas so crowded that no one was allowed to stand, so I couldn't get any close-upshots of the dogs.

At 10:15, we decided to take a look at the benchingarea. Walking into the room with all the venders and dogs, I wondered, Is thereenough oxygen in this room to support so many people? The only way we stayedtogether (which actually didn't work well since we lost each other twice) was towalk an inch behind the other person. To reach the venders and actually look atanything was practically an all-day event, so we didn't even try. We did noticethat the Westminster sweatshirts were sold out, and they only had a few T-shirtsleft. Good thing we got ours early!

Junior Showmanship had about 140entries, so they split us into four groups. Groups one (mine) and two werescheduled to have their picture taken at 3 p.m., and judging would start rightafterward. It was 1:30 already so my mom and I went back to the grooming area toput Fancy on the table. Soon Kandice arrived and started grooming her GoldenRetriever, Maytag. The spectators went crazy over our dogs. I showed Fancy sometreats to get her ears up, and she wagged her tail and pawed me (which, ofcourse, drew more attention). Fancy rarely shows this much enthusiasm, so I guessshe liked all the attention. For about an hour, Fancy and Maytag won the heartsof many. They also got so many treats that I worried they would bait in thering.

"Samoyeds are done," my dad told us. He had been watchingso that we'd know exactly when to bring the dogs over. It is very stressful onthe dogs to be out of their crates around so many people, so we wanted to stay inour grooming area as long as possible. Once Samoyeds were done, we headed over tothe ring for our group shots and judging.

About 10 minutes later, thesteward called us in for the picture. After all the photographers took theirshots, we were allowed to get up. From there we arranged ourselves in catalogorder (the order we were listed in the catalog) and the judge split us into threegroups; I was in the first.

In my group of 40, I recognized a few faces.The two top handlers of Siberian Huskies in the country were in my group. Plus,the girl who won the Eukanuba National Invitational Dog Show two years in a rowwas there, along with some other big-name junior handlers. Needless to say, itwould be very hard for me to make even the first cut, and I needed to make threeto get to finals, held the following night right before groups. Only eight kidswould be chosen, two from each group of 40. It would be like winning the NFLplayoffs to make it to the finals. Yet, I thought I had achance.

Everything went smoothly. I set up Fancy well, showed the bitewith no problems, and performed a down and back pattern. However, that was whenFancy caught sight of something and wouldn't do a good free-stack, which wasrequired. I did manage to get something halfway decent from her, and I gaited tothe end of the line still thinking I had a chance to make the cut. After that Itook extra care not to do anything wrong, never crowding the poodle in front ofme, and always having Fancy looking beautiful.

After the judgeindividually examined each dog, he asked to see us gait one at a time around thering. When it was our turn, Fancy was really excited because the audience wasclapping so much, so I decided to move her a little faster than normal. Fancy hasexcellent movement, so this wasn't a catastrophe, but my mom later said I movedher a hair too fast. When the judge made his first cut, I wasn't in it. On thelast go around, I let Fancy go out in front of me which looked spectacular, butthe judge had made his decision, and wasn't really watching. Kandice made thefirst cut, but didn't get beyond that.

Almost no one wins their first yearat Westminster. I went knowing that, so it didn't bother me. Why should I feelbad when I was celebrating my birthday by showing at Westminster, watching groupsat Westminster in person, and eating at the restaurant of my choice in TimesSquare? Plus, there's always next year ...

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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