A Day at the Dog Show: Snapshot Wins Breed, Meets Valentino

Valentino and Snapshot

Valentino visits Tim Lehman and Snapshot backstage.

It’s that time of year again, when stylish specimens flock to the Big Apple, perfectly poised and immaculately coiffed. And no, we’re not talking about Fashion Week.

Yesterday, the Transom stopped by the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, where our favorite Upper East Side duo, Tim Lehman and Snapshot, were making their Westminster debut. The best of breed events were taking place, for the first time, at Piers 92 and 94, with the main events—Best of Group and Best in Show—taking place Monday and Tuesday nights at Madison Square Garden.

At Pier 92, where the smaller breeds were competing, we spied Snapshot and some other competitors stationed near the entrance at an impromptu Maltese grooming station. Mr. Lehman had his headphones on and was deep in focus as he combed Snapshot’s silky mane, his client lying prostrate in dutiful compliance. A crowd had gathered around to observe the deft handiwork, so we decided to take a lap and see what else the show had on offer.

We ran into Pat Stoltz, publisher of Pug Talk magazine, hanging out with her rotund pug Buddha, whose official  name is “Grand Champion Careva’s Boodelicious.” While Buddha comes from a long line of champions, he had failed to sail to victory in the best of pug contest earlier in the morning.

“He got a good look, but an older, more mature, very nice dog won,” said Ms. Stoltz. But the doggie devotee made it clear that she isn’t in it for the ribbons, but for the love of pugs. “They always make you smile, they have yet to meet a person or another animal they don’t like, they’re the best house pet you could have,” she said, but not before adding a disclaimer, lest the Transom run out to adopt one instantly. “They certainly aren’t the sharpest crayons in the box.”

We took a brief detour to the much smellier interior of Pier 94, where the bigger dogs were being shown, and fell in love with a massive Old English sheepdog named Herbie, or ‘Ken-Bear’s Grand Champion Herbie the Love Bug.’ While Herbie had also not come away a best of breed winner (although a fellow English sheepdog would go on to win ‘best herding dog’ at the evening’s festivities), the fuzzy giant is a bit of a star in his own right, serving as the inspiration for a novel, Strongheart, which instantly catapulted to the top of the Transom’s reading list.

“It’s about a dog who was a coward who faced his fears through learning Native American legends,” explained writer/owner Laurice LaZebnik.

After Herbie posed for pictures with fans, Ms. LaZebnik told us about their future plans. “We’re talking about retiring him and making him in to a therapy dog, to visit hospitals and nursing homes” she explained. “He has the right disposition for it. He’s very caring and gentle.”

Finally it was time for Snapshot to make his big debut. We might be biased, but seeing the little guy trot out into  the ring, followed by six other identical Maltese, we swore that his hair looked the silkiest by a mile. At least some of our fellow spectators seemed to agree.

“My friend says let’s go watch my hairdresser, he has a little dog who wins everything,” said one smartly dressed onlooker. “I said ‘that dog has perfect hair, that dog doesn’t have one hair out of place!’”

As the furry white bundles marched out like tiny models, the pomp and circumstance of the event truly did remind us of a Fashion Week runway show (although with a lot more mid-show snacking). After a few laps around the ring and a rather invasive inspection on a pedestal, with enough ball cupping for a TSA screening, it was time for the verdict.

We guess our dog instincts have improved as of late, because all of a sudden, with a quick point of the judge’s hand, it was all over and the winner had been named: Snapshot ‘Champion Ta-Jon’s Pawsitively Paparazzi” was named best Maltese.

As a crowd of fans swarmed around to congratulate him, the Transom edged in to ask Mr. Lehman how he felt about the victory.

“Thank God,” said Mr. Lehman, with a laugh, before changing his tone. “No, we’re thrilled.” he said. “We’re very excited for tonight but the best of breed was enough—we’re good.”

Sadly, Snapshot did not ultimately win best ‘Toy’ breed later that evening—that honor went to a stout, sporty little fellow called an Affenpinscher, who looks like no stuffed animal we’ve ever had—but Snapshot did make the first cut as one of eight finalists.

“The best of breed was everything we could have hoped for,” said Mr. Lehman when we spoke with him today. “And because he made the cut in the toy group, to be acknowledged among the eight top toy dogs in the country was a great honor for him” he added. “For both of us.”

And while he may not have been bestowed the highest honors in the dog world, among those in fashion circles, Snapshot remains top dog—as one particular backstage cameo illustrates.

“Valentino came backstage and he thought he was so beautiful,” explained Mr. Lehman “He just admired him and his beautiful hair.”