Grinstead Lupine, our paws-down pick for the Best in Show at this year’s Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, was all smiles on the green carpet this morning at Madison Square Garden, despite losing the best of breed category to his top competition: Remedi’s Medicyne Man, the top Sussex Spaniel in the nation.
Lupi arrived at the bustling competition around 9:30 that morning. His owner, Patricia Petraglia, and his professional handler, Geoff Dawson, took him backstage into the grooming area to brush out his “golden liver”-colored coat. Surrounded by howling dogs getting pruned, blow-dried and bow-tied, Lupi didn’t need too much grooming besides a little trim around his toes. Just before showtime, Ms. Petraglia gave Lupi a kiss on his silky coat and said, “Just have fun out there.”
Mr. Dawson carried Lupi through the crowded Madison Square Garden floor, where six different breeds were showing in six rings. At Ring One, where the competition would take place, Ms. Petraglia was hiding among the dog gawkers skirting the velvet ropes. “I don’t want Lupi to get wind of me when he’s coming around,” she said. Lupi would get too excited to see her.
During the competition, you could spot Lupi from the seven other Sussex Spaniels prancing around the ring by his slightly smaller build and the shimmering golden highlights in his ears.
When Lupi was being judged individually, a spectator in black rimmed glasses and an Anna Wintour-inspired bob commented, “Oh, look at this one. He’s so majestic. Just look at the tail, and his ears! So long and beautiful.”
Lupi was also the only pup smiling when they all lined up before taking their final prance around the ring. The rest seemed to have a more somber, serious expression.
“That’s all I wanted, for him to have fun,” said Ms. Petraglia, back in the grooming room after the competition. Dressed in a stunning black jacket sprinkled with jewels, she wasn’t all that disappointed in the results. Remedi’s Medicyne Man (known as “Doc”) will be turning six years old on Valentine’s Day this week and will soon retire from dog shows. Despite his ranking at the top Sussex, this was his first and only win at Westminster. He would go on to compete in the Sporting group competition. Lupi will have to hang out in the benching section until 8 o’clock tonight, and get an extra piece of steak for dinner.
“You just never know with these things,” she said. “It’s like the figure skating of dog shows … Sometimes it matters who is behind the leash more than the dog.”
Ms. Petraglia is unsure if she’ll return to Westminster next year, but she plans on entering Lupi in more dog shows this year.
“Regardless of how things turned out, he deserves to be here because he’s such a good dog and gives so much back,” Ms. Petraglia said, referring to Lupi’s work as a therapy dog. “There’s more to being a good dog than just being able to go into a ring and look pretty.”