Lupi, however, doesn’t do very much hunting. O.K., none. Why should he? Ms. Petraglia feeds him a carefully tailored restricted diet (no bacon off the brunch plate, at least not too often). He eats a concoction of meat, small bits of bone and raw vegetables that his owner makes herself. He also takes fish oil vitamins to keep his luscious locks soft and shiny. “Show dogs will have a diet that is a little bit higher in fat and calories to keep up with the high stress they’re under,” Ms. Petraglia said. “He eats better than I do.”
‘Stress in the Ring’
In the lobby of his co-op building, Lupi nuzzled a reporter’s thigh on a velvet bench on the marble floor. His body was warm and snuggly, and his ears had a Velveteen Rabbit softness.
Ms. Petraglia explained how Lupi comforted her while she was in a wheelchair a couple of years ago, recovering from a kidney transplant. “Lupi is extremely outgoing, but he’s also very calming,” she said. “He knows the difference between when it’s time to have fun and be silly and when it’s time to just be sort of a good listener. He creates a sense of peace.”
The Petraglia-Yankowski’s have no children; Lupi is their fourth and freshest spaniel (Wavelength and Niles are Sussex spaniels and Riley is a cocker; they’re all semi-retired), the son of two champions, acquired from a central Massachusetts breeder, Diane Chase-Condon, in 2006. “It was love at first sight,” said Ms. Petraglia, who got her economics degree from New York University and worked on Wall Street for about 15 years before becoming a writer for Sotheby’s and publishing a book, American Antique Furniture, in 1992.
Therapy training, however, proved a bit of a challenge. “I had to pretend like I had diffi
culty walking or breathing,” Ms. Petraglia said. “I had to make different noises, drop things in front of him, cry, scream, because you know, again, if you’re in an Alzheimer’s center, people’s brains aren’t functioning properly. You’re going to see every type of setting possible; if they’re not properly prepared for it, it can be really hard on them.
“It also,” she noted, “prepares them for the stress in the ring”—for which some dogs are conditioned by training on treadmills, running at a moderate speed for 10 minutes, two times a day. Lupi has a more mellow regime, working out on his agility course or just running around the yard, to keep his muscles in shape.
In the days leading up to showtime, Ms. Petraglia took Lupi for lots of walks, and to the Four Seasons, where they have high-end doggie treats like Liver Biscotti for their canine patrons, many of whom come into town for Westminster. It is one of the most stressful dog shows in the country because of the tight quarters overflowing with yipping dogs, bitchy handlers, photo-snapping press and debutante gawkers. Owners are not permitted to take their dogs for walks, but must use boxes, the little porta-potties of Westminster. Many dogs have traveled hundreds of miles from home and are not used to the bustle of Manhattan streets. “The noise, the garbage trucks, the sirens,” Ms. Petraglia said. “Some dogs, you’ll see, they just don’t know how to deal with all that cement and don’t go to the bathroom for two days. They’re so nervous.”
But lucky, citified Lupi was making friends with every dog that stopped to sniff him at Doyle’s—even the miserly looking German Shepherd who let out a hollering bark. He gazed up at his owner, who seemed calm about his prospects at Westminster, where he’ll be up against the dog he lost to last year, a 3-year-old named, rather horse-ishly, Three De Vansan Rumor Has It.
“You never know, I mean, it’s like the stock market,” Ms. Petraglia said. “If we could predict this, we’d all be on an island somewhere in the Caribbean, not in New York in February.”