Westminster Kennel Club dog show — scheduled to be held on June 12 and 13 — will be full of tradition, pups, and pomp.
However, for the first time in its 145-year existence, the prestigious canine championship will be held outside of Manhattan, on the spacious grounds of a suburban riverside estate — one of several modifications driven by the global pandemic.
The event had been postponed from its regular February dates and has been closed to the public. Human participants must be either immunised or tested within a stipulated time frame.
For the televised portions of the tournament, dogs will compete on the usual green carpet, while some other rounds will take place on an even more traditional green carpet – the lawn of the Lyndhurst estate in Tarrytown, New York.
And the coveted best-in-show trophy will be presented outside Lyndhurst's Gothic-castlelike estate, rather than in Manhattan's Madison Square Garden's sports palace.
“It’s a heartbreak because that’s definitely part of the prestige of going, and the nostalgia," told handler Renee Rosamilla of Ocala, Florida to Associated Press (AP). "But I’m just, honestly, thrilled that they were able to let us have Westminster this year.”
The show begins on Friday with an agility competition, followed by weekend festivities that include traditional breed judging, which will culminate with the title of best-in-show. It will be given out during a live telecast on Fox on Sunday night. (Earlier rounds will be broadcasted or streamed as well.)
This year, some new breeds are vying for the grand prize. A Lagotto Romagnolo — an Italian truffle-hunting breed that first competed at Westminster just five years ago — and a Dandie Dinmont terrier — which, according to the American Kennel Club, is the 15th-rarest U.S. breed — are among the top contenders.
Even in its native United Kingdom, the Dandie, named for a character in Sir Walter Scott's 1815 novel "Guy Mannering," is considered endangered.
The barbet, the Dogo Argentino, the Belgian Laekenois, and the Biewer terrier are among the other breeds that will participate for the first time at the show.
Despite the uncertainty and adjustments caused by the pandemic, Westminster filled its regular number of entry spaces and even enlarged the agility roster a little, according to what organizers told AP.
Although there were only 13 documented coronavirus infections countrywide when the previous Westminster show finished on Feb. 11, 2020, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has subsequently assessed that the virus had been more common back then. It was impossible to host a public event within a month of that.
In January 2022, the event will return to the Garden. Meanwhile, handlers like Rosamilla, who has planned to showcase a harrier named Joker, a flat-coated retriever named Tildy, and a Plott hound named Fritz, will have to make some adaptations as a result of this year's shift.
“It’s definitely going to have challenges, but I always look forward to going to Westminster. We’ll just make do with whatever it throws at us,” Rosamilla was quoted as saying by AP. “I’m sure the dogs are absolutely going to love it,” she added.