The Westminster Dog Show has dazzled dog lovers for 134 years and this time around was no different. Hundreds of dogs from around the globe descended on New York City to participate in one of the most respected dog shows in the world.
I Love Dogs ambassador Jo Anne Ybaben and her Papillon Dash were among those lucky enough to compete at this year’s show. Dash, who is only 2 years old, has already had an exciting and prolific show career. Like all Westminster competitors, Dash has secured the title of champion and is considered one of the finest dogs in his breed.
Ybaben was thrilled when she found out Dash would attend Westminster. “I was excited but nervous,” she said. “It’s a really big deal.”
Arriving for Westminster is not unlike arriving in New York itself—everything is an exciting whirlwind.
“I went over to the actual Madison Square Garden venue the night before we were supposed to show,” she says. “When you see that green carpet it’s just a whole different experience. The benching area is vast and it’s pretty overwhelming, the whole experience.”
Like champs, Ybaben and Dash maintained their cool and focus.
“Before we went in the ring I was very calm,” she said. “I was very focused, very in the moment. It was actually kind of weird because normally I am very nervous but [this time] I wasn’t.”
Ybaben wasn’t the only one who was in the moment. Dash, who enjoys the showing experience, knew it was time to shine.
“He showed very well,” Ybaben says. “I was really pleased. He understood and knew he had a job to do.”
With another dog, that may have been easier said than done. Time in the show ring was longer than usual, but for Dash there was no problem.
“We had to be in the ring a really long time,” Ybaben says. “The videos are a fraction of the time we were in the ring. He had us leave and come back a couple of times. It was very different because of that, but he stayed with me.”
His showmanship and professionalism paid off. Although Dash did not take the top prize of Best in Breed, he did manage to snag the Award of Merit. Basically, Ybaben explains, it’s like coming in second place. For example, if a male (or dog) wins Best of Breed, then the judge selects the Best of Opposite Sex prize for the top female (or bitch). After that comes the Award of Merit.
“It’s like saying, ‘You didn’t win best of Best of Breed but I think you would be the next best dog.’” Not bad for a youngster competing in a large group of 27 champion Papillons.
After showing, Ybaben and Dash settled into the benching area. The Westminster Dog Show keeps up the benched show tradition, which is a rarity these days. Basically, in these areas dogs and their handlers are required to stay in a specific area (“benches”) for the duration of the show day. It’s generally viewed as an opportunity for show-goers and dog fanciers to interact with handlers and learn more about breeds they like.
Not surprisingly, the Westminster benching area is a popular place.
“It was just packed with people,” Ybaben chuckles. “It was hundreds of people wanting to pet your dog and ask you a million questions.”
A day in the benching area is an exhilarating experience—and also a long day. Show participants are required to stay in their assigned spaces and for the people there are no chairs allowed. That means handlers stand on their feet the entire day. Ybaben managed to get a little rest by pushing Dash’s crate back and leaning against the edge of the table but for the most part, she says, she stood beside Dash’s crate.
Dash, on the other hand, managed to get in some relaxation after his winning performance. “I had Dash sitting on top of his crate for a while, then I put him in for a while, kind of back and forth to give him a break,” Ybaben says.
Now that they’re home, Ybaben and Dash’s co-owner, Lauren Tapyrik, plan to give him a well-deserved break before hitting the show circuit again, this time with a well-known professional handler. Although already an accomplished champion, Dash is still a rising star and has a big future ahead of him. Another appearance at Westminster seems likely for next year. If Ybaben attends, though, it will be as a proud parent only, leaving the ring duties to the handler.
“That will be a fun opportunity for me, too, to watch him.”
PHOTOS: Courtesy of Jo Anne Ybaben and Lauren Tapyrik
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