Woof Out The Red Carpet: Westminster Dogs Take New York
On Tuesday night, one dog will be named "best in show" at the 137th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York.
Many of the canines that have flocked to Manhattan are staying at the Hotel Pennsylvania across the street from Madison Square Garden, where judging of the main events in the show is held.
The hotel has special amenities for its four-legged guests.
"Hey, buddy," doggie concierge Jerry Grymek says to a border collie in a crate. "Welcome to the Hotel Pennsylvania."
Grymek usually does public relations for the hotel, but this week he has a different job and clearly loves it.
"These are VIPs — very important pooches — in their own right," Grymek says.
He caters to the special needs of these pampered pets, who happen to be really expensive show dogs as well.
"We had a dog that requested an opera singer — to be sung to the dog before the show," Grymek says.
So the dog was treated to a command performance in the hotel lobby.
"The dog was dressed up in a tuxedo and a top hat, and it was relaxing and it loved it," Grymek says.
And, of course, there are requests for red carpets for some dogs and tasty snacks. Tasty for these pooches goes beyond typical dog food and includes requests for spinach pizza, chicken burgers and cheeseburgers (hold the onions).
Some show dogs also apparently like to run on a treadmill, which they can do once Grymek has directed them to the hotel's doggie spa.
"They're dogs first. After that, they're show dogs," says Joy Graham of Birdsboro, Pa., who brought six show dogs with her. Graham has four dachshunds and two German shorthaired pointers.
Her dogs love the treadmill. But Bella, a Doberman, not so much. Bella's handler, Esteban Farias, explains that she needs the workout.
"She normally runs outside. She runs with the bike, but here with the weather it's impossible [to] exercise outside," he says.
But he says Bella, short for Tiburon Ariel Bella Dona, is pleased about being at the hotel.
Also at the spa, a couple of white Clumber spaniels with burnt-sienna accents are getting their hair touched up.
Owner Christina Cox explains that a white dog with 5 inches of hair is a challenge to keep clean, especially in Manhattan. So she's brushing a blue solution that's a combination of lightener and shampoo on their chest and paws.
Back up in the lobby, Grymek greets a Bernese mountain dog, a creature the size of a pony, who is immediately surrounded by a bevy of admirers.
Mitchell Dorning, who rode on the train for 24 hours from Alabama with the Bernese mountain dog, says the big dog took it like a champ.
"He watches TV," Dorning says. "We watched Three Stooges most of the way up here."
The dog just lies on the floor wagging his tail, watching a seemingly endless parade of dogs go by — dogs in crates, dogs being carried like babies, dogs in little dresses.
Meanwhile, Grymek spots a regular and rockets over to say hello, admiring the dog's nails.
Grinning, he heads back into the fray, but he's clearly having a blast catering to a plethora of pampered pooches with high hopes and big dreams.
Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.