Behind the scenes with the glam squads at Westminster Dog Show


By Charlotte Wilder
FOX Sports Columnist

TARRYTOWN, N.Y. — Pippin headed back to his RV, which was parked at the far edge of the Lyndhurst Mansion estate. It was eight o’clock in the morning, and he had just enough time for a quick morning stroll before he had to start preparing for his biggest day of the year.

Originally Slovenian, Pippin moved to Dallas when he was young, and in the past week, he made the approximately 1,575-mile drive from Texas to New York. He wasn’t about to waste all that time and energy to look anything other than his best.  

Pippin did not, however, drive himself, nor was he getting himself ready. 

Because Pippin is a dog.

Charlotte Wilder meets Pippin

Charlotte Wilder meets Pippin the Borzoi at the 2022 Westminster Club Kennel and learns about how Pippin’s handler grooms him to prepare for competition.

“He’s not just a handsome boy,” said Beth Collins, who began washing Pippin shortly after his walk. “He can do the job he was bred to do.”

That job would be hunting wolves in Russia, considering that Pippin is a Borzoi, a breed previously known as a Russian Wolfhound. But Pippin’s owners, Patricia Silverman and Dick Hafner, prefer showing him at the Westminster Dog Show to taking him hunting on the Siberian Steppe. 

Both are rigorous undertakings.

Getting any dog ready for Westminster requires a glam squad. Some dogs are higher maintenance than others, but all require TLC to make sure they’re putting their best paw forward. 

Silverman and Hafner love to let Pippin play with his best friend, their Afghan Hound named Soren. The two aren’t just pretty, long faces: They mess around in the mud and steal pillows off the couch like any other dog. But when it comes to show day, Pippin must be spotless.

His routine falls somewhere in the middle of the maintenance continuum. He is not as glam-intensive as Soren, who wears his ear-hair in little rubber bands to keep it from tangling and whose fur must be straightened with a flattening iron before he enters the ring. Or Iris, another Afghan Hound I was lucky enough to meet, who wears a little mesh shower cap to make sure her ears don’t get tangled and gets misted with doggy hair product. Or Cooper, an Old English Sheepdog who gets a bath at least once a week and must be brushed for four hours afterward to be sure his coat doesn’t mat. 

Pippin does, however, require more primping than Bergamasco Sheepdogs. After a bath, those dogs are simply put into their crates with three or four floor fans pointed in their direction for hours until they dry. They’re supposed to look “rustic and natural.”

Westminster Kennel Club: How much grooming does it take?

Ever wondered how much grooming it takes for dogs to get ready for Westminster? Charlotte Wilder talked to some dogs and their owners to find out.

Pippin took a full bath about two days before the show, so Collins gave him a sponge bath at around 9 a.m. on Monday to make sure that any dirt he picked up on his morning stroll was removed from his pristine white undercarriage. He stood patiently on a white folding table under an awning connected to his RV while Collins soaped him down. 

Collins is neither Pippin’s owner nor the handler who would show him at 10:45 a.m. in front of a very discerning judge. But the dog show world is small, close and connected, and friends help each other out. It truly takes a village to get one elegant animal ready for primetime, and since Collins is the best groomer, she was tapped for the task.

Silverman and Hafner hovered nearby as Collins blow-dried their dog. They’ve had Borzois before, and knew exactly when to hand Collins the tools she needed, like one of two Mason-Pearson hairbrushes on the table, which cost upward of $170 each. Collins fluffed Pippin’s fur one way and then smoothed it down the other, making sure no hair was out of place.

Pippin, perhaps sensing the gravity of the moment, panted happily and allowed Collins to trim his paws. She cut the fur in “rabbit style,” so that it was longer in front, like a hare’s foot. She then trimmed the fur that she had just washed under Pippin’s stomach and carefully cut away hairs that were hiding the shape of Pippin’s ears, which she said were “exquisite” for a Borzoi.

There was something ritualistic — almost primal — about watching someone carefully and methodically groom a dog as the still-rising sun cast shadows across the field on that idyllic, late spring day. The rhythm of the brush, the clip of the scissors and the trust Pippin put in a human he loved all made the moment feel serene and somehow disconnected from every other facet of everyday life. The barks of nearby dogs and the whir of generators powering hairdryers provided a steady background hum.

Westminster is one of the rare sporting events that is truly joyful. It’s very hard to be grumpy when so many fluffy, sleek, rough, big, tiny, tall, long, short, wiry dogs are cruising around the grounds of a mansion. It’s hard not to smile when you pass a Bloodhound whose cheeks and ears are blowing in the wind.

Dogs are simply the best.

And seeing between 15 and 30 of the same breed in one place is remarkable — it’s like walking into a Photoshopped image or a CGI-altered video. And they’re all so good! All the dogs were as chill as Pippin was, and they all hung out together under a big tent without so much as a tiny lunge at one another. I’ve only ever seen dogs that clean, good and calm at Westminster (you don’t realize how dirty your dog is until you pat one at the dog show).

At promptly 10:45, Pippin entered the ring with the other Borzois. He looked flawless. The silhouette of his fur was cut at the perfect angle, and he shone in the hot sun. Collins and Pippin’s owners, Silverman and Hafner, watched nervously as Pippin was trotted around the ring by another one of their friends. They were proud parents at a child’s soccer game, pacing back and forth along the sidelines, squeezing friends’ hands and, at times, having trouble watching at all.

Pippin made the first cut and then ultimately fell short. But the great thing about the Westminster Dog Show is that the dogs don’t know they lost. Unlike sports games, where one team must lose, all dogs are winners regardless of the score.

And thanks to their glam squads, they always look like winners, ribbons or no.

Charlotte Wilder is a general columnist and cohost of “The People’s Sports Podcast” for FOX Sports. She’s honored to represent the constantly neglected Boston area in sports media, loves talking to sports fans about their feelings and is happiest eating a hotdog in a ballpark or nachos in a stadium. Follow her on Twitter @TheWilderThings. 


Get more from Westminster Kennel Club Follow your favorites to get information about games, news and more.







Source link