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Westminster -- might be snow, will be new dogs

If you throw a dog show in February in Manhattan, you might want to pack some gloves and galoshes along with the leashes and kibble.

New York already got hit with a couple of big snowstorms this year, and who knows what will happen on Monday, Feb. 14, when USA Network kicks off prime-time coverage of the 135th Westminster Kennel Club Show at Madison Square Garden (USA airs the first hour, then coverage picks up for the final two hours of the evening on CNBC; USA airs the entire second evening on Tuesday). But winter weather is nothing new to the purebred dogs and their handlers, since a few flakes have fallen since the show began in 1877.

Purebred-dog expert David Frei returns as co-host (with MSNBC's Tamron Hall) and analyst, and he relates a bit of Westminster lore.

In 1969, Walter Goodman and his Skye terrier Champion Glamoor Good News were exiting the Garden after winning the terrier group on night one, which meant she was returning the next night as a contender for Best in Show.

"And that day was a horrible snowstorm," says Frei. "He's trudging out of Madison Square Garden, carrying his dog and pulling his elderly mother behind him.

"Somebody leans out a window and says, 'Hey, Walter, why aren't you carrying your mother?' And he hollers back, 'Because she's not going in for Best in Show tomorrow!' (His mother) laughed about it, too. She told the story for years."

Dog fanciers and show attendees can keep track of Gotham's fickle weather by heading to www.westminsterkennelclub.org and checking out weather reports from Yorkshire terrier Schmitty the Weather Dog, who belongs to ABC News weatherman Ron Trotta. He's even got his own website, called www.schmittysays.com, which hails him as "The Real New Yorkie."

He's also on Facebook and on Twitter at (at)SchmittySays.

"He does weather reports for our website," says Frei, "with lots of help from Ron. We start a few days before the show, maybe a week before the show."

Of course, the snow problem could be solved if the show moved to sunny Las Vegas.

"Anybody could do that!" says Frei. "We want to build character."

This year, the American Kennel Club (AKC) recognized six new breeds -- OK, they're new to the AKC, but they're not exactly new.

"They show up from other countries," says Frei. "They've been around for thousands of years in other countries; they just haven't had a following here."

That's true for three of the new breeds, but the other three -- the bluetick and redbone coonhounds, and the Boykin spaniel -- are made in America.

Frei always emphasizes that owners should match dogs to their lifestyles, and since these three hunting breeds are still actively used for their original purposes, he cautions that new owners might want to consider whether they can provide the dogs the space, exercise and activities they need to be happy and balanced.

Owners may also have to consider their neighbors.Says Frei, "I've been studying the new breeds, and there was a note about the redbone coonhound, that, whether it's on the run or has its game treed, can bark 125 times a minute."

The other three are a working farm dog, the Icelandic sheepdog; the huge, heavy-coated German dog, the Leonberger; and Italy's Cane Corso, a mastiff breed used for guarding and hunting.

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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