Top Dog: a Day in the Life of a Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show Contender.
By Dave Donelson
Striving for Stardom
If you want to be top dog at the dog show,
you gotta work hard and long. And, oh yes, it helps to have an owner with dedication.
What does it take to reign supreme at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show? We follow the daily routine of North Salem’s Liza, a three-year-old German shorthaired pointer, who last year won Best in Breed—and hopes to snag another prize February 12 at Madison Square Garden.
Liza loves to run, which is great because judges look for dogs that are buff. Although she does not have a regular
strict exercise regimen, Liza romps free around her North Salem home expressing her hunting dog instincts until she gets bored, which can take a couple of hours. Sometimes for an intense workout, she runs alongside her trainer’s bike.
When she’s on stage, Liza runs in an easy lope, head held high, looking as if she owns the ring. Some of that gait is natural, of course, but much of it comes from countless hours spent on the lead (a show leash), learning to glide like a princess. Liza loves performing, too. Part of her AKC-registered name is Drama Queen, which says a lot about her eagerness to be at center stage. As her owner, Diane Stendahl (pictured here), says, “She loves the applause.” Let’s hope so. Stendahl, with the help of several co-owners, spent a hefty sum on travel, conditioning, entry fees and handler’s salary.
Liza would love nothing better than to give every stranger a big friendly lick, but, for the show ring, she spent hours learning to “stack,” or stand perfectly still in a flattering pose, while the judge gives her an up-close and very personal hands-on once-over.
With all the exercise she gets, Liza doesn’t have to worry much about her weight. She does watch her diet, though, so her coat has a healthy shine and her eyes stay nice and bright. She’d love to dine on pheasant under glass, but gets a commercially-available kibble instead with some fresh vegetables from time to time. She also gets vitamins E, C, and a supplement containing kelp, garlic, flax-seed oil, and other holistic nutrients. Her teeth are scaled regularly, too, and her nails are carefully trimmed so they never touch the show ring floor.
Dave Donelson lives and writes in West Harrison, surrounded by Bichon Frises bred and shown by his wife, Nora. Two of the Bichons are AKC champions and one is just starting her career in the show ring.