[Part One HERE - Part Two THERE]
Monday, February 11th
On Monday, we went to MOMA (The Museum of Modern Art) where MY WIFE is a member.
We attended the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show at Madison Square Garden that night, so, yes, dogs!
We had watched the dog show on TV, with fascination, for many years. Although neither of us is an outright dog nut (I actually prefer cats, and MY WIFE prefers... well, she prefers to breathe, and she's allergic to animal dander) we had also seen the marvelously funny movie, Best In Show, so when we found out that we would be in New York at the same time as the dog show, we immediately decided to go to it. We bought two tickets for the finals.
I had another reason for wanting to go. I had long wanted to attend an event - any event - at Madison Square Garden. It is one of the world's most famous arenas. I assumed that I might see a basketball game there someday, since it is considered by many to be the premier basketball venue in America, but the dog show would do. And I have to say I was suitably impressed. The sight lines are magnificent from just about anywhere in the place, our seats were very comfortable, the ushers and other staff were courteous and attentive, and it is world-class in a way that I expect Boston's TD Garden never will be.
(I'm not totally dissing Boston's Garden. I've enjoyed many a Celtics game there, among other things, and it is decent enough. MSG, however, blows it away in almost every regard other than the fact that it is home not to the Celtics but the hated New York Knickerbockers.)
(One more great thing about MSG: They serve foot-long hot dogs there. I bought one and enjoyed it greatly. It almost made up for the disappointment of our failed trip to Nathan's.)
The dog show happens in eight segments over the course of two evenings. Four classes of dog are judged the first night (Hounds, Herding, Toys, Sporting) and three more groups are judged on the second evening (Non-Sporting, Working, Terriers). After the best dog in each category is chosen, the seven winners are brought back into the ring to be judged against each other. The eventual winner is given the title of Best In Show, the canine equivalent of Miss America.
We watched the first evening on TV back in Brooklyn. I was particularly taken with the look, and back story, of an Old English Sheepdog named Swagger.
While many of the dogs being judged are veterans of a hundred or more showings, and most are winners of a previous competition (and thus have the prefix of CH [Champion] or GCH [Grand Champion] affixed to their names) Swagger was in only his fourth contest and had never won before. He was, however, chosen top dog in the Herding group, and thus eligible for the big prize the next night. An underdog, in the truest sense of the word, I knew I'd be rooting for him come the finals.
Cutting to the chase, the finalists arrived in the judging ring. Swagger was obviously a sentimental favorite among many in the crowd. If you watched the show at home, you may have heard a few people yelling "Swagger!" while the judge was making his final determinations. I was one of those people. Meanwhile, others were saying, "Choose the bichon frise!" and other less worthy utterances.
One of the other seven was an affenpinscher. When he was being paraded around the ring, MY WIFE and I started chanting, "Monkey Dog! Monkey Dog! Monkey Dog!", but, even though this is the literal translation of affenpinscher, we were unsuccessful in getting the rest of the aficianados to join in.
The judge had two trophies to award - Best In Show, of course, and also a RESERVE Best In Show, which we understood to be the dog that would fulfill the duties of the title should the winner have been found to have done steroids or something. He looked them over one more time, while the crowd held its breath, and then he motioned at Swagger! Unfortunately, this meant that Swagger was chosen as the RESERVE, which is still an amazing accomplishment for a non-winner of any previous show, but a bit of a letdown for those of us who had fallen in love with the giant ball of fur.
The eventual winner was the affenpinscher, named (in an obvious nod by the owner at the literal translation of the breed's name) Banana Joe.