Backstage at the Westminster Dog Show

A look at the hairstyling, ear wrapping, nail filing and napping that goes on behind the scenes at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.
Publish date:

In an upset, first prize at the 139th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show on Tuesday went to Miss P, the 15-inch beagle. A day after she defeated a 2014 Best of Show finalist to advance to this year’s final stage, Miss P outdid a field that included four dogs that Las Vegas had predicted to finish ahead of her.


The four-year-old Miss P, whose registered name is Tashtins Lookin for Trouble, had been scheduled to retire to motherhood after Westminster, win or lose. She was one of the calmest dogs at the show, waiting patiently—and silently, unlike her great-uncle Uno, who famously howled during the judging when he won Westminster in 2008—when she was left alone.


Second place went to Charlie, or Cragsmoor Good Time Charlie, a Skye terrier that in December had won the AKC/Eukanuba National Championship.


The only Skye terrier to win Westminster did so in 1969.


Bugaboo’s Picture Perfect, an Old English sheepdog, was a crowd favorite both for his shaggy mop, which took two assistants over an hour to tease into shape, and for his call name, Swagger.


Handler Colton Johnson said that the name Swagger was an easy choice: “He just had it.”


Tuesday was a long day for Flame, a standard poodle, and his handler, Sarah Perchick. They woke up at 5 a.m. and got to bed after midnight.


Flame (aka Darwin Hearts on Fire), who turned four on Valentine’s Day, won the sporting group to advance to the Best in Show round.


Hallmark Jolei Rocket Power is a large name for a shih tzu, so the small dog goes simply by Rocket. He spent much of Tuesday evening surrounded by reporters, in part because of his intricately crafted hairstyle. But he’s also co-owned by Patricia Hearst Shaw, the newspaper heiress who was kidnapped by the Symbionese Liberation Army in 1974 and who later spent almost two years in prison for taking part in a bank robbery with her captors. (President Clinton pardoned her in 2001.)


Breeder, co-owner and handler Luke Ehricht, who bought his first show dog, a lhasa apso, when he was 13 with money he earned from a paper route, has been competing against Will Alexander, Miss P’s handler, since both were in the junior showmanship division.


Ehricht said that it would take 20 minutes to disassemble enough of Rocket’s hairstyle to allow the dog to sleep comfortably.


Handler Janice Hayes took a congratulatory phone call while wrapping the ears of Liz, an English springer spaniel. “So they won’t end up in her mouth,” she explained.


Liz, or Wynmoor Sweetgrass White Diamonds, advanced out of the sporting group 90 minutes before Best in Show judging began.


The heavy favorite on Tuesday was Claircreek Impression de Matisse, a Portuguese water dog with 238 Bests in Show awards to his name. (Miss P now has 19.)


Matisse is a cousin of President Obama’s dog, Sunny.


This was the first year that wirehaired vizslas were recognized at Westminster. “He’s a great ambassador for the breed,” said handler Mark Goodwein of Zoldmali Csongor, or Izzy, whom he allowed to grab a liver treat out of his mouth. Alas, Izzy didn’t advance to the Best in Show finals.


In the end, Tuesday belonged to Miss P.

“She’s hungry and I’m overwhelmed,” Alexander said at his post-victory press conference.