Rushville Republican

February 18, 2014

Looking barkward: Reviewing WKC '14

By Don Stuart
Rushville Republican

---- — In recent years, dog lovers around the globe have eagerly anticipated my annual preview of the famous Westminster Kennel Club (WKC) Dog Show, especially my forecast of which dog will win Best in Show (BIS). I’m at a loss to explain the uncanny karma at work here, but somehow, every year, my WKC BIS prediction – you can look this up – is dead wrong.

This year, I’m out of the WKC prediction BIS-ness. Instead, this is a recap – a quick look barkward at WKC 2014, which I predicted would be won by a Wire Fox Terrier, and there’s no way you can disprove it.

To allow me to review all the pageantry and hoopla at my leisure, I meticulously recorded both nights of live WKC telecasts featured on the USA network. Unfortunately, this column is being written after I meticulously deleted both nights of live WKC telecasts featured on the USA network. Before I watched them. But I won’t let this stop me, because, after all, since when have you ever expected me to actually know what I’m talking about?

The WKC Show is pretty much the Super Bowl of the dog show world. In fact, the BIS winner takes home a bunch of stuff, including a huge shiny tureen that’s made of real silver, making it one super bowl indeed.

Like the teams that win the National Hockey League’s Stanley Cup, everyone involved in breeding, grooming, handling, owning and poop-scooping for the winning dog loves to pass the bowl around and kiss it. Usually, the dog goes last.

The WKC’s BIS dog pretty much becomes a star for the rest of its life. For example, even today, thousands still scour the tabloids and the Internet for news about 2002 winner Spice Girl, a miniature poodle that unfortunately has been in and out of rehab while simultaneously engaging in high-profile romances with dogs owned by David Beckham and Eddie Murphy.

In all the years that I’ve watched the WKC show on TV, there’s been one constant – the “color commentary” provided by David Frei. He’s the director of communications for the Westminster Kennel Club, and is sort of the John Madden or Dick Vitale of dog show commentary, only enormously more boring.

For many years, Frei described the paw-by-paw of the competition along with former major league baseball player and announcer Joe Garagiola. Joe’s primary role was to ask David, year in and year out, the same goofy questions, such as “What’s the judge checking there, David – is that the fetlock?” or “Boy, David, wouldn’t that St. Bernard look better with a little cask of brandy strapped to its neck?”

Fortunately, Joe always asked these questions with great enthusiasm and humor. After all, while announcing baseball games, he was famous for colorful insights. He once said this about a big-league pitcher: “He’s throwing much better now that he’s got his curveball straightened out.”

Joe’s WKC show patter was always peppered with similar gems. The TV cameras were once trained on a dog that suddenly squatted and, well, you know. Conditioned to say something to his audience about what they’re seeing on the field of play, Joe blurted out “Well, it happens to all of us.”

The historical record reveals no response from David Frei.

For a couple years, the WKC show broadcasting team included “sideline reports” by Dr. Debbye Turner, a former veterinarian and the winner of the 1990 Miss America pageant. Joe Garagiola didn’t work with her, but only if he had!: “Say, Debbye, did the Miss America judges check every gal’s fetlocks?”

During every WKC telecast, there’s one thing I always look out for – David Frei’s official and authentic Super Bowl ring. Yeah, I’m talkin’ ‘bout the annual event that’s pretty much the WKC Dog Show of the tackle football world.

The ring is from one of the Denver Broncos Super victories, which happened at a time when Frei worked in the team’s public relations department. Oddly, Frei never talks about it, but it’s impossible to miss, since it’s the size of a trash can lid.

Rumor has it that breeders, groomers, handlers, owners and poop-scoopers who have any hopes of seriously contending for BIS at WKC had better darn well KTR (Kiss The Ring). To prove you really, REALLY want it, the dog goes first.