A crowd of reporters came tumbling out of the Affinia Hotel last Thursday afternoon, following seven beautiful show dogs. They were quickly surrounded by at least 50 photographers and journalists. There were too many to fit on the sidewalk so they spilled over into the street, which caused taxis to honk and pedestrians to scurry around the edge of the crowd.
David Frei was in the lead with last year’s Westminster Best in Show winner, the Scottish Deerhound, Hickory. Then the Xoloitzcuintli, the Entlebucher, the Cesky Terrier, Finnish Lapphund, Norwegian Lundehund and bringing up the rear, a magnificent red and white American English Coonhound.
Cameras clicked away when New York City Police Officer Dennis Johnson picked upthe strangest looking dog of all, the two-year-old Xolo, Alma Dulce. Alma was as ugly as this breed is widely reputed, but she wore an outstanding turquoise necklace, made for her by her owner, Jose Barrera.
Barrera and his wife, Maria, make upscale jewelry that is sold at Bergdorf Goodman’s. Alma Dulce’s necklace was for sale there for $735! Beyonce is one of the proud owners.
Westminster spokesman David Frei invited everyone back inside the Affinia for a news conference to introduce each of the breeds.
Celebrity reporter AJ Calloway was on hand from the entertainment show “Extra.” He began interviewing the seven dogs in the lobby of the Affinia, ignoring the pandemonium of guests checking in and out and a job fair going on across the hall.
In the lobby, AP reporter Ben Watson was watching the Xolo. “I want to get the reaction of a normal person to her,” he decided. Xolos are so strange looking; there might be a funny reaction. He stepped up to the first normal person he saw looking at the dog and asked what she thought of it.
“I live with that dog,” said the young woman. “That’s my father.”
Ben was disappointed. “Never mind,” he said. He spied another woman staring at Alma Dulce. “I’ll try her.”
“Don’t do it, Ben. She’s not an average person. That’s Amy Fernandez. She wrote a book about them.”
He sighed. “Well, I’ll find somebody.”
The two publicists from Madison Square Garden, Alyssa Hart and Jeanna Ritto, said this was the most successful event they’d done for Madison Square Garden, in terms of reporter attendance, which seems amazing, given all the sports games and music concerts that take place there.
“People love dogs,” Alyssa said. “From now on, we’re asking the Rockettes and hockey players to bring their dogs to news conferences.”
By the next day, the six new breeds of Westminster had appeared on every news and talk show and in every paper and online blog. The Seventh Avenue march appears multiple times on YouTube.
On that Thursday afternoon, it seemed a corner had been turned, and purebred dogs were once again fascinating to the general public.