Exactly two weeks ago, the Westminster Dog Show dropped a bombshell: The 141-year-old competition, which draws legions of highbrow pooch enthusiasts to Madison Square Garden each year, would open its doors to cats. It was, to many, a sign that the event had cheapened, succumbed to the tasteless whims of the feline-obsessed internet. People took to Twitter to protest. “We are so far gone, so consumed by political correctness, that unwanted and potentially dangerous outsiders are poised to put one of our most cherished institutions at risk,” wrote a Chicago Tribune columnist.
In reality, the announcement was all part of a Kardashian-level PR stunt from the American Kennel Club. Cats made it nowhere near the green felted show floor reserved for the best purebred canines. Instead, the handful of invited felines were shafted with a weekend “meet-and-greet” held in association with the program, surrounded by a much larger population of their longtime rivals (dogs).
“It was a Fido Oreo,” 42-year-old Anthony Hutcherson told me. “The only thing that separated us was air and opportunity to share the love.”
Hutcherson brought his Bengal cat named Jungletrax Abiding Ovation — who he says he calls “Elsa” or “Get Off the Counter” at home. But rather than feel intimidated, he took the invitation to participate as an encouraging sign of a cooperation between the cat- and dog-lover communities.
“I did walk through the dog area with my cat, and everyone was kind and helpful,” he said. “It gave me hope for America.”
Meanwhile, on Monday night, the first set of breed groups — Hound, Toy, Non-Sporting, and Herding — faced off in prime time, sans felines. The winners of these groups will go on Tuesday to compete for the tantalizing McRib of dog titles, Best in Show. Judges decided the winners based on whether they exhibited the ideal eye color, coat texture, gait, and performance of their individual breeds. But we at the The Ringer use a separate and highly scientific set of standards to determine the real night’s standouts. Rest assured, no matter what kind of honorable mention our brave competitors earned tonight, they are all very good dogs.
Most Likely to Be an Expensive Alpaca CB2 Pillow Masquerading As a Dog: Chuckie, the Pekingese
Only god knows if this amalgamous furry mass is the alleged purebred it claims to be. But it’s clear why Chuckie won best of the Toy group: He functions as both a loyal companion and a comfortable surface on which you can rest your head.
Dog Who Gave the Fewest Fucks: Mia, the Beagle
Over the weekend, Mia was supposed to compete in the Master Agility Championship, which requires dogs to do things like jump through hoops and climb ramps. But rather than submit to such peasant-like behavior, she chose instead to sniff herself and vogue for the audience. Joke’s on the border collie who actually tried. Mia is already way more internet famous.
Dog Who Knows How to Party: Duffy, the Norwegian Elkhound
Good old Duffy — Miss Duff, as her friends call her — is from the scenic beach town of Carmel, California. Her favorite snack — according to the Westminster jumbotron — is pizza. And her tail is the exact shape of Taco Bell cinnamon twist. It’s like: OK, Duffy, we get it. You smoke weed.
Flashiest Headpiece: Keegan, the Yorkshire Terrier
Toy dogs tend to be so teeny that their handlers try to sass up their appearance with a beret or bow. But all hair accessories on display this Monday paled in comparison to the dazzling royal red and gold clip atop Keegan’s gloriously groomed head. Bravo, Miss K; a lesser terrier couldn’t have pulled it off.
Most Likely to Share a Hairstylist With Heidi Klum: Snapple, the Saluki
Her secret must be deep conditioner.
Biggest Westminster Heartthrob: Rumor, the German Shepherd
Rumor is so hypnotically dreamy that he has his own catchphrase. Just before a judge announced he’d placed first in the Herding group, his fans began calling out “RUMOR HAS IT.” Yes, he really does.
A handful of dogs stand before us, but only one can remain. See you back here Tuesday night for Best in Show.