Wilton at Westminster: Pugs compete at renowned show

Ashley Fischer is used to the sound of her pugs. The patter of the feet, the wheezing, the barking. It’s her way of life.

Ms. Fischer entered two of those pugs, Buster and Chloe, in the 137th Westminster Kennel Club dog show in New York, which ran Feb. 11 and 12. A total of 3,200 dogs competed for the title of being the best in their various breeds before stepping into the ring at Madison Square Garden in front of a national television audience where best in show was named.

Because of renovations to Madison Square Garden, the event took place in two venues for the first time in its history. Piers 92/94, a trade show and exhibition center on the west side of Manhattan, hosted the individual breed judging, including the pugs.

At home, the dogs can roam freely. These show pugs are feisty, and friendly, and love to play, Ms. Fischer said.

“If they don’t love people, they’re not going to be good show dogs,” she said at her home last week. “They’re pets first and show dogs second. Once a pet comes into this house, they don’t leave.”

Litter-mates Chloe and Buster are well thought of in the pug community and have the ribbons to prove it. While Ms. Fischer didn’t expect them to be in competition for best in show, she did have high hopes for them.

At home, they live as “Buster” and “Chloe,” but in the ring they are officially known as GCH Pine Cone’s Green Mountain Boy and GCH Castlerock Pine Cone Mountain Rain.

Buster initially lived in Vermont, and Ms. Fischer was asked to show him. Not only did he perform well, but Ms. Fischer knew she loved the dog.

“I would have wanted Buster if he had never stepped foot in a show ring,” she said. “I showed him for fun, and he started winning.”

Chloe is considered to be a truly special show dog, the No. 1 ranked female in the country. To that end, she is handled by Michael Scott, a strong name in the dog show world.

At a show in Pennsylvania last year, Chloe won the toy group. As the competition moved to the best of show ring, Ms. Fischer showed Chloe, not expecting to win.

In that same ring was a Dalmatian being handled by Michelle Scott, the wife of Michael Scott.

“If you had to take a gold star moment, this was it,” Ms. Fischer said. “I wasn’t nervous because I didn’t think we would have any chance to win.”

Indeed, Chloe won best in show, and followed that up with a best of cluster victory as well.

“You wouldn’t know, listening to her here,” she laughed, as Chloe played with Spike, another pug in the Fischer house. Spike was not only a good show dog in his prime, but he served as therapy for Ms. Fischer as she battled breast cancer.

“It was the best thing in the world, to raise these dogs,” she said with a smile. “It was much better to look forward to the dog shows than to think about my next chemo treatment. It was great therapy.”

Ms. Fischer was excited to go to Westminster again. She has shown dogs in the prestigious competition for almost a decade, but is still considered new by dog show standards. Other breeders and handlers have been at shows for many more years.

Ms. Fischer said she prefers to distance herself from the politics of dog shows. She is just happy to be a part of it, and considers it a passion.

“I’m really lucky. To have two litter mates in the top 10 is pretty amazing.”

Chloe and Buster put their best paws forward on Monday night at Piers 92/94. Chloe finished third in the pug breed, behind GCH Hill Country’s Tag I’m It, who then moved on to finish fourth in best in the toy group. Buster did not place, but he is still tops in Ms. Fischer’s eyes.