Wilton pugs will compete in Westminster
Wilton resident Ashley Fischer’s two pugs, nearly 3-year-old Bruno and 20-month-old Blake, will be among the 128 dogs from Connecticut showing at the 142nd annual Westminster Kennel Club All-Breed Dog Show in New York City next week.
Bruno and Blake are co-owned by Fischer’s husband, Keith, who will be competing at Westminster for the first time.
More than 3,000 dogs will compete for ultimate recognition in conformation, obedience and agility at the two-day competition at Madison Square Garden, kicking off Monday, Feb. 12.
Fischer said she, her husband and the pugs “haven’t done anything special” to prepare for this year’s show, “other than competing this past weekend in order to dust off the cobwebs and to become better acquainted with his new handler, Michael Scott.”
“We show at least a few weekends a month, and so the dogs pretty much stay in practice and are kept in top condition,” said Fischer, who also owns several retired show dogs, some of whom occasionally show in veteran competitions.
When it comes to Westminster, Fischer said, her main goal is always to “have fun and enjoy the experience.”
“Of course, any one of us would be thrilled to have our dog win Best of Breed at Westminster,” she said. “It is a bucket list item for so many of us in the dog show world, and it is a goal that very few of us will realize.”
Fischer said her other goal is for her dogs to show well.
“It is a super-charged atmosphere unlike any other dog show, and to have my dog show well is a testament to the work we have put into this activity together,” she said.
Although expecting to win Best of Breed with two young dogs would be “unrealistic,” said Fischer, she would be thrilled to “just to make the judge’s final cut.”
According to the Westminster Kennel Club’s website, a pug has not won Best in Show at Westminster since 1981.
This will not be Blake or Bruno’s first time competing at Westminster, said Fischer.
Bruno competed two years ago — not in the Best of Breed class — and won Winners Dog, while Blake competed last year as an almost 9-month-old puppy and made the final cut, said Fischer.
“Westminster is one of the two or three greatest shows in the country. It is the second-longest continually run sporting event in the country, second only behind the Kentucky Derby. It is a thrill just to show your dog there,” said Fischer.
“The show is steeped in tradition and you see that tradition everywhere — from the familiar logo to the green carpet to the purple velvet ring ropes, right down to the purple rubber bands to hold our numbers to our left arms.”
All the top dogs in the country are there, said Fischer, and it’s “one of the very few times that you will see the highest-ranked dogs in every breed from all parts of the country in one place.”
Fischer said Westminster is a “who’s who of dogs, owners, handlers, and dog show judges.”
“Best of all, Westminster is a benched show, [which] means that the dogs stay all day at the show on their assigned benches so that the public can come and see them, talk to the breeders and handlers and learn about breeds in which they are interested. I love benched shows, and I especially enjoy talking to people about this breed that I love,” she said.
“Most of all, I love being able to participate in such a wonderful event with my dogs. One of my old-time dog show mentors once told me that you are not a true dog person if you don’t show at Westminster.”