Here she is... Miss Westminster?
I have a confession: As a child I surreptitiously consumed the Miss America pageant every year. Although my mother deemed it unfit television viewing material for anyone with a conscience and/or half a brain, I was irresistibly drawn to the spectacle (like moths to a flame…). Somehow I’ve managed to avoid anorexia and bulimia but the damage has been done: I read Vogue.
The Westminster Kennel Club show offers the selfsame draw. It’s my grown-up, guilty pleasure substitute for Miss America.
What can I say? I can’t help enjoying the exuberance of the toy breeds, the reward-hungry look of the hunting breeds and, best of all, the silly pride of the French Bulldog. The sight of a well-turned paw and luscious ear conformation on my favorite Frenchie will never fail to elicit the oohs and aahs reminiscent of my siblings’ praise for Miss Florida.
Is this too much of a stretch for you? Can you not see where this post is heading? The purebred phenomenon—indeed, the dog craze and the overall trend towards increasing pet ownership and animal devotion in general—has fueled the Westminster’s now-annual, television event status. Soon, I predict it will out-sell any beauty pageant (though maybe not Vogue).
And that’s a good thing, from this vet’s point of view. Anything that speaks to increasing interest in pets along with decreasing cultural self-absorption is an excellent trend. I wish I could discern this kind of improvement in all aspects of our national psyche.
But doesn’t Westminster seem a little over-done? Has anyone out there (besides the makers and die-hard fans of Best in Show) wondered why the world of show dogs hasn’t changed with the times? I mean, with the expanded interest in pets and purebreds, how come normal people haven’t weighed in on the appearance of the show?
Isn’t it time someone replaced the ridiculous outfits of the handlers’ [severely retarded] fashion sense with something more updated? And that hair! What’s up with that? With each new handler-dog close-up, I’m reminded of the opening scenes from an episode of The Swan.
Now maybe my Miss America analogy is getting a little out of control (and Vogue may well be going to my head), but if it’s a dog show (in New York City of all places) shouldn’t all the handlers be wearing black? If the goal is to showcase the dog well, then, is it too much to ask that we not be distracted by the flash of a colorfully sequined cardigan?
And what’s this whole obsession with beauty anyway? Why are we so conditioned to accept (indeed, internalize) artificial, man-made standards of beauty, whether in human or animal? This basic aspect of human nature is one we tussle with daily—that is, if you’re anything like me.
I have a theory (as always): Perhaps those of us sick of seeking beauty in our ever-diminishing radiance of youth turn to the dogs as a sign that beauty can be found without, as well. The more sinister corollary to this hypothesis posits that when beauty cannot be found within…it must be found elsewhere.
If you want to get political here we can also discuss the conundrum of creating beauty by genetically altering a species then asking it to parade about, displaying its ability to conform to the arbitrary standards put forth by a group of “fanciers.”
It does sound a little off, does it not? No matter. I like the implications of a dog show a whole lot more than that of a beauty pageant. I’ll take Westminster over Miss America this year and every year.