Two Juneau dogs are being groomed for a February showing at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, one of America's oldest continuous sporting events.
Champion Brezza di Ghaicciaid da Gracia, nicknamed "Breezy," and International American Champion Allayn's Charming Legacy, known as "Legacy," will travel with their owners Sue McGregor and Barbara Bartoo to New York City to show Feb. 10 and 11. Breezy is a Spinone Italiano breed and Legacy is a Pomeranian.
"It's pretty much a beauty pageant," said McGregor, Breezy's owner. "They're not really showing against each other. It's more how each dog measures up to its breed's standards."
At the show, dogs are walked in a ring with others of their breed. Judges evaluate them in minute detail, examining everything from their proportions to the texture of their coats.
"You're looking for particular angles, very specific characteristics," said McGregor. "For example, (with) Spinones it's a disqualification if they have any black on them anywhere. Even a black toenail is a disqualification."
For more on the 127th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, go to www.westminsterkennelclub.org/
The shape of the dogs is very important, Bartoo said. Ideally, Pomeranians such as Legacy should be as long as they are tall.
"Legacy is very square, especially for a female," Bartoo said. "She's got a really good, thick coat, which is good. This weather is definitely helping that."
If a dog is judged to be the best example of its particular breed, it moves on to the group competition. There, different breeds are divided into seven categories and judged against one another. For example, as a "sporting" dog, Breezy would compete against Labradors and other pointers.
In the final stage of competition, the winners of each of the groups battle for the title of "Best in Show." The Westminster event, now in its 127th year, is held at Madison Square Garden.
Breezy and Legacy are 4 years old. They're each champions who have appeared at numerous shows along the West Coast, but this will be the first East Coast show for both, McGregor and Bartoo said.
"It's the dream of a lifetime to go to Westminster," Bartoo said. "I've watched it every year, long before I ever had a purebred dog."
Bartoo, who bought her first Pomeranian in 1994, purchased Legacy from a breeder in Oklahoma. Legacy's grandfather, Champion Great Elms Prince Charming the Second, is the only Pomeranian to win "Best in Show" at Westminster.
"That's why I bought (Legacy), for her great pedigree," Bartoo said.
Training Legacy took some doing, she added.
"Her first year she said, 'I really don't want to do this.' But after that she decided going to shows was fun," Bartoo said. "She loves meeting all the people. She loves the traveling."
McGregor purchased Breezy from a breeder in Michigan when the dog was 8 weeks old. Despite her titles and rare breed - Spinones were accepted into the American Kennel Club only in September of 2000 - Breezy primarily is a pet.
"She's very friendly, likes kids," McGregor said. "We have four dogs, but the others are pets and mixed breeds. ... I wanted to get a purebred dog because I was interested in showing."
Because Breezy ranked as one of the top five Spinones showing in the country for the evaluation period used by Westminster, McGregor was invited to preregister for the show. Only 2,500 dogs are permitted to enter, and spots typically fill within a few hours.
"With Spinones it's been pretty easy to have one of the top dogs because there's relatively few showing," McGregor said. "With the more popular breeds there's much more competition."
Legacy is not ranked as one of the top five Pomeranians, Bartoo said. As a champion, however, she was eligible for entry after the preregistration period concluded. Bartoo used a New York-based entry service to get her form in during the brief seven-hour window.
The dogs and their owners are preparing for the competition. Bartoo and McGregor agreed that, as in any beauty contest, exercise is essential.
"Right now (Legacy's) on a diet," Bartoo said with a laugh. "She had puppies last year and she gained weight and she's having trouble losing it."
Genevieve Gagne-Hawes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.