6:30: Arrive insanely early. Use the time to psyche myself up for all the big dogs I am about to see. Don’t care about the small ones. I want to see dogs the size of Danny DeVito.
6:45: Walk around Madison Square Garden and buy overpriced popcorn. Cannot stop jiggling my leg, causing my companion to compare me to a tweaking junkie.
7:00: Explain to my companion that it might not be the best idea for me to be around dogs right now. Am currently going through a phase where I crave a dog the way some women crave a baby. Combination of this and sodium-heavy popcorn start to have manic effect.
7:30: Junior showmanship division starts. Immediately zone in on a big fluffy spaniel. Dogs and handlers prance around in a circle while judges look on, taking notes. Dogs seem a little brainwashed but upbeat nonetheless. Kick the chair in front of me when the big spaniel loses to a little herding dog. Companion looks worried. Still have 4 hours to go.
8:00: First official Best of Group judging begins with the Sporting Group. Mostly impeccably groomed, medium-sized dogs that look like they belong in a J.Crew catalog. Fall in love with a retriever with soulful eyes. Arena-sized awww proves I’m not alone.
8:15: Notice that female dog handlers tend to wear very sparkly outfits. Why take away attention from dogs? Applaud the sensible handler who is wearing a plain business suit with tennis shoes and a baseball cap.
8:30: Start growing fond of the stiff-lipped, baritone announcer. Announces each dog with a short description of its breed, but sometimes throws in strange asides like “a great dog if you don’t mind a little drool” or “hope you like wet beards!” Laugh at each joke like an over-enthusiastic studio audience member at The Steve Harvey Show.
8:45: Announcement about the dangers of buying dogs from pet stores elicits cheers from audience. Announcement urges us to buy from expensive breeders instead. What about animal shelters? Begin to feel maternal urge shift towards mutts.
9:00: Best of Group judging begins for Working Group. Cannot stop swooning. Am partial to big dogs with squished, ugly faces, like the Dogue de Bordeux and Leonberger. Become obsessed with a Tibetan mastiff who makes his owner look Oompa Loompa-esque. My companion grows weary of constant baby talk.
9:30: Winners are announced by the judges pointing to them in very lackadaisical fashion. Seems kind of anti-climactic. Wish they had a more dramatic system, e.g. Maury’s “You ARE the father!”
9:45: Final Best of Group: terriers. Yawn. Have no interest in little dogs. Take this time to find an outlet and charge my phone. Begin to notice the large number of inebriated dog fans around me. Woman with beer cozy in hand staggers towards me and asks for directions to bathroom. I point to the right and she says, “Shanks.”
10:00: Finance bro in suit tries to get his crowd section to start a wave. “C’mon – it’s the freakin’ Westminster Dog Show.” Eventually the wave catches on and makes a couple of laps around the stadium before being abruptly cut off by announcer: it’s time for Best in Show.
10:20: Finalists for their show prance around stage, and cheap seats begin shouting out their preferences. “C’mon German wirehaired!” “Russell terrier, baby!” “ENG-LISH SHEEP-DOG! ENG-LISH SHEEP-DOG!” I’m obviously rooting for the crowd favorite.
10:25: Judge takes obnoxiously long time to make decision. Cannot handle the suspense and put head in between knees. Audience grows tense. Companion continues reading.
10:30: Sheepdog loses to tiny monkey-faced affenpinscher. Complain that life isn’t fair. Companion says it’s time to go home. Take one last look at sheepdog, humbly accepting second place. Maternal dog-urge now stronger than ever.
12:00: Spend the rest of the night watching YouTube videos of soldiers coming home to their dogs. Not helping.