On Monday, David Roth went to the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. On Tuesday, Pete Beatty went to the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. On Wednesday, they talked about their experiences—about their hopes and dreams and feelings and allergies, about strange ladies suits and eugenics and the disarming sadness of gigantic dogs.
David Roth: Pete, I want to talk to you about the Dogue de Bordeaux. Mostly about whether or not there's a funnier way to spell "dog" than that. I can't come up with any.
Pete Beatty: The French word for dog is not even "dogue."
David: I know! It's like how the French call pesto “pistou.” They know that there's another word for it in another language, but they just want to pour some bearnaise on it anyway.
Pete: I can't even imagine what those dogues were bred for. Maybe for stopping medieval bank robberies. Except their jowl situation is really not very aerodynamic. Or conducive to moving.
David: I get the sense that a great many dogs—the ones that do not clearly have wolves or foxes among their grandparents—were built for fickle, moody, quite probably syphilitic monarchs. Some powdered-up Bourbon king was like "I need something that's like 220 pounds and looks as glum as I feel right now."
Pete: "Crossbreed me the biggest ribcage you've got with the biggest lip flaps."
David: /claps hands twice
David: So how big are they? Because they look like 1,000 pounds of sorrow.
Pete: They are dude-sized. Compare for scale the above dogue feet to the dude feet.
David: My Small-To-Medium Dog Day experience is obviously a matter of public record. Do you feel like you got a lot out of Big Dog Day?
Pete: Big Dog Day was a revelation. I grew up with Medium Dogs, so I always was sort of envious of people who had dogs that were big enough to use as work animals, like farm-work animals. I was saddened that I did not see any fat dads in Big Dog brand clothing. Which I am a connoisseur of, as a semi-regular attendee of Brooklyn Cyclones games. But the Westchester fashion game was pretty tight, if tightness is judged by "amusing to me." There was this one dude who was dressed like an extra on Silk Stalkings who had entrants in like every mainstream Big Dog category.
David: Oh wow. Freshly dipped in the stubble-plus-Bubblicious-colored suit.
Pete: The best part about Early ‘90s Guy with Enormous Dogs is that he was really short and round. One of the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog owners had the shiniest suit I have ever seen, like the womens' equivalent of a Silvio-from-The-Sopranos Halloween costume.
David: And ladies dressed like they're going to 50-year-old Prom. So many space-age polymers in that place.
Pete: Lord, the shiny suits! It was like the video for “Mo Money Mo Problems” if Lane Bryant did the wardrobe.
David: Yeah, that happens. They’re peacocking. Mystery hires himself out as a consultant to higher-budget entrants. "Have you considered another pair of ski goggles? Like just to wear on your head."
Pete: The woman with the Shiniest Suit in World History ALSO had a sparkly James-Brown-style dressage robe for her Greater Swiss Mountain Dog.
David: The dogs that had the Hector Macho Camacho dog-ponchos were great. Especially because the ones I saw dressed like that were French Bulldogs and such, dogs that always look kind of embarrassed anyway.
Pete: I feel like I missed out on the primo dog fluff.
David: You missed the fluff, and I missed the Dogue Shouwe.
Pete: Although because of spaniels I saw a lot of dogs wearing David Foster Wallace-style head bandannas (bandognas?), and/or with their ears taped up like rugby dudes.
David: Yeah, the poodles were like that on Monday. Some real Capt. Lou Albano shit.
Pete: French Bulldogs just have this look of knowing they're an affront to nature, albeit an adorable affront. They're all born by dog C-section (delivered by dog obstetricians), just like Julius Caesar's dog, because their heads are so ginormous. Which again is not to say they are not comically cute. They are. Change: I was alarmed by the creepy lack of barking. The big dogs did not bark. They seemed afraid to bark.
David: Yeah, I heard only a few. Even the basset hounds were eerily silent.
Pete: Basset hounds are complainers, in my experience.
David: I think that's just how they talk. It's like how Richard Lewis could be telling you he had a great day, awesome time with the family at Six Flags or whatever, but it would still sound like he was miserable and worried.
Pete: There was a brief outburst of barking during the Junior Showmanship Event, and people were murmuring in the crowd, like when someone slaps their kid in public.
David: Yeah, there were some figure-skating-style "oh no's" when a corgi tried to scale the podium on Monday. He just wanted to help out, use his basically unusable legs. And he was a corgi, there was no way he was getting up there. But I think he got docked for it.
Pete: Corgis all seem to have the personality of a really nice, really dumb drunk dude.
David: Oh yeah. Huggy, but fully incapable.
David: So the angle that I missed, being there, is that apparently the WKC is comprised of creepo eugenics nuts. Which, because I only interacted with dog owners, dog lovers and dogs, I was able to ignore.
Pete: Wait, human eugenics?
David: No, dog eugenics. AS FAR AS I KNOW.
David: Is there a L. Ron Hubbard Exploding Dianetics Volcano gif we can put next to Doganetics?
Pete: We will make it so.
David: The dogs I liked the most were either hapless/sweet or big/sad-seeming. I saw fewer of the latter than you did. But the bloodhounds seemed like pretty awesome animals, if also like they'd Seen Some Shit.
Pete: I spent a lot of time speculatively psychoanalyzing the dogs. The big, big dogs went two ways. They were either panting with a weary resignation, doing that "dog eyebrow" thing and looking at people like “yo, are you done yet," or just like giving up on life. The medium dogs were way more professional, like upper-shelf retail floorwalkers. They seemed to intuitively understand that their job was to be gleefully assaulted by passers-by.
David: The weight of many pets and scratches and "eeeyyeeess, who's a dog? Who's a dog?"-s.
Pete: So much low-level psy-ops interrogation! "Are you a good boy? Are you?"
David: Yeah, you're not going to get an answer out of that Affenpinscher, man. He lives his answer.
Pete: I got the same vibe off those dogs as I do off human athletes. They're in better shape than me, they're cleaner than me. They are probably in terms of net worth more valuable than me.
David: Also no ambivalence or ambiguity, really. To be fair, you are a much better editor. Also, though, much less loyal.
Pete: I can open doors and food containers! I even managed to finagle a stale corn muffin from the media hospitality room. I was particularly amazed that the show floor was way cleaner than the media holding pen. The place filled with hundreds of animals had way less crumbs in it than the room sparingly used by journalists.
David: Probably smelled marginally better, too. Also the media area was fascinating when I was there on Monday. No one from the Journal, no one from Times, AP dudes doing what they do. And then the rest of it was furiously busy journalists for sites like Dogs.com.
David: There was one guy, next to me, who was in a suit, very professional, seemingly really banging out copy. That I later found out was just updating Dogs.com's Facebook page all day.
Pete: There were also bandit news sites that had flyers on some of the tables. infodog.com, et cetera, offering real-time results during WKC. Infodog.com is the most rugged dog-samizdat GUI you will see this side of Mikhail Bulgakov.
David: The flyers were great. I didn't take a picture of the magazine that was just all about Cesar Millan. Just entirely about him, I think it was called Cesar! The Official Cesar Millan Magazine, Cesar Millan Prop.
Pete: Yes. I stared at that and walked away afraid for the future.
David: It was a thick glossy magazine, though. It was like Allure, but all the articles were about heartworms and discipline.
Pete: And Cesar Millan. “How to trim your goatee using lasers.”
David: “11 Steps To A More Bafflingly Self-Assured You.”
Pete: In a different life, what did Cesar Millan do? Disgruntled, swaggering jockey? Cardinal Richelieu? Darren Rovell?
David: Philandering owner of a chain of day spas.
David: So, last question: would you go back another year? Would you pay for a ticket? I would, although I have no idea how much tickets cost and also would feel silly instantly for going. Also I just found out that my father used to go to the show before I was born, when he was living with my mom in Central Jersey. He’d get done with what he was doing in the city, buy a ticket, and go play with the dogs for two hours, then get on a train and go home. I could sort of imagine doing that. Although I might feel weirder about it than he seems to.
Pete: I would totally go back. It was like going to a giant party full of awesome dogs. Who are there to entertain you. I don't know if I would actually pay money but that has more to do with me than the dogs. It turns out that watching people in shiny but conservatively-tailored clothing run in circles with really clean, well-behaved dogs is deeply therapeutic. Even if dog shows started out as scrofulous 19th-century dudes comparing their hunting companions and practicing homebrew eugenics, they've reached a totally benign, chill plateau on their evolution toward facilitating the Dog Skynet Singularity.
David: It is so easy to ignore the scrofulous/eugenic etc. because of everyone else. The dog people and the dogs. Trust the dogs. Let the dogs do what they do and it will all be fine.
Pete: Go with them if you want to live.