Published: February 13, 2010
“Do the magazines influence some judges? I’m sure they do,” she says. “Do they influence everybody? No. Do I see a dog who looks great in the magazines and think I’d love to judge that dog? Yes.”
Professional handlers and owners say they wouldn’t write the checks if the ads didn’t get results. There are thousands of specials in any given year, and in a realm this competitive, the ads elevate you above the pack, they say. Just by buying them, you announce that you’re playing to win.
WHAT do owners get back for their rather substantial investments in these dogs? Not money, and woe unto the foolish reporter who suggests that money might be a perfectly reasonable reward. (Only indie rockers and physicians are more sensitive to questions about profits.) By every account, a show dog is a sinkhole. Even for a Westminster champ, the stud fee is a few grand. Rufus will die before he makes a dent in the sum spent on him.
Pet food companies like to brag about the number of Westminster group winners who eat their product. But Nike they are not. The best handlers are courted, but with nothing more valuable than the occasional hat, tote bag and coupons for discounted chow. When Uno the beagle won best in show at Westminster two years ago, his owners weren’t paid even when Purina featured him in a full-page USA Today ad.
No, the strange and inescapable truth is that people drop hundreds of thousands of dollars in this realm for one reason: they love dogs. Or, rather, they love a specific breed or dog and they are willing to part with a small fortune proving that their breed or dog is better than yours.
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