Two canine brothers from Graham are vying this week to be the nation’s top dog at the 137th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York.
Littermates Cisco and Kid, miniature bull terriers, are two of 3,200 pooches being judged today and Tuesday – all going paw-to-paw for one top spot: Best in Show.
More accurately, it’s the dogs’ owners hoping for the most prestigious of all American canine titles. The dogs are just along for the fun of it.
It’s not the first trip to Westminster for Deb and Alex Guerrero, the two dogs’ owners. Kid won Best of Breed at the show in 2012. Though two rungs down from Best in Show, it’s still a highly coveted award.
For the record, American Kennel Club-registered Cambria’s Cisco the Kidd is Alex’s dog and Cambria’s Kid N Play is Deb’s. They were born at the Guerreros’ Graham kennel.
Though the 2-year-old dogs are siblings, Cisco and Kid are not quite Facebook friends. There is more than a little sibling rivalry.
“They’re terriers. They do have testicles. They tolerate each other,” Deb said.
That rivalry extends to the show circuit.
Last year Cisco won the Miniature Bull Terrier Van Hildrikhusen Trophy Show held in Gettysburg, Pa. – which, apparently, is equivalent to pulling the Thanksgiving turkey off the table if you’re a terrier. Not to be outdone, Kid won Best in Show on Feb. 3 in an AKC event in Fresno, Calif.
On Feb. 22, Cisco will one-up Kid again by taking a plane to England to compete in the world’s largest dog show, Crufts, in Birmingham.
Though their dogs might be rivals, the couple do not compete off the show arena.
“Alex and I have been married since 1978. We were childhood sweethearts. But,” Deb said laughing, “he knows I have the better dog.”
Both dogs are shown by the Guerreros or Kid’s co-owner, Luke Baggenstos, also a Graham resident. Deb hadn’t decided before leaving for New York whether she or Baggenstos will show the dog at Westminster.
“It’s the most extravagant feeling when you are out there,” Deb said of being in the show arena with her dog. “Your heart just goes pitter-patter.”
But it’s also fun to sit in the stands.
“It’s like watching your child play sports,” she said.
There are two levels of competition before a dog makes it to Best in Show.
First, all 3,200 dogs representing 187 breeds compete for Best of Breed (the award Kid won in 2012 for miniature bull terriers). Winners of that first round move up to the group competition. Cisco and Kid, if they win, would compete in the terrier group.
Finally, the seven winners of the group competitions compete for Best in Show.
Before the competitions start, the public can come in for a meet and greet with the 3,200 dogs.
“It is so crowded you can barely breathe,” Deb said.
After that, the owners prepare the dogs for the show.
“We cut their toenails, trim their whiskers, groom the hair in their ears,” Deb said. Makeup is not allowed, but the Guerreros do use chalk on the dogs’ faces to brighten them up.
And what do the dogs think of all of this?
“If they didn’t like it, you wouldn’t want to show them,” Deb said. “But they do like it. They look forward to it.”
And they particularly like the meet and greets.
“They lie on their backs for rubs,” Deb said. “They want to give (visitors) big kisses.”
Make no mistake: These are pampered pooches. Along with many other Westminster competitors, the Guerreros and their dogs stay at the Hotel Pennsylvania across from Madison Square Garden where the show is held.
The hotel rolls out the red carpet for the dogs. Tail-wagging amenities include a doggie spa, gym (with treadmills), animal acupuncture and a pet psychic.
And if a canine visitor leaves a calling card on that red carpet? A vigilant hotel staff member rushes in for a quick clean-up, Deb said.
More than 3,000 dogs might seem like a lot for one dog show, but each is either a champion or received a major award at an AKC show in 2012.
The dogs are judged on their general appearance. Miniature bull terriers are known for their strongly built frames and “that wonderfully egg-shaped head,” Deb said. “They are a lot of dog in a small package.”
Deb is hoping Kid makes at least a repeat of last year’s performance if not better.
“I’m ecstatic over this dog – all of my boys and what they have done.”Craig Sailor: 253-597-8541 firstname.lastname@example.org