Dog lovers all over world log in to watch Westminster show

AP News
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Posted: Feb 13, 2015 4:14 AM
Dog lovers all over world log in to watch Westminster show

NEW YORK (AP) — Macarena Robledo loves hounds. All of 'em, especially petit basset griffon Vendeens.

So she fully intends to plop down for a front-row look Monday when the beagles, whippets and Plotts enter the judging ring at the Westminster Kennel Club dog show.

Her view comes with a nice summer breeze, too — from the garden at home in Rancagua, a copper mining city in central Chile.

Robledo and others around the globe will be watching thanks to new tech at America's top pooch pageant, a Westminster app designed to give each of the 2,711 dogs its own live shot.

"You get the illusion that you are actually attending the show, even if you are miles away from it," she wrote by email. "In my case, it would imply an almost 12-hour flight that costs way more than the mobile app."

From a small island off the coast of Australia, to a hotel veranda overlooking the Pacific Ocean in Nicaragua to an accountant's office near the fjords of Norway, far-flung fans say they're planning to pay $1.99 to virtually sit ringside.

Julia Thomas will be studying her smartphone while on vacation in Osaka, Japan.

"For as long as I can remember, it's been a tradition to watch the show with my family. I hope the new app helps us to keep the tradition alive, even when we're on opposite sides of the planet!" she wrote.

It's sure a long way from how things ran at the first Westminster show. That was in 1877, a year after Alexander Graham Bell was credited with inventing the telephone.

Going into the 21st century, Westminster wanted to become more tech savvy.

"Our audience has always skewed relatively old," said David Frei, set to host the Westminster telecast for the 26th time. "Our TV viewers in the early 2000s were in their mid-50s and gaining each ensuing year."

"With social media, understandably, our goal was to try to get younger. So we got into Facebook in 2010 and then Twitter when we could. That really took off," said Frei, who doubles as director of communications for the WKC.

Last year, the show added Instagram and hired a social media company to oversee its online presence.

Westminster said fans watched streaming video on its website last February from 168 countries, including Kenya, Libya and Uzbekistan. Overall, the site got 4 million hits.

"We wanted to broaden the umbrella of the sport of dogs," WKC President Sean McCarthy said Thursday. "Social media was a way to do that."

The best in show winner will be picked Tuesday night on the USA Network, with a Portuguese water dog and an old English sheepdog as the top contenders at Madison Square Garden. CNBC televises the group judging on Monday night.

For many fanciers, the chance to watch any of the 192 breeds and varieties is the biggest draw of the app. Viewers can switch between the nine judging rings to see, say, all 58 golden retrievers or the 15 boxers. There's no commentary, only dogs.

This is the third year of the Westminster app, the first time with a price tag. Along with better camera angles and enhanced coverage, there's a full show guide.

Be it a few blocks away at Columbus Circle or up near the Arctic Circle, dog lovers are eager to watch.

Iselin Wang plans to follow the Belgian Tervurens from her office chair in Bergen, Norway. The accountant admits she'll be "howling" if her favorite does well.

"My co-workers know how crazy I am about the fur-kids, so they will probably not even notice," she wrote.

On nature-filled Phillip Island in Australia, Tabitha Parfitt is ready to see the bloodhounds. They show at 8:30 a.m. Monday in New York — that's 12:30 a.m. Tuesday at her home, which she shares with six dogs.

"I will probably be glued to my screen surrounded by my pups in my lounge. By that time, the penguins will be in their nests, the wallabies will be out," she wrote.

Most recently from Palm Desert, California, Terry Robbins is now all set up at the Playa Roca Beach Hotel in Las Penitas, Nicaragua. She and her pals usually bring a big flat-screen TV onto the veranda for Westminster nights. This year, they might even watch the popular mockumentary "Best in Show" as a prelude.

Robbins said she's "getting to know" her new app as the show approaches.

"Being an expat, I find that these American events become much more special, or at least we make them more special. So we intend to try to watch the breed judging this year and the finals," she said. "We appreciate tech even more being away."