With Westminster in big chill, dogs and dog owners bundle up

AP News
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Posted: Feb 17, 2015 3:58 PM
With Westminster in big chill, dogs and dog owners bundle up

NEW YORK (AP) — Like many people, Isabella wanted no part of this winter freeze.

Makes sense: She's a xoloitzcuintli, also known as a Mexican hairless dog, and she lives in West Palm Beach, Florida.

So when her owner drove up for the Westminster Kennel Club show, arriving at a Manhattan hotel while temperatures plummeted toward the single digits, Isabella had other ideas.

"We pulled up and opened the car door, she jumped out and then she jumped right back in," veterinarian Diane Voss said. "It's been hard for her."

Same for the Chihuahuas, Italian greyhounds and plenty of other pooches unaccustomed to this kind of frigid weather blasting New York and much of the country this week.

No doubt, this show was serving up a lot of chilly dogs.

Gingery's Rhubarb, among them. She's a little Chinese crested, and was shivering as handler Victor Helu clutched her. Hardly a coat on that breed, aside from the fleece jackets their owners put on them.

"It's pretty cold — for the dogs, too," Helu said.

Helu lives on Long Island, and said he turned up the heat in his car to make her comfortable driving to the city.

Inside Piers 92 and 94, the exhibition space where the dogs spent much of the day, it was warm. Even downright hot in some spots.

But every dog needs to do its business, and that meant a few minutes outside on a walkway above the icy Hudson River.

Diesel the trembling toy fox terrier didn't want to linger. That blue blanket with a hood was no help.

"He was looking for a way back inside," owner Jerry Barlet of Reading, Pennsylvania.

Brian Cox picked up Mercedes, a Brussels griffon, and tucked her inside his winter parka.

"It was 55 degrees when I left Tennessee," he said. "We got here and it was 4."

While in town, owners took precautions with their pets. That often meant no extended romps in Central Park or long strolls to Times Square. There was concern, too, about all the snow-melting salt on the sidewalks and streets because it can irritate their paws.

For some, though, this big chill in the Big Apple was invigorating.

Brenner the American Eskimo dog was totally comfortable, said owner Stephanie Strunk from near Chicago. So was Mo, the Siberian husky from outside Montreal.

"He likes to take a bath in the snow," Mo's owner, Francois Boivin, said Tuesday. "When we go home, he'll be sledding with my wife and daughter."

Bill McFadden, a top handler who guided Mick the Kerry blue terrier to best in show at Westminster in 2003, brought six entries this year. He said they were very adaptable.

"I haven't heard much complaining from the dogs about the cold," he said. "More from some of the people."

"I've seen this weather make the dogs have the 'let's do it!' energy. It can make them frisky," he said at Pier 94.

About 20 blocks away, the best in show competition culminates Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden. By the way, the concession stands at the famed arena do sell hot dogs.

But no chili dogs.