With Extensive Planning, and Treats, 2,500 Show Dogs Descend on New York

The A-listers who traveled to New York this past weekend, gathering for the biggest event of their careers, arrived by car and driver, or on planes surrounded by entourages. They didn’t even carry their own passports, much less pack their kibble or squeaky toys.

Each and every one of them, though, is a very good dog.

This is Vitellozzo’s second visit to the United States. He has a mandatory pet passport to return home to the European Union.Credit…Clark Hodgin for The New York Times
Vitellozzo with his handler, Valentina Zupan, in their hotel in Long Island City.Credit…Clark Hodgin for The New York Times

Some 2,500 top-ranked dogs are in New York City to compete in this year’s Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. Breed judging, the marquee event, will begin on Monday, while several hundred other dogs have already battled it out in events testing agility, obedience and the ability to dive the farthest off a dock.

Getting into the show takes years of training and effort. Getting to the show requires extensive organizing by owners and handlers, who plan hours- or days-long road or plane trips, pack thousands of dollars worth of gear — grooming tables, industrial-strength hair dryers, leashes, collars, toys, kibble and more — and pray that neither delays nor cancellations disrupt their itineraries.

Treats are nonnegotiable.

“I try to stock up on healthy, single-ingredient treats such as freeze-dried duck or freeze-dried liver,” said Shell Lewis, 71, who came to New York with a Russell terrier and a Cairn terrier. On show days, however, her dogs receive “something special and high value.”

“It involves a drive-through McDonald’s to pick up two sausage biscuits — I eat the biscuits, they get the sausage,” she said.

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