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Will You Be Watching the National Dog Show Tomorrow?

Eli, National Dog Show Ambassador
By Linda Cole

This year, the National Dog Show will celebrate its 10th anniversary. The televised dog show has become a Thanksgiving Day tradition along with the Macy’s parade. What better way to spend the holiday than surrounded by family and friends as you enjoy a fun filled afternoon of marching bands and floats, good food and lots of great dogs.

I was invited to attend a phone press conference last week that included David Frei and Mary Carillo. David is the Communications Director for the Westminster Dog Show, and Mary is a retired tennis pro turned sports broadcaster. David is hosting the National Dog Show this year, and Mary is the featured reporter and commentator.

The National Dog Show is one of only six dog shows where the public is invited to go behind the scenes to meet the dogs and talk with their handlers and groomers. The show draws the top ranked dogs and this year's entries will be close to 2,000 dogs. Dog lovers can see firsthand how show dogs are prepped for the big stage. Around 20 million dog loving viewers tuned in to watch last year's show.

The idea for a nationally televised dog show was conceived by one of the organizers, John Miller, after he rented the movie “Best in Show.” They researched other prominent dog shows besides the Westminster Kennel Club show and wanted something that would appeal to the masses. Since the Kennel Club of Philadelphia show has always been a benched show, this was an important factor for a nationally televised dog show that could go behind the scenes and show a mass audience of dog lovers what happens behind the curtain before the dogs take the stage. The other factor that made the Philadelphia show appealing was its date in November. That's how the National Dog Show found its way into our homes after the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and before the football games begin for the last 10 years.

This year's show promises to be just as exciting as the last nine have been, and the American Kennel Club will present six new breeds at the National Dog Show. Keep your eyes open for the introduction of the Entlebucher Mountain Dog, Norwegian Lundehund, Xoloitzcuintli, American English Coonhound, Cesky Terrier and Finnish Lapphund. David Frei joked that he has been practicing nonstop on how to correctly pronounce the Xoloitzcuintli (it’s “show-low-eats-queen-tlee”).

Eli, a Belgian Sheepdog, was a show dog and is one of the few therapy dogs from 9/11 still living. He was chosen as the ambassador to represent the remaining living 9/11 search and rescue dogs. Eli was one of the first therapy dogs to arrive on the scene to help console grieving families, victims and first responders after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. He is now 12 years old, but was an energetic two year old in 2001; he was certified as a therapy dog just a few months before 9/11. He and his handler/owner, Sherry Hanley, immediately went to the command center at Liberty State Park in Jersey City to be available for anyone who needed his help. As ambassador for the National Dog Show, Eli represents all of the brave and heroic dogs that worked at Ground Zero and the Pentagon on September 11 and the days following the attacks.

The National Dog Show will air Thanksgiving Day on NBC. This is the first year the competition will be held in a permanent home at the Greater Philadelphia Expose Center. The Kennel Club of Philadelphia has been putting on a show since 1933, but didn't have a permanent home until this year.

I asked David if there were any past winners that stood out over the years. He answered immediately that Stump and Rufus were two special dogs who will always stay with him. Stump, a Sussex spaniel, won at Westminster in 2009 at the age of 10 making him the oldest winner at the WKC show. Rufus, a colored Bull terrier, was the 2006 winner at Westminster because he is such an excellent example of his breed. After winning at Westminster, Rufus began a second career as a certified therapy dog with David's “Angel on a Leash” program.

For me, watching the National Dog Show is a perfect way to relax after a hearty Thanksgiving meal with family and friends. I can't think of a better way to spend a November holiday than watching a parade, followed by lots of great dogs and culminating with football. Hopefully, it will also be a day that doesn't include having to shovel snow from sidewalks, driveways and cars.

Have a safe and happy Thanksgiving Day!

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