Trials held for Westminster's Best in Show

One of the most prestigious dog shows, the 138th Westminster Kennel Club competition, opens to dog lovers and owners for two days of events. Newsday / Chris Ware (Feb. 10, 2014)

Fluffy white and auburn Chow Chow champion, Quixote, did not make the cut in Monday's trial for Best in Show at the Westminster Dog Show in Manhattan.

"It was a tough day," said Linda Albert, 53, of Hauppauge, who has been showing Quixote since he was a pup. The Chow Chow comes from a three-generational lineage of prized champions, she said. "He's a fantastic dog. He shows like a dream," she said.

But, she added, the professional dog handlers at the Westminster Kennel Club, performing at Piers 92/94 on Manhattan's West Side, make it "a hard show." She said many are well known in the ring for showing various dogs from different owners, sometimes giving them an edge.

There are 190 different breeds competing at the 138th annual edition of the two-day show that started Monday, with the Best In Show class to be held Tuesday at Madison Square Garden. There were a total of 2,845 entries for America's top dog show and Monday featured the hound, toy, nonsporting and herding categories.

Owner Andrea Samuels, 37, of Westbury, said her prized Papillon, Fame, also did not make the cut, but added: "Fame showed well. She was just as flashy as the rest of them." She also acknowledged that competing against the professionals isn't easy. "There are a lot of well-known handlers in the ring . . . It's been an honor just to be here," she said.

Patchogue resident Donald Vasti, 71, who has been showing Afghans for 30 years, left the show happy. His dog, Flex, received an award of merit.

"This is a huge acknowledgment for Westminster," said Vasti. "It's huge."

Sharon Ferraro, 50, of Montauk, co-owner of Flex, added: "It means the judge liked him."

As she nuzzled into Flex's face, she praised him, saying "Good Boy!"White standard poodle, Encore, of Manhattan's Central Park West did make the cut for Best in Show. This will be the elegant show dog's final performance before retiring to breed what its owner hopes are more champs.

"She is special," said owner Toni Sosnoff. "She has a combination of positive attitude, self-confidence and a lot of giving. Encore is the number one nonsporting dog in the nation."

Like any hairdresser, Encore's groomer knows her the best. "She is a princess," said Penny Dugan of Seattle. "She doesn't like to go out on the wet grass and she likes the bed. You have to share the bed and of course she loves to be the center of attention."

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