Sport: Putting on the Dog

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Upstairs, in the arena of Madison Square Garden, the scene was less hectic. A scattering of smart people sat in boxes or strolled about; other people, haggard, dirty, inarticulate, led their dogs about on leashes. The centre of the large oval arena had been squared off, floored with rough green carpet, spotted here and there with dark, irregular circles. Into this place, people brought their dogs to be examined by the judges. It was for the judges, prodding the sparse flesh upon a terrier's bones or stroking the pursed silky ear of a beagle, to decide how each dog or bitch, rated upon arbitrary points such as length of tale, straightness of back, stance, shape of head, compared in excellence with other dogs of the same breed and class. To the one who surpassed his companions was given, not a good bone, but a blue ribbon.

For three days, while downstairs visitors disregarded signs saying


do not handle the DOGS

and while dog-owners led their charges, with some embarrassment, into "exercise" enclosures differentiated with an eye to sexual segregation, the judging continued. Then, on the last night of the show, the great spectacle began. Five judges came to judge five dogs. Each dog had been adjudged the best in each of five groups—sporting, working, terrier, toy, and non-sporting. One of the five, the judges would select as the best dog in the whole show.

The smallest, a pomeranian, Bogota Firebug, minced into the ring on insect legs. Like a mosquito who has been crawling in the fluffy dust under a boarding house bed, he stood, looking up at the crowd with startled, pert malignance.

Meadow Lark Fearnot, a regal beagle, came flopping his ears with inquisitive dismay. The stench of many persons assailed his infinitely delicate nostrils; he would have enjoyed belling at the crowd of 10,000 people or biting a small girl who sat at the south east corner of the arena; these things were forbidden.

The bulldog Sessue waddled smugly to his place. Less hideous than most of his breed, one could see that his ferocious expression was only a disguise, like those worn by murderers in the movies. In private, one could be sure, this dog was gentle & kind.

Black and silver Cito von der Marktfeste, a German shepherd, strode into the ring like a buccaneer. He was tall at the shoulder, his tail swung behind him like a curved scimitar in a tasselled scabbard, his mouth curled with an ironic courtesy. He regarded the spectators with complete composure, his lean face masking carefully but not completely its sneer. Intimidated by his arrogance, the women who sat nearest the ring applauded its proud and villainous visitor.

How different was Talavera Margaret, the wire-haired foxterrier bitch whom Reginald M. Lewis offered as his champion! She was a sturdy study in angles put together with a T-square. Everything indicated that her vitals were made of steel and rubber; her tail, when touched, would snap upward as crisply as a stick of whalebone. Her frisky good-nature was that of a high-pressure debutante; in a day when such ardent and consciously winsome charm is highly prized in drawing rooms, it cannot fail to have its value in the ring of a dog show; Talavera Margaret was judged the best dog in the show.

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