Lester Holt Knows Dogs, Even Westminster Show Dogs Work Wonders; Frei's Best in Show Picks.



Lester Holt


2007 Best in Show champ, James (Ch. Felicity’s Diamond Jim)


Lester Holt

            It seems loyalty is hard to come by these days. “That’s unless you have a dog,” says Lester Holt news anchor on MSNBC, and co-host of the weekend edition of ‘Today.”

            “Dogs will always be loyal, they will always give love. We’ve always had dogs. And when I was a kid I used to tell my dog all my problems.”

            Holt will join David Frei on both the USA Network and CNBC to broadcast the 132nd Annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, February 11 and 12. After appearing on the “The Today Show,” if a segment doesn’t go right, does Holt go home and whine to his dog? Holt laughs, “I did that as a kid, not anymore. But if I did, Millie (his border collie-mix) would listen.”

            On a recent appearance on “Late Night with Conan O’Brien,” O’Brien called Holt one of the nicest and most approachable people in the business. Is that because dog guys are nice guys? Again, Holt laughs, “I don’t know about that, but maybe there is something about people who have a pet.”


David Frei

            For Frei the answer isn’t maybe. “People with dogs are generally more willing to be self-giving in their lives,” he says.  “And we do know that having a dog is actually healthy.”

            Frei has extended his understanding of what dogs can do into a life mission. He’s the president of an animal assisted therapy organization called Angel on a Leash. Trained therapy dogs go into health care facilities and schools, as well as rehabilitation, hospice, extended care, and correctional facilities. Wagging tails work miracles, changing lives even saving lives.


2007 Best in Show champ, James (Ch. Felicity’s Diamond Jim)

            Last year’s, Westminster Best in Show winner happened to be a therapy dog, Champion Felicity’s Diamond Jim, an English Springer Spaniel.

            Westminster is yet again at capacity with 2,500 dogs inside Madison Square Garden. This year, four newly accepted American Kennel Club breeds will be seen at Westminster for the first time:

  • Beauceron: A versatile, independent 70 to 100 lb. breed. Shown in the Working Group.
  • Plott: A 40 to 60 lb. hound of various colors that traditionally brings big game to bay or tree. Shown in the Hound Group.
  • Sweedish Vallhund: Originally bred to herd cattle in Sweden. A 25 to 30 lb. dog capable of jumping vertically as cats can. Shown in the Herding Group.    
  • Tibetan Mastiff: Their name in Tibetan translates ‘tied to a stake dogs’ because they often were tied down to guard properties during the day, then allowed to roam the property at night. Few in their right might dared challenge these dogs who often exceed 100 lbs. Shown in the Working Group.

            Frei explains dog shows are similar to a kind advancing bracket in college basketball. First dogs compete against all those within their breed. For example, at Westminster, there will 51 Labrador Retrievers. A judge will select the best Lab from the bunch. “For real dog show aficionados, this breed judging is sometimes the most interesting judging to watch,” says Frei. “How do you compare all these Labs? To many, except color, they all look alike. Of course, the judges are looking at everything. Some judges are like artists who look at the total picture, the overall balance of conformation to what comes closest to the perfect dog described in the breed standard. But other judges are ‘head hunters,’ who are into the proportion and size of the head; others may focus the most on the movement.”

            The breed judging is held during the day, and not televised. However, highlights will be show on the Westminster Kennel Club website, www.westminsterkennelclub.org.

            Each breed falls into one of seven Groups (Herding, Hound, Non-Sporting, Sporting, Terrier, Toy, Working). The Labrador, for example, is in the Sporting Group. The best Labrador (named Best in Breed by the judge during the day) and the best of each breed in that group – which includes setters, spaniels and other retrieving breeds then all compete against one another in the Group competition. One dog is chosen to represent each group. It’s those seven dogs who contend for the coveted Best in Show title.

            Odds are a Labrador won’t win, only because a Labrador Retriever has never won Best in Show at Westminster. It’s more likely to be a breed representing the Terrier Group will win just because a terrier has walked away with the Westminster Best in Show trophy most often, 44 times (with the wire Fox Terrier gaining the most Best in Show wins at Westminster with 13).

Frei’s Prognostications:

            David Frei follows the dog show scene like a Bloodhound. He sniffs out the top contenders for Best in Show for Westminster:

            Champion K-Run’s Park Me In First, a Beagle, This is the fifth top dog in America. “An all-American, and an underdog,” says Frei. “A member of the Hound group hasn’t won since 1983, maybe it’s time.”

            Champion Smash Jp Win A Victory, a Toy Poodle. The number one winning dog in American, and the Toy Group winner at Westminster last year. “This dog is certainly favored to do well, but the problem is winning the competitive Toy Group,” Frei says.

            Champion Redwitch Reason To Believe, an Akita. The number two winning dog in the U.S. “This dog is expected to be right up there, very competitive,” Frei says.

            Champion Cookieland Seasyde Hollyberry, a Pointer. “One of the hottest dogs, having won a series of shows coming into Westminster, another underdog,” say Fei. “Certainly a dog to watch out for.”

            Champion Efbe’s Hidalgo At Goodspice, a Sealyham Terrier. “At Westminster, a terrier always has a shot, and this is the number one terrier in the country at the moment.”

©Steve Dale, Tribune Media Services