The year 2022 was an unusual year for the Westminster Dog Show. It’s usually held at Madison Square Garden in the winter, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the show moved to the Lyndhurst Mansion in Westchester, New York. It’s the stuff of Gothic novels.
The historic events of the past two years (and counting) have dramatically changed the landscape of the American dog show. The COVID-19 pandemic and its subsequent effects on “everything” have altered how and where shows are held—now and for the foreseeable future. It is safe to say nothing will ever be quite the same again. And although social distancing, mask wearing, and proof of vaccination are no longer mandated by clubs or local authorities, supply chain failures, runaway inflation, and rising gas prices are causing many to reconsider itineraries and show schedules. Dickens himself couldn’t have set a melodrama in as ominous and foreboding a period as the current one.
Thankfully, the human spirit is strong and as resilient as the bond we share with our faithful companions. Nowhere in the dog world has this been better proven than at Lyndhurst, where the members of the Westminster Kennel Club have welcomed the fancy for the past two seasons. Despite unimaginable challenges, the club’s historic event has persisted in the most exquisite of settings—a castle set elegantly above the banks of the Hudson, surrounded by grounds seemingly designed to host the world’s most prestigious gathering of purebred dogs. The addition of a third day of competition this year allowed for mini breaks in the schedule that offered a more leisurely pace to the judging while providing lucky exhibitors and photographers an unhurried moment to capture treasured wins. The only detail missing was a continuous breeze with a hint of jasmine in the air.
For television viewers who’ve come to expect a parade of Westminster’s breed winners on Monday and Tuesday nights in February, this year’s summer presentation did not disappoint. Although the surprise element has long been gone thanks to the pervasiveness of smart phones and social media, and the llive-streaming that is generously provided from each and every breed ring, this year’s nightly telecasts again successfully presented the atmosphere and excitement of New York City’s Madison Square Garden—if not the enormity of that iconic venue or the excitement provided by MSG’s multimedia jumbotron. For TV audiences in Salem, Oregon, and Salem, Massachusetts, 2022 Westminster Dog Show looks, sounds, and feels just like the celebration of purebred dogs that has been welcomed into American homes for generations.
Rumor has it that next year’s show will be held again at Lyndhurst. Only time (and the unpredictability of the year ahead) will tell.
Introduction & photo by Dan Sayers