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At the Westminster dog show, an exhibition of dogs and devotion

NEW YORK (AP) — Less than three years ago, Mary Ann and David Giordano took turns lying on the living room floor with their Afghan dog, Frankie, hand-feeding the desperately ill dog anything she wanted.

NEW YORK (AP) — Less than three years ago, Mary Ann and David Giordano took turns lying on the living room floor with their Afghan dog, Frankie, hand-feeding the desperately ill dog anything she wanted.

She had developed severe kidney problems after contracting Lyme disease, despite taking medications intended to ward off the ticks that carry the bacteria that cause the disease. Vets were unsure she would survive.

But on Monday, Frankie was at the Westminster Kennel Club dog show, healthy and ready to compete. She would compete against more than a dozen other Afghan hounds – including the winner of last month’s World Dog Show in Croatia – for a chance to advance to the next round of the United States’ most prestigious canine event. States.

“It was really hard,” Mary Ann Giordano said, her voice catching as she described Frankie’s eight-month ordeal. “But she made it.”

For all the pooch display of Westminster – the coiffed poodles, the toy dogs with topknots, the formality of dogs trotting around a ring – it is also an illustration of the bond people form with dogs, and what one person can do for the other. will do.

Such as setting up a series of box fans and even a portable dehumidifier to get the long, thick cords of a puli dry after a bath, a process that can take 24 hours, in Valarie Cheimis’ experience. The cords form naturally, although owners aid the process by separating them.

Why go through all that?

“These are nice dogs. They are full of personality,” Cheimis said as she petted Csoki, one of her pulik (the correct plural), before the bell rang.

Sure, the Hungarian shepherd breed can be stubborn and barking, Cheimis said, but Csoki also cares for her geese and chickens at home in Kingfield, Maine, and even snuggles next to the chicks.

Mister, a bloodhound who won an award for his breed on Monday, is also putting his breed’s age-old instincts to work. He is qualified to locate missing people, although his calls so far have been resolved before they hit the field, said co-owner, breeder and handler Renee Wagner of Niagara Falls, New York.

The 148th Westminster show kicked off Saturday with an agility competition — won by a mixed-breed dog for the first time since Westminster added the event in 2014. Nimble, the winner, was handled by Cynthia Hornor, who took home the trophy with a border collie last year.

Monday was the start of the traditional judging that leads to the Best in Show prize, which will be awarded on Tuesday evening. The semi-finals start on Monday evening, with the winners of each breed competing against others in their ‘group’, such as hunting dogs or sheepdogs.

The more than 2,500 entrants in the first round range from tiny Yorkshire terriers to towering Great Danes. They include a newly added breed, the Lancashire heeler, represented Monday by a single competitor named Mando.

If he knew there was a lot on his small shoulders, he didn’t show it when he appeared in the first round and someone in the crowd shouted, “Yes! History!”

“He just has a rock star attitude,” handler Jessica Plourde said afterward.

The show was also a first for Alfredo Delgado and Maria Davila, who traveled from Juncos, Puerto Rico, with their French bulldog, Duncan.

Their path began when Delgado’s brother found a lost Frenchie. He was soon reunited with his owner, but Delgado was intrigued by the breed.

A few years later he was in the Westminster ring as Duncan’s breeder, owner and handler, with Davila cheering him on.

“We fulfilled a dream by being here,” Davila said afterward. “To share with experienced people in the ring – that was great.”

Westminster routinely attracts a selection of dog shows. This year’s field includes Stache, a Sealyham terrier who won the televised National Dog Show last Thanksgiving, and Comet, a shih tzu who won the huge American Kennel Club National Championship televised Dec. 31 .

Comet is “exactly everything you would want in a Shih Tzu,” co-owner, breeder and handler Luke Ehricht said after Comet won his breed Monday morning. With a flowing coat like a vanilla and caramel sundae that melts on the skin table, the dog looked up at his owner with the sweet expression so prized in the breed.

“He’s a very sweet, affectionate dog” who knows when it’s time to act and when it’s time to relax, said Ehricht of Monclova, Ohio.

Later, Frankie, the recovered Afghan Hound, and her littermate Belle stood side by side in their breed ring. So did the Giordanos, a couple from Annandale, New Jersey, who have been side by side since high school. David cared for Frankie, while his wife managed Belle.

Both dogs made happy laps around the ring, but neither won. This also applied to the recent winner of the World Dog Show, Zaida. The ribbon went to another high-ranking Afghan named Louis.

“This breed is supposed to be ‘the king of dogs,’ and he knows he is,” said handler and co-owner Alicia Jones.

Jennifer Peltz, The Associated Press