Pampered Pups Primp for Westminster

For a champion Havenese like four-and-a-half-year-old Lotus from Tampa, Fla., primping for the big competition can be a lengthy process. Between blowouts, pedicures, and teeth cleanings, she hardly has time to think.

"The cultivation process of a dog is most important, and it's not something you can make up in one day, the day of the dog show," says Harry Bennett, Lotus's handler, who spends days working to get Lotus ready before each dog show.

And the next dog show is one of the most important of all. On Monday, Lotus will compete for "Best in Show" at the 133rd Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show at New York City's Madison Square Garden.

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Lotus's owner, Connie Field, says her dog is a little apprehensive. "She's a mother, she has 11-week-old puppies, so she's just making her debut into the show ring after motherhood," Field says.

So to help ease the tension, Field treated Lotus to a specially designed canine massage. It's one of a number of amenities being offered at the Pennsylvania Hotel in New York City, where 1,000 out of 1,700 rooms are filled this week with dogs, all headed for Westminster.

The hotel also offers a dog beauty parlor with grooming stations, blow dryers and aromatherapy, a pet psychic, and special treadmills for the pooches to work out on. There's even a "doggie concierge," Jerry Grymek, who hand out biscuits as guests arrive.

While starlets on the West Coast are gearing up for the Academy Awards and their big night on the red carpet, in New York divas like Lotus are preparing for their debut on the green carpet.

Westminster is the Oscars for the four-legged set. The fetching Fidos are going to compete among 2,500 dogs and 170 purebreds over who has the most elegant gait, dramatic poses and overall beauty.

Last year all the fanfare at Westminster was over Uno, after the beagle won the trophy for the first time in the show's 100 years.

Uno retired a few months later and has spent the past year on a celebrity whirlwind tour, signing pawgraphs, somehow throwing out the first pitch at baseball games, even visiting the White House.

This year the fuss is over the show's letting in a new breed: the hefty Dogue de Bordeaux, the most famous of which starred alongside Tom Hanks in the movie "Turner and Hooch."

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