RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
Canine contestants and their owners and handlers have flocked to Manhattan this week in hopes of being named Best in Show at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. Judging for the main events in this 137-year-old dog show takes place at Madison Square Garden.
Traditionally, competitors stay across the street at the Hotel Pennsylvania, which, as NPR's Allison Keyes found out, has special amenities for its four-legged guests.
(SOUNDBITE OF A CROWD)
JERRY GRYMEK: Hey, buddy. Welcome to the hotel, buddy. Welcome to the Hotel Pennsylvania. How are you?
ALLISON KEYES, BYLINE: Jerry Grymek is grinning into the face of a border collie in a crate, whose tail begins to thump at the attention. Grymek usually does public relations for the hotel but this week he's the doggie concierge - and clearly, he loves this job.
GRYMEK: And here is a welcome kit and a cookie for your dog.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Thank you very much. Thanks.
GRYMEK: No problem. Where you coming from?
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Charlestown, West Virginia.
KEYES: Besides greeting the contestants...
GRYMEK: These are VIPs - very important pooches - in their own right.
KEYES: Grymek also caters to the special needs of these pampered pets, who just happen to be really expensive show dogs, as well.
GRYMEK: We had a dog that requested an opera singer to be sung to the dog before the show.
KEYES: So the dog was treated to a command performance in the hotel lobby.
GRYMEK: And the dog was dressed in a tuxedo and a top hat, and it was relaxing and it loved it.
KEYES: And, of course, there are requests for red carpets for some dogs and tasty snacks.
GRYMEK: Cheeseburgers with no onions, spinach pizza, chicken burgers - you name it.
KEYES: Wait. Dogs eat spinach pizza?
GRYMEK: Apparently they do.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Get your energy out of you.
KEYES: Some show dogs also apparently like to run on a treadmill, as they can do once Grymek has directed them to the hotel's doggie spa, as owner Joy Graham explains.
JOY GRAHAM: They're dogs first. After that, they're show dogs.
KEYES: She brought six show dogs with her from Birdsboro, Pennsylvania, and she likes them more than humans.
GRAHAM: I have four mini wire dachshunds and two German shorthair pointers.
KEYES: Her dogs love the treadmill but Bella the Doberman, not so much.
ESTEBAN FARIAS: Bella. Let's go, mama. Come on. (Foreign language spoken).
KEYES: Her handler, Esteban Farias, explains that she needs the workout.
FARIAS: She normally runs outside and then we run in a bike or just free, you know. But here, with the weather and all that, it's kind of impossible to she make any exercise outside.
KEYES: But he says Bella - I mean is Tiburon Ariel Bella Dona - is pleased about being at the hotel.
FARIAS: She sleep in bed.
FARIAS: It's very comfortable, yes.
(SOUNDBITE OF MACHINERY)
KEYES: Also at the spa, a couple of white Clumber spaniels, with burnt sienna accents, are getting their hair touched up.
CHRISTINA COX: I think they picked up a little Manhattan schmutz.
KEYES: Owner Christina Cox explains that a white dog with five inches of hair is a challenge to keep clean. So she's brushing a blue solution, that's a combination of lightener and shampoo, on his chest and paws.
GRYMEK: Oh, my gosh. Look at this Alabama dog right here.
KEYES: Back up in the lobby, Grymek greets a Bernese mountain dog - a creature the size of a pony - who is immediately surrounded by a bevy of admirers. Mitchell Dorning rode on the train for 24 hours with Shotzee(ph) from Alabama, and says the big dog took it like a champ.
MITCHELL DORNING: Hey, he watches TV. We watched the "Three Stooges" most of the way up here.
(SOUNDBITE OF A BARKING DOG)
KEYES: Shotzee is just wagging his tail, watching a seemingly endless parade of dogs go by; dogs in crates, dogs being carried like babies, dogs in little dresses, as concierge Jerry Grymek spots a regular and rockets over to say hi.
GRYMEK: Look at those nails. Hello. Butterfly kisses. Kisses. Oh, look at those cute (unintelligible).
KEYES: Grinning, he heads back into the fray. But he's clearly having a blast, catering to a plethora of pampered pooches with high hopes and big dreams.
Allison Keyes, NPR News, New York.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
MONTAGNE: This is NPR News.
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