Dogster published my piece about the “Westminster Dog Show Drinking Game” today. The idea for this piece originated during my reporting for The Dog Merchants, which included spending a day at America’s biggest legal dog auction. I watched as more than 300 dogs—Beagles, Chihuahuas, Golden Retrievers, Rottweilers, Yorkshire Terriers and everything in between—were sold to the highest bidder. “Two fifty… two fifty… two fifty…” the auctioneer rattled. “Now two-seventy-five… do I hear three hundred…”
Not long after, I attended the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Within about an hour, I realized I was hearing the same patter. Had I not attended the dog auction, I’m not sure that I would have noticed, but now I could clearly hear the words equally intended to raise the dogs’ value in our minds.
Only instead of calling out prices like the auctioneer, Westminster’s in-house announcer, Michael LaFave, used marketing buzzwords about “history,” words like ancestry, tradition and royalty. He said these “history” buzzwords again and again and again for the audience inside Madison Square Garden.
I went home and watched the televised version of that same Westminster dog show, which I’d recorded on a DVR, and heard similar “history” buzzwords even more frequently with the addition of at-home announcer David Frei (whom the people inside Madison Square Garden can’t hear). It fast became clear that two other categories of buzzwords were also being repeated relentlessly for TV audiences at home. I called them “superstar” words—pretty much anything you’d hear an announcer say about movie celebrities or star athletes at the Oscars or ESPYs—and “conformation” words, which is what the dog show claims to be about.
The Dog Merchants is a work of investigative journalism that talks about the business of breeding and rescuing alike. I wrote it as a “follow the money” book that will let purebred enthusiasts and rescue advocates discuss the issues facing dogs in a whole new way.
In that same vein, I see this laugh-out-loud, fully satirical Westminster Dog Show Drinking Game as yet another angle on the same storytelling mission: to give all dog lovers a new way to discuss the challenges that all of our beloved dogs face today.
Check out the Westminster Dog Show Drinking Game on Dogster.com.