Every dog op has its day at the Westminster Kennel show. That day can start out with dozens of dogs – or no one else.
Outside the ring, where as many as 48 French bulldogs guard Monday to be the best of their race, Peter and Tracy Rousseau kept a sense of perspective on the area their Norwegian puffin dog would meet later in the day.
A member of the rarest breed of American Kennel Club rankings, Eva was one of only two puffin dogs at the nation's most prestigious dog show. Last year she was the only one.
"We are trying to get people to understand this race and have the opportunity to see" a little dog that is really a race apart, said Tracy Rousseau. Originally bred for hunting claw dwellers, puffin dogs have extra toes and extraordinary flexibility to help them climb.
"They are very unique, so much so that fanciers are trying to make people realize the unusual feet are not a deformity," said Rousseau.
For Rousseau, it is worth traveling from Colorado to New York just to get the attention of Puffin Dogs at Westminster, where Eva had a memorable trip in last year's television semifinals. She stopped to scratch her ear and back while they were parading around the ring and drawing laughter from the audience.
On Monday, Eve's only competitor, Pikku, won the race and took a ride on television. Owner Carrie Riley from Rockwall, Texas, said she would like to see more people interested in lundehunds.
Rarity and super-popularity are both seen as mixed blessings in dog competition, and sometimes in the racial dog world as a whole.
Less competition in the race ring makes it easier to reach at least halves, which at Westminster means getting on TV. But that means against other races that the judges might know better. Points against championship titles are based partly on how many dogs of the same race a winner beats on a given show. And fanciers sometimes worry about the future of their beloved breeds.
"This is a race that is in great danger of extinction," Donna Smiley said after Cora, a harrier she was accused of, won the race undisputed on Monday. Harrier has been a recognized breed in the United States since 1885, but they are now eighth in the AKC rankings.
Traditionally designated to hunt hare, the medium-sized dogs can be trained and large family pets if there is enough exercise, said Smiley, Indio, Calif.
"We would love to get more people interested in them so we can keep the race going," she said.
Cora was not the only dog that rounded the ring alone on Monday. An English Foxhound named Whiskey was also alone representing the nation's closest race.
"It's very sad they are a wonderful race," smart, sometimes stubborn, but also cute, Katie Bernardin handles said. "That's why we show them – to promote the breed."
The only slough that was entered did not come up. The athletic, greyhound-style dogs were eligible for Westminster just two years ago.
Overall, the more than 2,800 dogs who signed up to compete for the Best in Show this year, from 203 breeds and varieties. It's every registered race except Chinook, a sled-puller who is the official state dog in New Hampshire.
Dogs like French Bulldogs and Golden Retrievers – the biggest entry of the show, with 57 slated to compete on Tuesday – have the best of just getting past the race.
Frenchies have rocketed from 76 to fourth in AKC rankings in 20 years, the kind of wave that makes aficionados both proud and worried about salmon breeders trying to deposit money.
"It's a great race and you want people to fall in love with it," said Christine Dudney of Temple Terrace, Fla., When she was expecting to show her French bulldog Millie. "You're just worried that people are coming into it for the money aspect."
Some uncommon breeds put together a robust presence for Westminster.
There were nine eager hound faces Monday in the Cirneco dell & # 39; Etna ring, although the rabbit-hunting race is the seventh rarest in the United States and debuted only in Westminster in 2016.
Dr. Cheryl McDermott and her 12-year-old daughter Brenna brought four of the Cirneco participants.
"The biggest thing for us is to represent the breed with the best dogs," said McDermott, a veterinarian in Ethel, Wash. "So people can get more exposure to this breed as an option."
What does it take to do so at Westminster? Here's a look behind the scenes: