Starting tonight, New York’s Madison Square Garden will host everyone’s favorite annual competitive event: the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. Launched in 1877 by a group of “sporting gentleman,” the show is a two-night long competition in which canine entrants are judged on everything from the luster of their coats to the floppiness of their ears. Even if you happen to be more of a cat lady (like me), watching perfectly-coiffed pooches strut down the turf in hopes of being dubbed best in show is the best antidote to mid-winter blues. In honor of the WKC’s 140th birthday, we’ve written a drinking game to help you celebrate. Unless otherwise noted, take one drink for each. Those of you watching from home can enjoy a single malt and the witty banter of the USA Network-appointed panelists; those of us attending the event will get lukewarm Bud Light in jumbo cups, and the heady satisfaction that comes with a Maslow-ian peak experience.
The sequin rule: If you’ve watched the show a few times, you’ll have noticed that dog handlers, for whatever reason, are really into their sequins. Sometimes they sport a splash across their shoulders, whereas other times they’ll model an entire outfit after Michael Jackson’s famous shiny glove. Take a drink if there are any sequins at all, two for an entirely sequined outfit, and three if the handler wearing an entirely sequined outfit is male.
Shine bright like a diamond.
Owner/dog doppelgangers: The “canine mini-me” effect is real, although not universally applicable. Take two drinks if the handler, owner, and dog all look alike.
When the dog is from New York City: Everyone loves a hometown dog.
If you would have sex with the handler: Self-explanatory. If you actually have had sex with a particular handler, finish your drink.
The breed is new to Westminster: In 2015, two new breeds were admitted to Westminster: the wirehaired vizsla, a hunting dog from Hungary, and the coton du tulear, the national dog of Madagascar. This year, somewhere between five and ten new breeds will be introduced. We won’t tell you the exact number, so as to keep you on your toes. Fun fact: one of the new breeds is primarily known for hunting truffles.
When the dog has a human name: Most of the dogs at Westminster have elaborate, nonsensical names like “Roundtown Mercedes of Maryscot,” best in show 2009, or “Whisperwind on a Carousel,” the winning poodle from 1991. And then there’s Garth, a six-year-old bloodhound from New Hampshire, competing at Westminster for the fifth and final time this year. If the dog is entered under a banal human name like Jim or Stephanie, take a drink.
Handler tattoos: This is like spotting the chupacabra. Take two drinks for a full sleeve.
They do exist!
Direct fingering of the anus: As aforementioned, the dogs are judged based on different aspects of their physicality: width of shoulders, shape of head, pertness of tail, and certain rectal features, or so it would seem from watching some judges.
When the announcer says something vaguely sexual or racist: For the twenty-sixth year in a row, the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show will be narrated by David Frei, a former public relations guy with a voice like toasted and buttered heaven. We’d never suggest the lovely Frei would say anything actually offensive; this is more of a “that’s what she said” interpretive situation.
Breeder/Owner/Handler: More often than not, a show dog is shepherded through life by three important people: its breeder, owner and handler. But some uber-passionate people take it upon themselves to do it all. Breeder-owner-handlers are rare, and have only been part of a winning human-dog duo eight times in the show’s history. If a breeder-owner-handler takes the cup this year, finish your drink.
When you can’t see the dog’s eyes: Certain breeds, like all varieties of poodles, are made to wear elaborate fur-styles, whilst others, like the shaggy, huggable English sheepdogs, go au naturel, sometimes to the point where you have to wonder how it is they know where they’re going when they’re not being led on a leash by a bedazzled dog choreographer.
The winning dog is deemed an “underdog” by the announcers: When this is said, it is almost always unironically.