Most owners and handlers weren't happy about the benching area though many seemed resigned to it.
"I don't like to put my dogs through this," Miriam Conto said, fanning her panting 4-year-old Irish wolfhound, Whynsome, with a small white towel. But Whynsome "has nothing better to do."
Handler Michelle Ostermiller poses with Josh, a Newfoundland, after he earned best in show.
(Gregory Bull - AP)
Two bench spots down, another uncomfortable wolfhound growled and snapped at the crowd. Three men quickly grabbed the dog and surrounded it, shielding it from the mob. One man tried to calm the hound.
One dog handler, asked why spectators would jam themselves into the too-small, too-hot space, replied, "Because they're insane."
"A lot come here who can't have dogs -- they get their dog fix," added another handler, Alison Rosskamp, who was standing nearby. "They always ask how much they are. A lot of them are just, 'Isn't that dog cute?' "
"I love dogs," said Helen Herman, one of the many spectators snapping pictures. She has been coming to Westminster for 15 years trying to decide what kind of dog to get, even though she lives in an apartment building that does not allow them. "I took a picture of an Australian cattle dog because I met someone once who had one," she said, adding, "I don't see myself having a chow chow, or a German shepherd, or an Akita. The only dog who ever bit me was a Pomeranian named Sushi."
Marianne Walsh was also taking pictures. "I'm looking at the Irish setters because I have one," she explained. She'd taken pictures of lots of other dogs too, and plans to frame the best to display in her house.
The opportunity to see the dogs drives spectators to the vendors who line the walls of the benching area. Show organizers charge about $4,000 to set up a small booth at Westminster, according to one vendor, who asked not to be named. The vendors are selling everything from a $6,200 miniature competition ribbon pin in 14-karat gold decorated with diamonds, rubies and sapphires to boxes of chocolates in the shape of dog bones and paw prints.