New York Munching on a hot dog, Monica Schott surveyed the row of French bulldogs backstage at Madison Square Garden.
Pretty sparse, by Westminster Kennel Club standards.
“It’s very noticeable,” the longtime handler from upstate New York said Monday. “I was hoping to see that a lot of people would spend their money to come here, to give them some outlet from what’s going on with the economy. I guess not.”
From the no-show Borzois to the empty seats, it was abundantly clear: The nation’s recession has taken a bite out of America’s No. 1 dog show.
“We understand it,” said Westminster spokesman David Frei, the TV host of the USA Network coverage. “For most people, dog shows are a hobby. When money gets tight, people spend it on food and schools and things they absolutely need.”
There are 170 breeds and varieties at this 133rd edition of Westminster, with a perky Brussels griffon and a monkey-faced affenpinscher among the favorites. Best in show judge Sari Tietjen will point to her choice tonight.
A 7-year-old Scottish deerhound named Tiger Woods — his owner is a huge golfer — won the hound group Monday night, then a Scottish terrier took the terrier group.
“Maybe I ought to have a Scotch,” said Gabriel Rangel, the terrier’s handler.
The standard poodle called Yes was best among the nonsporting dogs and a puli took the herding group.
Last February, the Garden was packed with more than 15,000 roaring fans when a precocious beagle called Uno was picked as best in show. Uno was back Monday night for a victory tour, but the Garden was only two-thirds full to see him.