It's the Super Bowl of dog shows. In less than two weeks, dogs of all shapes and sizes will strut their stuff at Madison Square Garden, vying to become top dog at the Westminster Dog Show.
There's a breeder right here in the Bay Area who knows what it takes get the judges' attention. He's been there many times, with more than one winner.
Mark Benson of St. Petersburg says he fell in love with silky terriers the first time he laid eyes on one. That was nearly 18 years ago and the beginning of a passion that puts him on the road nearly every weekend, competing against the best of the best.
These days it's his 3-year-old "Grand Champion Lamplighters Tattle Tail" that's wowing the judges and winning ribbons and titles. He was the number one silky terrier in 2013.
Last year, Tatty, as they call him at home, was the best of opposite sex at the grande dame of them all: the Westminster Dog Show in New York.
"For me, the Garden has always been the pinnacle. This dog knows he is showing. He thinks this is just one giant fun party," Benson said.
It takes a lot of work to get a dog ready to show.
"You only get one chance to make a first impression," Benson said.
He showed us the process from start to finish, beginning with a sudsy shower, rinse and comb out, sectioning Tatty's fur like a hair dresser.
Next, he carefully trims delicate areas, then it's time to blow dry every strand.
"On coated breeds you need to make sure they're dry to the skin," Benson said.
A spritz of oil for shine and conditioning; Benson says everything counts in competition.
"Judges will pull a coat apart to look down at the root, to see what color it is," he continued.
Benson whips out a flat iron to make sure Tatty's coat hangs just right.
"I want these ends to hang straight down. I don't want them to flip out...like the Marlo Thomas look," he said.
Clear mascara frames the eyes.
"It's gonna hold the arch of hair over his face, so when you look into his face it won't be all flying."
And with that, Tatty is show-ring ready.
Tatty isn't Benson's only champion. He's got a house full of retirees, including 12-year-old Perry and 7-year-old Bingo, who both placed number one at Westminster for their breed. But Benson truly believes this is Tatty's year for best of breed.
"I'd say we're a pretty good shot."
The Westminster Dog Show will be held February 10 and 11, and it will be televised. Mark Benson and Tatty leave next week and we'll let you know how he does.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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