Ay-Yi-Yi-Yi

By McGrath, Ben | The New Yorker, February 13, 2012 | Go to article overview

Ay-Yi-Yi-Yi


McGrath, Ben, The New Yorker


Traffic stopped along Seventh Avenue, the other day, so that a small parade of dogs could cross in front of Madison Square Garden. To judge by the horde of jostling photographers and videographers, you might have thought there'd been a Brangelina sighting, or a celebrity perp walk. "I feel like a doggy paparazzi," one man muttered, and then shouted at the smallest of the pooches, with mock seriousness, "Hey, why'd you do it?"

The dogs represented the six new breeds in this year's Westminster Dog Show, which begins next Monday, plus Hickory the Scottish deerhound, last year's Best in Show. The little one, which was attracting the most feverish camera attention, would once have been called a Mexican hairless, and is formally known as a Xoloitzcuintli. ("If you're a coward, you can just call it a sholo," David Frei, Westminster's longtime on-air personality, explained.) Picture Dr. Evil's cat, in "Austin Powers," with a bit of a snout and a wispy gray mohawk. It wore a jade necklace and was held by its owner, the celebrity jeweller Jose Barrera. The most assertive of the photographers, a seventy-one-year-old woman with a mess of brown curls and big glasses, spotted a young police officer on the sidewalk and instructed Barrera to hand the dog over for a photo op. The cop flashed an uncomfortable grin. Click-click, click-click.

Up in the Affinia hotel, for a more formal presentation of the breeds, the woman took a corner seat in the front row--"Excuse me, this is going to be my chair"--and soon began issuing instructions to the dogs' owners onstage. "The small dogs should be picked up . . . and move away from the back . . . wait, you're too close." Then, without warning, she abandoned her chair for the carpet and began addressing the dogs themselves from her knees. How to characterize the soundtrack? A high-pitched "Roo-roo-roo-roo-roo. Ay-yi-yi-yi-yi. Rrrr, rrrr, rrrrr." Think of tropical birds, perhaps, and angry monkeys. The dogs' ears perked up, and she began shooting again.

Her name was Mary Bloom, and, in addition to serving as the dean of doggy paparazzi, she is the Westminster Kennel Club's staff photographer. A lifelong dog lover, she grew up in the Bronx and first attended Westminster in 1946. "I can speak the dogs' language in a way that they can't," she said, referring to her wire-service competitors. …

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