I’ll admit: I’m not a “plush toy” person. By night I’m a sport photographer for The New York Times, covering all the teams in the four main sports. I also shoot other sports stories, and one of my first assignments many years ago was to shoot the Westminster Dog Show.
“Really? That’s a sport?”, I asked.
“Yes.” said my editor, used to the question.
I’d covered several Westminster Dog Shows until the year I stopped to consider what the AKC really stands for, and stopped shooting the show altogether. (This was a couple years before Westminster pulled the plug on some wonderful Pedigree ads that showcased homeless shelter pets.)
Last year, though, I was more than happy to photograph the Times’ story on the Puppy Bowl. A record number of pit bull pups and mixed-breed dogs duked it out on a mini-gridiron, and I met about a hundred volunteers from shelters across the country, from as far as the SPCA in Los Angeles.
Taped well in advance (October), most — if not all — of the pups you’ll see on the Puppy Bowl today will have been placed in loving homes and will most likely be surrounded by adoring fans in their own homes during The Big Game, as they gnaw celebratory ham-bones out of monogrammed dog dishes. Believe me, shelters will tell you when one of their charges is a first-round draft pick in the Puppy Bowl.
Two dog shows today, and they couldn’t be more different.
One advances the old argument: that some dogs are here to be coveted, multiplied and cloned, bred to physical deformity, while others — no less sentient, loving, and dependent upon us — are disposable.
The other one is a celebration of human interaction with and stewardship of nature’s beautiful creatures and our best friends, and a model of what creativity brings to bear on the shelter crisis in America.
And it’s a blast.