Dog Show Confidential: Sneaking in the Back Door of Westminster

By Connie Newcomb. $9.95.

The road to Westminster is paved with more potholes and curves than Newcomb can imagine and appropriately when she finally arrives on the floor of Madison Square Garden with a champion, the Chihuahua is appropriately named Rocky.

Further accenting the challenging adventure, the dog she envisions as her partner, a.k.a. Baby Cujo/Broadway/Kate, a long-coated Chihuahua, has a problem with men in addition to occasionally relieving itself in the ring. So put her in front of a male judge in a large, bustling environment like Madison Square Garden, and you have all the ingredients for disaster.

“Dog Show Confidential” boasts some of the same elements as the hit movie, “Best in Show,” taking the reader inside the show circuit with a compelling behind-the-scenes narrative, albeit a bit too detailed on some occasions, during her lengthy journey to the Garden that culminates in February 2011.

Keep in mind, when empty-nester Newcomb begins this odyssey in the spring of 2008, she is clueless what lies ahead, but fortunately she finds a dedicated and detailed mentor named Bette willing to assist her with handling intricacies and introductions along the way with dogs that are tiny in size and teenage in character.

Whether it’s the “politics of judging” or another handler telling Newcomb “you need to treat her (Broadway) like a dawg,” the trials, tribulations and traditions of this passionate sport are front and center throughout in this lively Dog Show 101 primer.

Because she jumps in as a total novice, the adventurous Newcomb explains all of the basics to the reader in lay terminology and introduces you to a “cast of characters you just couldn’t make up,” including Patty Hearst, along with an assortment of brief, zippy anecdotes that make for a breezy read.

Key to her ability to progress is her husband Jim, who sees the household grow from one to 10 dogs in the process – eight Chihuahuas, a Japanese Chin and a mutt – yet is receptive to each small newcomer.

A refreshing hybrid of laughter and sadness, this friendly first-person chronicle paints a vivid portrait of a complex but stirring sport few on the outside understand.