By PATTI MURPHY
For the Mountain Express
Thanksgiving Day is all about traditions—waking up early to begin an all-day cooking marathon, deciding on apple or pumpkin pie, or both, and perhaps a family debate over which dog breed will win Best in Show in the National Dog Show.
Now in its 18th year, the National Dog Show Presented by Purina has wagged its way into American homes to become a highly popular Thanksgiving Day tradition across the country. In fact, an annual TV audience of 25 million viewers has made the program the most-watched canine-related show on national television.
While this yearly tradition has gained fans and followers around the country, it holds a unique connection to Ketchum, as it is produced by Carson International, an event, television and media company owned by Kathy and Paul Carson of Ketchum.
Carson International works in partnership with NBC, Purina and the Kennel Club of Philadelphia to produce the show, which is part of the Kennel Club’s annual conformation show. It’s filmed by NBC in front of an audience of about 15,000 spectators at the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center in Oaks, Pa., and aired at noon Eastern Time on Thanksgiving Day following the Macy’s Parade.
Since the show began in 2002, Carson International has been in charge of overseeing on-site production details that bring the show together, both behind the scenes and in front of the cameras.
There are 205 breeds and varieties in the show vying for the Best in Show honors. To get to Best in Show, the dogs must first compete within their own breed groups and win Best in Breed.
From there, breed winners move on to the group judging, which includes seven groups—Sporting, Hound, Terrier, Working, Toy, Non-Sporting and Herding, each representing the characteristics and functions for those breeds. The top dog from each of the seven groups goes for the gold in the Best in Show competition.
This year there is a new American Kennel Club breed in the hound group: The Azawakh, which is the only breed that’s taller than it is long (think of a suitcase set on its short side). This elegant, leggy sighthound originates from West Africa and was bred to survive the scorching temperatures of the Sahara.
While the dog show has all the pomp and tradition one might expect from a premier AKC-sanctioned conformation show, it also features the humor, insight and expert commentary of hosts John O’Hurley, David Frei and Mary Carillo.
O’Hurley is well known as J. Peterman on the hit show “Seinfeld” and as the champion of ABC’s inaugural season of “Dancing With the Stars.”
Expert analyst Frei is one of America’s foremost authorities on all things canine. Carillo, well-known for her television work at the Olympics, professional tennis tournaments and other high-profile events, takes viewers behind the scenes with dog and human-interest stories. Also joining the team are professional ice skaters Johnny Weir and Tara Lipinski, who add fashion, flare and humor.
A distinguishing feature of the National Dog Show is that it is one of three remaining “benched” dog shows in the country. Benching means that when a dog isn’t being judged in the ring, it must stay in an assigned area, enabling the public to interact with the dogs and their owners or handlers. At-home viewers will get a taste of this interaction through Carillo’s behind-the-scenes reporting.
“Experiencing the benching and being up close and personal with these dogs, watching them get groomed and prepared for their moment in the National Dog Show ring is very special,” said Kathy Carson. “It’s my favorite part of the show.”
She added, “We love this show, and feel so lucky to be a part of it. Every year we get to be with thousands of dogs and watch them compete for Best in Show. Being able to help produce this show in partnership with NBC, Purina and the Kennel Club truly is a special experience for everyone on the Carson team.”
Carson noted that her company works with numerous businesses in Ketchum, Twin Falls and Boise to help pull the production together each year. “It truly is a team effort,” she said.
Finally, as part of this Thanksgiving tradition, pet lovers are encouraged to share a photo or video of their pet on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram that highlights their courageous and honor-worthy role in the family. Pet owners can use the #DogThanking and tag Purina when posting their pet for the chance to be featured during the airing of the Dog Show on NBC.
So, on Thanksgiving Day, canine aficionados can settle in with family and pets and share this two-hour holiday tradition with the rest of the country, rooting for their favorite breed.
For more information, visit nationaldogshow.com,