By Elizabeth Ladzinski
MIDTOWN — With the 135th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show finally underway, owners and their pooches are dealing with the stress of the competition by going to the spa — the doggy spa, that is.
In the lower level of the Hotel Pensylvannia, a spa and grooming space has been assembled by 35-year dog breeder Judy Davis, who is also the founder of 1st in Line, a company that sells beauty products for dogs and horses.
The spa began as a simple bedroom in the hotel, with the furniture removed. "We laid plastic and [wood] shavings. In my heart I just felt that this was something that was needed," Davis said.
Today, the spa and other vendors have taken over an entire floor. For a fee, Judy offers her grooming space, baths, and products for dog owners to use on their pets. Also on hand are doggy treadmills, a portrait studio, and a pooch bathroom equipped with red plastic fire hydrants.
Judy has been providing the bathing and grooming services in the hotel for the past 15 years just for the Westminster Dog Show, which is held at Madison Square Garden annually.
It takes at least a week to prepare the space for the spa. According to Davis, it takes six people eight hours to lay plastic sheets for the doggy bathroom, and throughout the weekend, she goes through 125 bales of wood shavings and 15 spools of gorilla tape.
"It's for the dogs. It's a passion for the dogs. As long as Madison Square Garden is here, and the Hotel Pennsylvania, I'll be here," Davis said.
The spa and treadmills are a haven for dog owners and breeders who are visiting Manhattan for the show and don't want to walk their dogs on the streets.
"It's so crowded here [at the show], and they need their exercise, so we come here to the spa," said Santiago Pinto, owner of Cumbia, a Welsh Terrier.
Rachel Kelly explained why she uses the spa for her English Cocker named Wizard: "Because he's all white, to have him run outside he'd get all filthy dirty."
Kelly, a D.C. resident, said visiting Manhattan was reason enough to participate in the dog show. "I have so much fun coming here, I love Manhattan so just coming for that alone is enough for me," she said. "No matter how much hassle it is getting in and out of the city, it's worth it to me."
Terri Brickson, owner of Merlot, a Siberian Husky, said it was her dog's last year in the show, as she dried Merlot's fur.
"It's exciting. Just hoping to have a good show."
This year, six new breeds will make their debuts in the show: the Boykin Spaniel, Bluetick Coonhound, Redbone Coonhound, Cane Corso, Leonberger, and the Icelandic Sheepdog.
Judging began this morning, and will continue all day today and tomorrow, ending with judging of the coveted "Best in Show" award at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday.