Empire State of Mind

     I think I have been in love w/ dogs my whole life. Scratch that. I think I have been in love w/ animals my whole life. But dogs have somehow always held a special place in my heart high above the others (along w/ sea turtles and elephants). This soft spot has turned into a passion that has taken me all over the country and introduced countless wonderful people into my life. My most recent adventure most certainly takes the cake tho…

     I met professional handler Randy Benns two and a half years ago at the Missoula dog show. I was a part of the local kennel club here at the time & was helping set up the show. He has a big personality that makes him hard to forget & is like a local celebrity during our show. We only talked a few times during this show, but I never forgot who he was.
     Quicker than I know it, it’s time for the dog show the next year. Again I am helping out with this show, and again Randy is there w/ all his beautiful dogs. I have a little bit bigger part in this years show & end up spending more time talking dogs & life w/ Randy. We exchange information and promise to keep in touch. Fast forward to November. We meet up in Spokane to talk dogs over Thanksgiving weekend since neither of us have family in the area. While we are there, he makes me an offer, one that I can’t necessarily afford, but one I can’t refuse either – to attend the 2012 Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show with him.

     I spent this past week in New York City having the absolute greatest week on my life. On top of attending the greatest dog show in the world, my mom took her first trip to the Big Apple and spent a good part of the trip w/ me.

     My flight flew out early Saturday morning and into JFK by early afternoon. I met up w/ Randy at Hotel Pennsylvania, after a short (but expensive) cab ride into Manhattan.
     My mom & our dearest friend/neighbor Pam had taken the train into the city that day & were staying w/ Pam’s daughter Amber, whose apartment was only a few blocks away from where I was. The restaurant she was managing was also only a few blocks away so we all met up for one of the most delicious dinners that night.

     Sunday I slept in and then headed to meet up w/ an old friend for dinner while Randy bathed Primo, the American Eskimo Dog he was showing the next day. When I got back to the hotel that night Randy surprised me w/ exhibitor passes to the show. I don’t think you could of found a happier girl in all of Manhattan if you had tried. Since I had an extra one I called my Momma to see if she wanted to tag along for some of the show.

     I was up early Monday morning. Beauceron’s were one of the first breeds to show and I didn’t want to miss a minute of anything! The air inside The Garden was electric. My mom was a good sport letting me drag her all over the place to see as many breeds as I could.

     Randy & Primo were also set to go on stage that morning as well. Despite being the number one AED in the country, Primo did not take his breed & his time to shine at Westminster was over.

     After breeds were done for the day, I took mom back to meet up w/ Pam & Amber. Since I had a few hours before Groups, we set off touring the city. We walked the High Line Trail, did some shopping in Chelsea Market,  & ended our time w/ Mani/Pedis.

     Before breeds started that night I met Randy & Primo behind the scenes in the staging area. This is a whole other part of the show you just can’t experience if you’re only watching it on tv.
     My friend Dan joined me for my first night of Breeds. The herding group, toys, non-sporting, and hounds all presented the first day. Of course the herding group is always my favorite to watch & I cheered like crazy as the beauceron strutted his stuff around the ring. The rough collie was a blue merle just like Skyler. (I was def missing my pups back home at this point).

     Tuesday was a big day for the show. I woke up early to watch the breed judging again & spent the afternoon in the hotel lobby people watching. Dog people are very much their own brand of people and are always interesting to watch/listen to. Randy & I also took a little time to head over to the Macy’s on Fashion Ave. I’m thankful he is a man that loves to shop as much as I do. Could he possibly be my dream man? (lol) Finally as night rolled around it was time to head back to the Garden for Breeds and the coveted Best in Show. The breeds the second night were working, sporting, and terriers.

     I sat high in the stadium by myself the second night. I guess in a stadium full of that many people you’re never really by yourself. Either way, it was amazing. I couldn’t of asked for anything more & will never really be able to thank Randy for the week he showed me.
     A Pekingese named Malachy took Best in Show.

     I think had it of not been so early in the morning when Randy left to catch his plane on Wednesday, I probably would of been in tears to say goodbye to him. Not only did this mean that my trip was quickly coming to an end, but that I probably won’t be seeing him again til our show here in Missoula in June. After a failed attempt to go back to sleep, I was up packing my things. Soon enough I was meeting my mom & Pam for another day out on the city. We spend the morning walking around the 9/11 Memorial, Wall Street, and exploring the Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island.  The 9/11 Memorial was very important for me to go see on this trip since I grew up very close to where Flight 93 was taken down in that field in Pennsylvania.

     My grandmother’s name is carved into a wall in Ellis Island & it has always been a dream of mine to find it. With a little searching we tracked down her name among thousands.

     Mid-afternoon we retreated back to the apartment to shower and ready ourselves for one last night on the town. Amber had secured us tickets to a little show on Broadway called The Lion King. (!!!) Yet another thing I was able to cross off my bucket list during this trip! Dan again joined us for this show. After the show (which was absolutely fabulous!!!) I drug everyone out for one last taste of sushi & New York cheesecake.

     We ended the night atop the Empire State Building at 1 in the morning.

     Before I could shut my eyes my alarm clock was ringing and I was hailing a cab back to JFK. The best week of my life was coming to a close, but the feeling of that trip will last a lifetime. Thank you.

The sun goes down, the stars come out, & all that counts is here & now. My universe will never be the same… I’m glad you came…

4 thoughts on “Empire State of Mind

  1. Charlie says:

    Some day I hope to see Grammy's name on the wall too, but I just can't seem to be able to drag myself to that city. Bg lad you had a great time. I wish Laura and Kristen could of went.

  2. Holly Rae says:

    FFF- Yes! He is an amazing friend! I honestly just needed the push to do something that I've always wanted to do. It's good to know when you have friends like that in life to push you.

    Karina – I would travel the world w/ you lady! Just say the word & I'm there (but hopefully you're going to give me a few months for my bank account to recover, or my car just might get repossessed. lol)

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