From the velvety jowls of the Neapolitan mastiff, to the slender frame of the saluki, to the bouffant hairdo of the Dandie Dinmont terrier, canine diversity is on its most glorious display at the Westminster Kennel Club (WKC) dog show.
But whether a pup is of the sporting, working or toy ilk, they will all need veterinary care at some point. And for the best of the best show dogs this year at the 143rd Westminster show, Cornell veterinarians were there to provide it.
Cornell’s College of Veterinary Medicine and its Stamford, Connecticut-based satellite clinic, Cornell University Veterinary Specialists (CUVS), are now the official providers of veterinary care at the Westminster Kennel Club dog show. Cornell veterinarians and students made their debut at the event Feb. 9-12, staffing an informational booth and veterinary medical care stations at the event.
“It was a tremendously rewarding and educational opportunity for our veterinarians and students to provide care to the show dogs and consultation to their owners,” said Dr. Lorin Warnick, Ph.D. ’94, the Austin. O. Hooey Dean of Veterinary Medicine. “We were honored to be able to showcase and share our expertise with such a passionate community of dog lovers, and we look forward to building on this relationship in the years to come.”
A new partnership
The multiyear collaboration is thanks largely to Ed Hershey, a longtime board member of the Westminster Kennel Club. Hershey wanted to highlight Cornell’s veterinary expertise, with which he had become well-acquainted: He has two dogs – Crush, a boxer, and Kisses, a French bulldog – and both are CUVS patients. Clinicians there developed a unique treatment plan for Kisses, who has a rare form of cancer.
“The care they received was really terrific,” said Hershey. “And I thought it would be great if we could inform people more of all the work that’s going on in veterinary medicine right now.”
Hershey pitched the idea to Westminster and Fox Sports, which produced several video vignettes featuring Cornell veterinarians and special canine patient cases. Four of these vignettes aired on the Madison Square Garden video screen during the Best in Show event, and key portions were shown on MSG Network during coverage.
Cornell hosted an information booth during the WKC show, at which college veterinarians and students chatted with visitors about veterinary medicine topics, including: theriogenology (breeding and genetics); sports medicine and rehabilitation; and dentistry. Each day of the three-day event, hundreds of attendees stopped at Cornell’s booth to ask questions or simply share how much Cornell had made an impact on them and their pets.
“I had a great experience,” said Amanda Stewart, a third-year veterinary student. “I talked to a lot of Cornell clients. A lot of the visitors have been really thankful for Cornell and have just come up to say, ‘Thank you – Cornell saved my dog.’
“We’ve had a lot of high school students who want to become vet students come up to us,” she said. “I tell them I love school, I’ve learned a lot, told them I also always wanted to be a veterinarian since I was a kid, and that it’s doable, it’s just hard work.”
For the love of dogs
Despite the pressure, the experience was positive for the on-call veterinarians and students. “People were really excited to see Cornell here,” said Corene Bruhns, a second-year student and a recipient of the Westminster Kennel Foundation Scholarship. “It’s a well-recognized name, and people were happy to come over to just talk to us.”
This exposure to show dogs and the people who care for them was beneficial for students, says Dr. Mariana Diel de Amorim, a theriogenologist at Cornell University Hospital for Animals.
“They really get an understanding of how much it takes to show a dog,” Diel de Amorim said. “It’s a lot of investment. These are pure bred, health-vested animals, [and] these people usually pay more money than they make doing this. They don’t do it for the money – they do it for love.”
These owners were also enthusiastic about Cornell’s care and expertise.
“I was thrilled to see the enthusiasm Cornell sparked in dog owners and other show visitors,” says Dr. Susan Hackner, chief medical officer at CUVS. “From owners of patients we treated at the show to previous clients who stopped by to say ‘thank you,’ it was just a wonderful reception and a privilege to be able to work with the Westminster Kennel Club.”
Lauren Cahoon Roberts is assistant director of communications for the College of Veterinary Medicine.