"Did you get a Bruno chocolate bar? Take one! Please."
Bruno is a show dog — a Scottie who didn't make it to the podium in his breed's competition at the Westminster Dog Show. But while nearby Best in Breed winners are trimmed and tweezed and doused in relative peace and quiet with more hairspray than a model at Fashion Week, Bruno is being interviewed by TV cameras and posing for Instagrams in his tartan hat. Westminster's most popular dog is a loser.
The Best In Show portion of Westminster, the World Series of dog shows, takes place at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night. There, the cream of the crop will compete for the top positions. It is broadcast on TV as a glamorous ordeal, full of fancy, primped dogs. But on Monday and Tuesday, throughout the day, hundreds of dogs compete to be named the best in their breed in the preliminary levels at huge warehouse-like piers along the West Side Highway. It feels like a cross between a dizzying trade show and a smelly horse stable. Of the hundreds of dogs there, only the best dog in each breed makes it to the evening portion — the part that gets most of the media coverage.
But Bruno, already at the end of his Westminster road, is getting plenty of attention.
His co-owners, Kathy Meenan, a veterinarian and Mary Ann Mulucci, a horse stable owner from Stamford, Connecticut, have outfitted their friends and family — at least 20 people — in "Bruno the Scotty" t-shirts. A camera man from Channel 12, Bruno's local news station, is wearing a red Bruno shirt. As gawkers wait to pose with Bruno in his tartan cap and scarf, Meenan's red-clad crew of veterinary assistants offer up slices of the custom Bruno cake. A Bruno supporter, here all the way from Maine, says she hasn't seen any other dogs with outfitted fan clubs. Indeed, the Bruno crew is unusual, if not unheard of — as you walk around, most dogs have just an owner and a handler. Some handlers and owners have kids or a lone family member around, but most majority seem they would rather do their grooming and prodding without distraction.
"That's the logo for his website," Meenan says, referring to the picture on the cake. BrunoTheScotty.com launches Tuesday, and will feature articles about "responsible pet ownership." Mulucci nudges Meenan, reminding her to also mention the section on the human-canine relationship. "There's also instructions about how to get along with a cat," Meenan tells a few bystanders, as she hands out business cards.
"I'm disappointed that we didn't win something," Meenan admits. "Everyone wants to win something, but he performed wonderfully. I couldn't have asked for him to have done any better." Plus, he's getting hits to his website.