“She’s a spokesmodel for their hairless dog line,” Young-Johnson said.
Then there are the Chinese cresteds, the Rodney Dangerfields of the dog world. The lack of respect is probably related to the nakedness of their often-freckled bodies, thrown into vivid relief by the fright-wig-like hair on their heads and the fluffy fur around their feet, giving them a frantic, slightly unhinged appearance.
Their reputation has not been enhanced by the fact that the holder of the World’s Ugliest Dog title, a 17-year-old blind dog named SweePee Rambo, is a Chinese crested and Chihuahua mix.
Owners are quick to point out that SweePee Rambo is hardly representative of the breed. “He wasn’t a pure Chinese crested, and he was very old and not well kept,” said Taylor Potter of North Bergen, N.J., whose own Chinese crested, Morgan, was to take part in the agility competition at Westminster.
Young-Johnson, who also breeds Chinese cresteds, said that one thing most owners don’t like to discuss is the issue of excess hair. “Almost all of the Chinese cresteds have some hair on their bodies in some shape or form,” she said. “It’s hard to breed a dog with long furnishings” — elaborate head and foot fur — “with no body hair at all.”
So the owners employ clever depilatory tricks. “It’s a secret,” Young-Johnson said. “You will not know how much body hair my dog has. I will make it perfect on the day of the show.”
Still, a dog covered in just skin at what is effectively a beauty pageant is a strange concept to get your head around.
“We don’t necessarily have a position on hairlessness — we think all dogs are absolutely wonderful,” said Brandi Hunter, a spokeswoman for the American Kennel Club, which has final say over which breeds can compete at Westminster.
Still, it can be jarring to come upon a hairless dog, especially if you aren’t prepared. “People think there’s something wrong with them,” Young-Johnson said.
“It takes a fine taste, and a certain kind of class, to appreciate the unique look of a Chinese crested,” said Parker, who owns some of those dogs, in addition to her American hairless terriers. (“I’m into hairless dogs,” she said.)
Even stranger, though, is this: Not all hairless dogs are hairless.
Chinese cresteds with hair are known as powderpuffs. Xolos with hair are known as coated xoloitzcuintli. But there also is a type of American hairless terrier — and this would seem to be an oxymoron — known as the coated American hairless terrier. These dogs are fully recognized by all the relevant governing bodies, and accepted as a legitimate member of the hairless breed, despite the fact that they have hair.
Parker isn’t buying it. “A hairless terrier with hair is a rat terrier, in my opinion,” she said. “If I’m going to have a hairless terrier, it needs to be hairless.”