02/24/1997 at 01:00 AM EST
BACKSTAGE AT THE 121ST ANNUAL Westminster dog show in New York City's Madison Square Garden last week, contestants were brushed, fluffed and powdered to the point of exhaustion—not theirs, but their handlers'. For the breeders of the 2,620 champion canines (from affenpinschers to Yorkies) competing in American dogdom's Super Bowl, the potential payoff was worth it—not the prize money (there is none) but the bragging rights. In the end, top honors went to standard schnauzer Ch. (for Champion) Parsifal Di Casa Netzer, who answers simply to "Pa" and who strutted before a cheering, champagne-sipping crowd estimated at 14,000.
For most owners, competing at Westminster is its own reward. Stephanie Gallups, 41, a product manager from Purcellville, Va., whose Great Dane Ch. Harley Davidson Hardt's, aka Harley Girl, snapped up a Best of Breed prize, looked happy but weary after spending six months—and "at least $20,000"—preparing for the event. "I had to refinance my house," she says. For Harley Girl, though, it wasn't nearly as much work as giving birth a year ago to her litter of nine. "It goes to show," says Gallups, "you can have a career and be a mother too."