More than 2,800 dogs are expected at the show, set for Feb. 11, 13 and 14. Besides the traditional breed judging, it has added agility and obedience competitions and a non-competitive "meet the breeds" event in recent years. This year's "meet the breeds" even will include some really rare breeds for a dog show: pedigreed cats. Felines were featured when the event was held separately from Westminster a few years ago, but their return this year gives them a chance to share the spotlight of the 140-year-old dog show. "The club has maintained its traditions while expanding to accommodate an ever-changing, dog-loving public," Westminster spokeswoman Gail Miller Bisher said at a Madison Square Garden news conference Monday previewing the show. This year's new breeds vary from the American hairless terrier, a compact canine developed in the American South in the 1970s, to the lanky sloughi, which dates back thousands of years in North Africa, according to its fanciers. Then there's the pumi (pronounced POOM'-ee), which has a "whimsical expression" built right into the standards, or official judging guidelines, for the bushy-coated, curly-tailed, big-eared breed. Owners hear "your dog's so CUTE!" so often that they've turned it into an acronym. "We say they're 'Curious,' 'Unique,' 'Tenacious' and 'Energetic,'" dog grooming Nancy Nelson of Norwalk, Connecticut, said as her 5-year-old pumi, Zsa Zsa, lent a paw to the gathering.
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