The show’s most famous competitor arrived long after the canine masses had begun their procession across Seventh Avenue — some carried in crates or cradled between biceps, others trudging delicately in bejeweled coats and miniature boots to protect against the cool of the sidewalk.
As these visitors formed a line near the freight elevator in a cavernous hallway of Madison Square Garden, their owners grumbling about the wait, the cherished guest slipped in through an employee entrance around 8 a.m.
“It’s Martha Stewart,” one woman said excitedly, as a security guard raised an open palm to the group waiting for the employee elevator.
“Getting in front of us,” said another.
Ms. Stewart, the ubiquitous lifestyle entrepreneur and television host, attended the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show on Monday morning with dual ambitions: to watch her dog, G.K., contend for — and ultimately win — top honors in the chow chow competition, and to film an episode of her show on the Hallmark Channel.
“They’re not just cute,” Ms. Stewart said of any worthy show dog. “They are amazing.”
Ms. Stewart’s presence, however, yielded varying effects among other owners. Though many welcomed the familiar face, asking for pictures and autographs, others decried the swollen entourage of television staff and media on the most important week of the competitive season — when the impeccably-primped animals, like fine art sitting on a museum pedestal, are not to be touched.
“Please,” one woman pleaded, a corgi tucked beneath her armpit, as she attempted to pass the ruckus near G.K.’s grooming station at around 9 a.m.
“Come on,” a man bellowed, jostling past the group with his Dalmatian.
“Don’t!” shouted another woman, her dog panting calmly at her side. “Touch!”
G.K. seemed impervious to the attention. With a reddish coat, perked ears and the toyish face of a stuffed lion, he rested nearly motionless atop a table, his darkened tongue dangling, as his breeder and co-owner, Karen Tracy, worked on his hair with a blow dryer.
The son of last year’s chow champion, Maddox, and the great-grandson of Ms. Stewart’s former dog Paw Paw, who also once appeared at Westminster, G.K. has been competing for only three months, Ms. Tracy said.
“I think he’s following in his father’s paw prints,” she added, pausing for effect. G.K. was named for Genghis Khan, Ms. Stewart’s chow puppy who died, along with 16 other dogs, in a fire at Ms. Tracy’s kennel in 2009.
Ms. Stewart lives with two other dogs, both French bulldogs, at her home in Bedford, N.Y. She said Monday that she may yet add a Tibetan mastiff to the group, though her house was “way too small” to accommodate the outsized breed. “He can live in the stable,” she reasoned.
At 10:15 a.m., Ms. Stewart took her seat ringside, as G.K. joined three other chows beneath the banners of the venue’s hallowed teams and past players.
G.K.’s gait was calmer than the others’, more stroll and less bounce. The dog looked up at the leopard-print top of his handler, Jan Kolnik, as the judge inspected each animal. One competitor scratched himself with a hind leg. Another jumped on his handler. And soon, with a wave of her arm, the judge had crowned G.K. the champion. Ms. Stewart shared a high-five with a neighbor. Ms. Tracy began to cry.
“He was by far the most beautiful,” Ms. Stewart said afterwards.
Though one attendee surmised that the competition may have been swayed by the celebrity’s presence, there appeared no obvious sign of impropriety. (Ms. Stewart was to return Monday night to watch G.K. compete against other winners in the nonsporting group.)
Indeed, any star treatment came largely from fellow owners, as Ms. Stewart and her film team scanned the grooming floor for telegenic entrants. At one end of the room, a standard poodle named Woody stood on his table, two tufts of hair protruding from his shaved backside, as his handler, Kate Murray, trimmed his coat.
Ms. Stewart approached, with cameras pointed, and ran her hand along a patch of hair near Woody’s left front paw. The handler had missed a spot, she said, rubbing at the skin.
A crowd watched silently. Ms. Murray addressed the imperfection. And, in a flash, Ms. Stewart was on to the next animal.
“She was right,” Ms. Murray said later, in what amounted to a thank you, but another truth was clearer.
Martha Stewart, and perhaps only she, can touch the art.