Pumi dog at AKC Meet the Breeds
Every year, New York City plays host to more than 200 dogs and cats at Meet the Breeds. The American Kennel Club and The International Cat Association hosted the fifth annual Meet the Breeds event this weekend at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center.

It’s the world’s largest showcase of dogs and cats, offering the public an opportunity to get up close to a variety of breeds. They can ask owners and responsible breeders questions and interact with the animals to find the right fit for them. Demonstration rings show off breeds’ agility and obedience while vendors offer a number of unique pet products.

But the biggest draw would probably be the official booths where cat and dog lovers can get close to the animals and learn more about each specific breed. The booths are run by breed organizations and are manned by knowledgeable members who can answer questions about grooming, nutrition and more.

Meet the Maltese

The American Maltese Association (AMA) prepped the Maltese booth at this past weekend’s Meet the Breeds. Clif Raita, a makeup artist for Tom Ford at Bergdorf Goodman, is a longtime member of the association and manned the booth on Sunday. Raita used to breed and show Maltese in the 1980s and now has a finished champion. This was the second year in a row that Raita was asked to represent the breed at Meet the Breeds.

“It is so much fun; it’s great for families and everybody. Not only do we educate you in the merits of individual kennel club breeds but also in obedience, agility and how the dogs can work in therapy situations. It’s incredible,” Raita says.

In preparing the booth, the association made sure to have information on hand about breed standards for any interested visitors, as well as AMA literature and a list of breeders they referred people to if they were interested in getting a Maltese.

Queen Elizabeth and her Corgi, Epry, pose for photos during the AKC Meet the Breeds event at the Jacob Javits Convention Center, Sunday, September 29, 2013, in New York City.

A guest gives Chinese Shar Pei, Airy, an air kiss.

An owner prepares her cat for the feline and canine fashion show that takes place during the AKC event.

To pay homage to Toto, the Cairn Terrier breed group dressed as the cast of The Wizard of Oz. Andy, the Cowardly Lion, poses with Cairn Terrier Hortence. Also present were Dorothy and the Wicked Witch.

This social cat greets attendees during the AKC Meet the Breeds event at the Jacob Javits Convention Center.

Exhibitor Celeste Johnson poses with her dog, Suki, at the Saluki breed booth. The Saluki is a truly ancient hound.

Ada Nieves prepares her Chihuahuas, Manhattan and Mojito, to walk the runway.

Andrew Bartlin gets a loving look from a Brussels Griffon during the AKC Meet the Breeds event.

Cat fashion designer Catherine Golden of Golden Couture prepares to present for "Meet," the feline and canine fashion show during the AKC Meet the Breeds event.

Max, a Siberian cat, sports an Arabian magician–inspired costume.

Exhibitor Susan Erickson of Danbury, Conn., prepares her Maine Coon cat, Eddy, in a cape made by Golden Couture.

Lee, a Dalmatian, demonstrates his training skills for a crowd.

Attendee Joel Weinberger gives a Doberman Pinscher named Chance a rest on his shoulder.

Pumi dogs, AJ and Blue Ridge Vista, pose with their owners Nancy and Meir Ben-Diror. The Pumi is a Hungarian herding breed who loves to work.

A Chow Chow gets a rubdown during AKC Meet the Breeds.

“It’s a great chance to get to know the Maltese. Mostly the people were potential pet buyers, which is why we try to educate them and strongly advise them to buy from a reputable AKC- and AMA-sanctioned breeder, not a pet shop,” Raita says.

According to Raita, the Maltese may be small, but they are fearless dogs who are happy, seemingly afraid of nothing, very loving and intelligent.

“These dogs like nothing more than to be in the company of a human being and will lie for hours on a person’s lap very contented,” Raita says.

The look of the booth where Raita spoke to attendees was also educational. Each organization creatively decorates its official booth to represent its breed, and many of the groups go all out with booth decor, choosing themes that relate to their breeds and are informative in some way. While some booths tie their theme into the breed’s country of origin, others may tie it to the type of job the breed is best known for performing.

This year the Maltese booth went with a very simple backdrop tied to the origins of the Maltese. The group designed a tapestry of an ancient Greek ruin that hung behind the booth to honor the Maltese’s origins on the island of Malta. It’s a creative way to add to the educational aspect of the event while adding some more fun into the mix. This combination might be why the event is attracting more people each year.

“Meet the Breeds is becoming more and more popular, not just in New York City but nationwide,” Raita says. “It’s a nationwide celebration of purebred dogs.”