Friday, August 29, 2008
Have you seen the “Save The Polar Bears commercial“? I, like all animal lovers, am distraught that many animals that were once plentiful are now in danger of becoming extinct in the wild.
This commercial is narrated by some vaguely familiar actress who once was on a program only remembered by people dedicated to the preservation of 80s night time soaps. I do what I can to help endangered species (animals, not out of work actresses), but I wonder why some of the celebrities, who are rabid about the dwindling numbers of bears and various marine mammals, aren’t concerned about the possibility that some of our most interesting and charming dogs may disappear.
I once owned a Sealyham Terrier. She was one of the most endearing dogs I ever owned. Sealies are small enough for the most compact apartment. They are loving and friendly to family and friends, but woe be upon the burglar that trips over one in the middle of the night. Yet they are in danger of becoming extinct. There were only 68 Sealyham Terriers registered in the US in 2006, the last year for which we have complete statistics. In most parts of the country you can go to shows on six consecutive weekends and never see a Sealy. When one does show up, it inevitably causes a stir. There has been a Sealy in the Top Ten Dogs for the last three years. Memorable appearances include BIS at the 2007 Eukanuba National Championship show by CH Efbe's Hidalgo At Goodspice. Charmin is owned by Margery Good & Richard Good & Sandra Middlebrooks of Cochranville, PA and was bred by France Bergeron.
Twenty percent of the breeds recognized by the AKC had less than 200 registrations in 2006. That’s 30 separate breeds in danger of vanishing from our world. The conservation group Polar Bears International estimates that there are 15,000 Polar Bears in Canada alone. Now, I am one of those guys that is depressed for weeks whenever I hear that another animal has been placed on the endangered species list, but I am also one of those guys that thinks that we need to solve the poverty and disease in US cities before we increase our donations to the United Nations. I’m going to keep supporting politicans that protect the environment and defend endangered species, but only if they also support the rights of dog lovers to protect our homegrown endangered species. Personally, I would miss the Sealyham Terrier way more than the Polar Bear. After all I never shared my home with a Polar Bear for twelve years.
If you are thinking about adding a purebred dog to your home consider one of the rare breeds. There are small ones and big ones; hunting dogs and guard dogs; short coats and long coats. You can start your own conservation project.
Thursday, August 28, 2008
Show dog rankings are fun things. We have links on our front page to the three most popular rankings, Dog News, Show Sights Magazine and the Canine Chronicle. Like the Associated Press' college football rankings, these monthly rankings are sources of great pride and great consternation. This year we have two really superb animals at the top of the rankings.
Currently in the lead is the Giant Schnauzer bitch, CH Gallilee's Pure of Spirit, with 68, 405 dogs defeated and 38 shows and 75 groups won as of July 31, 2008. Spirit is almost four years old and owned by Mary Hayes of New Canaan, CT.
Spirit is handled by Taffe McFadden, wife and handling partner of the superstar handler, Bill McFadden. Because Bill and Taffe are based in Northern California, Spirit's specials campaign has been concentrated on the west coast. Bill has jet set clients and he himself is quite the traveler. He never misses a Westminster (We all remember the dazzling Kerry Blue he piloted to BIS in 2003). Taffe was just in Atlanta this past weekend, where she and Spirit went BIS Friday and Saturday. They went Group One on Sunday, but lost to the German Shepherd Dog, CH Woodside's Pacino in the BIS ring.
Second in the rankings is the three year old Pointer bitch, CH Cookieland Seasyde Hollyberry with 56,178 dogs defeated and 52 shows and 90 groups won as of the end of July. Holly is owned by Sean McCarthy & Tammy McCarthy of New York, NY & Helyne Medeiros of Cape Cod, MA. Holly was bred by Cheryl S. LaDuc, A. Cantor, and A. Walker (You can tell by the number of owners and breeders that this dog is a major business venture. I know law firms with fewer partners). Holly is also partnered by a powerhouse handler, Michael E. Scott, who is married to the former Michelle Ostermiller. You might remember Michelle as the handler of the 2005 Wesminster winner, Ch Kan-Point's VJK Autumn Roses, German Shorthair Pointer (more on that win later).
While dog show rankings are more objective than the aforementioned AP college football rankings, they are still can be debated over post show cocktails. At first glance, they seem straight forward. By the end of July, Spirit had defeated 12,227 more dogs than Holly, a whopping 22 percent more. However, Holly has amassed 14 more best in shows, 33 percent more, than Spirit. During the current month Holly has picked up six more BIS to Spirit's five. The most telling statistic is the Cantfield, OH hat trick pulled off by Holly on the first three days of August. She went BIS at the Columbiana County, Beaver County, and Mahoning-Shenango shows in head to head match ups with Spirit.
So which is the real top dog? We will reserve our opinion until we see the results of the Eukanuba National Championship and Westminster 2009, dogdom's version of the playoffs and the Superbowl. Did I mention that the number five dog, the striking Sealyham Terrier, CH Efbe's Hidalgo at Goodspice, went BIS over both Holly and Spirit at the Saratoga New York KC show on August 6? Damn, I love this stuff!
Now, back to the lovely Michelle Ostermiller Scott...I am a person that catalogues life as a series of memorable events. I have a mental scrapbook of snapshots that remind me how good my life has been. Everyone remembers the day they got married or the day their first child was born. Of course, those are cherished memories, but I have also those memories where I stumbled across extraordinary talent. Among my favorite experiences have been seeing Evita in San Francisco with Patti Lupone and Mandy Patinkin before they and the show won Tonys on Broadway; seeing Bette Midler perform at the Concord (CA) Pavillion the month before her Oscar nominated movie, The Rose, premiered, and seeing tenor Rolando Villazon in a super tiny concert hall in Atlanta six months before his Metropolitan Opera debut.
Equal to these was watching Michelle's Sporting Group and BIS Westminster wins in 2005. The two things that we all dream of in a show dog are spectacular movement across the ring and a free stack stare down of the judge. I have seen a lot of great show dogs and thrilling finals, but in 40 years of following dogs I have never seen the equal of Michelle's presentation of the GSP bitch, Carlee. She literally dared the judge to take her eyes off her. She was not one of the favorites going in. I remembered the pundits never even mentioned her. However, when she came back to the group judge and Michelle dramaticly dropped the lead, Carlee took over. She hit her mark and stared the judge down like she was a pheasant in the cross hairs. The entire garden was transfixed and, for a moment, all of us, pet owners and die hard enthusiasts, knew we were witnessing greatness. I live for moments like that.
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
For the first time in over three years a Cairn Terrier has gone Best In Show! CH Winsome Fergus Macflynn scrambled to the head of the pack in Longview, Texas. July 26, 2008. Mr. Terry Stacy, Mr. Jay Richardson, and Mr. Jon R. Cole awarded the Breed, Group, and Best In Show respectively. Congratulations to breeder, Nancy Jane Seaberry Smith, owners, Kendall & Tim Lake, and handler, Patsy B Benson-Wade.
Now, some may say that this was an insignificant win at a small show off the beaten path. There have may have been only 745 dogs in competition, but the Best In Show ring included the number five hound, the Petit Basset Griffon, Vendeen, CH Afterglow Ebeneezer; the number five non-sporting dog, the Chinese Shar-Pei, CH Asias Excalbur Whiplash; and the up and coming Pekingese, CH Franshaw Hear Me Roar, handled by the always formidable Hiram Stewart. Let me tell you, unless we're talking Westminster or Crufts, a Best In Show is a Best In Show is a Best In Show.
Why are BIS Cairns so rare? Without endorsing any of the following theories, here are some possibilities:
- Cairns are just too "ordinary" looking. Well, I don't think they are. Besides if a beagle can win at Westminster, why not a Cairn?
- They are a relatively rare breed. Well they are in some parts of the country, but they are just as numerous as Scotties and way more common than Sealys, both of which have been very successful over the years.
- The over all quality of Cairns being shown is not up to the level of the breeds which do get BIS. Now, I'm no Cairn specialist, but I really think that the over all quality of Cairns is better than a lot of other breeds being shown, especially breeds outside of the terrier group.
- The terrier group is the most competitive group in dogs. I'm partial to this theory. Terriers dominate the big shows.
- There are more owner handlers in Cairns than in breeds which go BIS frequently. While this may be true, when Cairns are paired with a professional handler they still get overlooked.
While I have no desire to see the Cairn become so popular that we see the kind of negatives associated with top ten registrations, I would like to see Cairns recognized for their many admirable traits. I think Cairn temperament just epitomizes show attitude. I also think Cairns are just as cute as it gets. Am I just being too Walter Mitty when I dream of going BIS?
Most of my non-doggy friends and family question my obsession with the dog show game. During my life I have spent a lot of money and time attending more traditional sporting events like football, basketball, and baseball. I've also had a couple of expensive and time consuming hobbies like boating and cars. My friends and family thought that all of these pursuits were wholesome and normal. Yet when I tell these outsiders that I just spent $1500 for a puppy or I'm driving 400 miles to attend a dog show, they act like I've taken leave of my senses.
Well, here's a couple of life lessons I've learned from the dog show fancy:
1. Dog show people live forever...or at least way longer than the average NASCAR fan. Last year, I attended a local show and a Japanese Chin exhibitor asked me to handle her class dog, while she showed her champion in best of breed ring. The judge was Maxine Beam. I first met Maxine in 1974 when we were both members of an all toy dog club in New York, now defunct (the club, not Maxine). I won't say Maxine is old, but she was "mature" in 1974.
2. Dog people know how to succeed. The dog fancy is a subjective sport and, like all subjective sports, accusations of favoritism and politics abound. In 1973, after a particularly long loosing streak , I asked one of the most successful professional handlers of the day, Bob Forsythe, if he had any advice for a novice like myself. Bob told me, with typical modesty, "If you bring a OK dog in the ring, I will beat you every time. But if you have a really special dog, you will win your share." The next dog I exhibited went Group Three from the classes at his first show.
Years later, my son came home from basketball tryouts, grumbling about how he had been cut because of favoritism and politics. I told him, "Next year you will just have to be so good they can't overlook you." He made the team that following year.
3. Dog people are tenacious. Back in the day when we had a lot of benched shows...benched shows, for those who have never exhibited at one, require that an exhibitor and his dog remain in the show hall during show hours, even after your dog has been judged and failed to win anything. This was done so the dog owner could meet and greet spectators while coming up with creative excuses for the failure to finish in the ribbons....but I digress. At one of my first shows in Philadelphia, which was benched show, I returned to my bench at 10:00 AM, after taking a reserve winners, to await for the warden, I mean show chairman, to release us from the show hall at 4:00 PM. I struck up a conversation with a fellow detainee, uh, exhibitor, an elderly woman accompanied by a particularly ill tempered Pekingese. Explaining that Pekes were bred to be guard dogs for the emperors of China, she regaled me with a story of how she had, in the 1930s, attended the Crufts Dog Show.
Crufts is the world's largest show, with over 22,000 dogs, and believed by many, especially the English, to be even more prestigious than Westminster
At that show she witnessed a magnificent looking Peke being disqualified for attempting to bite the judge. She approached the owner and told her that it was a shame that such a beautiful dog had been dismissed. The exasperated owner offered to sell her the nasty animal at a bargain price and before the afternoon was out my fellow detainee had a new stud dog. The next day the lady and the Peke boarded the Queen Mary for the trip home to New York. Once they were settled into their stateroom, she decided to get acquainted with her new dog. A few minutes later she rang the steward for some iodine, bandages, and a pair of heavy work gloves. The way she told the story, by the end of the week long crossing, she and her bad tempered buddy had gained a lasting respect for one another. That dog went on to win several best in shows here in the US.
CH Chik T'Sun of Caversham with handler Clara Alford. Ossie was the top winning Pekingese in history with 126 Best In Shows. Ossie was NOT the bad tempered Peke that my friend imported.
The only life lesson I ever learned at a football game was how to balance a beer and a dish of nachos in my lap at the same time.
I went to my first dog show in 1968. My family had just purchased our first AKC registered dog, a Saint Bernard, we called Brandy. I remembered that none of the dogs looked like any of the dogs in my neighborhood. That show was won by the Afghan Hound, CH Dahnwood Gabriel, the top Hound of 1968, handled by Michele Leathers Billings. The two of them were like rock stars, glamorous and larger than life. I was a short, plain looking kid with glasses from Memphis, Tennessee, and, for me, these two were celebrities. Now, I knew I was never going to be another Elvis or James Dean, but here was a world where mere dog owners were superstars.
Now 40 years later, Elvis and James Dean are dead, but I'm still going to dog shows. I never did achieve that rock star fame (Success is just as elusive in dogdom as it is in music or films), but I've shown at Westminster (the Garden), Philadelphia, Santa Barbara, San Francisco (the Cow Palace) and Portland (Oregon). I am one of those people that recognized all the characters from the movie Best In Show. I remember best in show rings at big shows the way some people remember touchdowns at Super Bowls.
I took a break from showing to pursue a career and raise a family, but now I am retired and the children are grown. I have acquired a 13 week old Cairn bitch puppy. We have named her Shadowland's Devil in Disguise.
Dee Dee is the granddaughter of the top winning Cairn Terrier in history, Ch. Rose Croft Best Foot Forward, and niece of this year's Westminster best of breed, Ch Ashwood Kenric's Wicked. Hopefully, Dee Dee will continue the family winning tradition. Our heartfelt thanks to Dee Germany of Shadowland Kennels for letting us have this little girl. Win or lose, we and Dee Dee will visit several shows in the future and will share our adventures in and out of the ring here in this blog.