Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A Brief w00t and a Few Shout-Outs

Just wanted to announce that my article on Maine dogs at the Westminster Dog Show appears in the March issue of Downeast Dog News, and the paper's designer made the story look just fabulous. I'm deeply tickled that Holly (the editor) asked me to send her one. Thanks, Holly!

That article wouldn't even exist if it weren't for David Frei, director of communications for the Westminster Kennel Club. Because I didn't have access to a print catalog, he saved me thousands of hours of painful combing through the online results for every single AKC breed in existence by sending me the list of local competitors. I contacted a couple of them and asked them a few questions, and had the most delightful conversations. Thanks, David -- you've saved my life and helped me make my deadline. I owe you one.

Thanks too to the kind ladies who took time out of their post-show days to let me interrupt them and beg them for stories. I'm looking forward to seeing them in the ring when the snow finally leaves this latitude.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Westminster Post-Game Show

Congratulations to CH Clussexx Three D Grinchy Glee (Stump), the Sussex Spaniel who took BIS at Westminster! We who love our old guys can be especially proud that 10-year-old Stump took the honors, as if to declare that our senior dogs can still show the young pups how it's done in the show ring. Those of us who have less-popular dog breeds can be cheered that for once, a Best in Show judge had the guts to choose the dog from the 145th most popular breed in AKC registrations, instead of just going for the easily-recognizable breeds or the toy dogs again and again.

I'm happy to admit that Stump was my pick for BIS. I fell in love with that beautiful brown face during the Group judging, The camera obviously loved him as much as I did. "There," I told Greg. "There's the dog I would pick for BIS, but he doesn't have a snowball's chance in hell. Just you wait -- that Best in Show judge is going to pick a Poodle or some little foo-foo dog. No one ever picks the rare breeds."

Not that I'm knocking the BIS judge at all — Sari Tietjen has been a legend in the dog-showing world for ages, and I remember as a little kid, reading her name in the AKC Gazettes that my uncle gave me back in the '60s and early '70s. Although she is known most for her involvement with Japanese Chin, I could swear she also had Pekingese at one time. (I stewarded for her sister Joy once. We didn't hit it off.) 

Anyway, I was sure that this meant she'd favor the Brussels Griffon -- who was quite the little specimen in his own right. And, of course, there was a Poodle in the ring. I also loved Tiger Woods, the Scottish Deerhound -- another breed that I figured wouldn't get any respect. In short, there wasn't a loser in the bunch -- but the big question remained, Who would be the biggest winner from among the winners?

Was I tickled when Mrs. Tietjen picked Stump! "I can't believe it!" I told Greg. "She picked the best dog there, and it wasn't the Poodle!" I know this means that the Sussex Spaniel Club of America is going to have its collective paws full with people calling to buy Sussex puppies -- but the Sussex is a breed that won't end up going into manufacture to meet the demands of Flavor-of-the-Month fans. 

Stump has a busy year ahead of him, as Uno did last year. As the newly crowned "America's Dog," Stump will be traveling with David Frei, Westminster KC's communications director and my current hero (more on that later), to appearances all over the country. He will assume a new role as spokesdog for all good dogs. He'll visit children and soldiers in hospitals. He'll help educate people about responsible dog ownership. I'm hoping that he'll help people to think about what it means to live with and love a dog, and to help stem the crazy, wrong-headed tide of anti-dog/animal-rights-sponsored legislation that's rising all around the country and trying to end dog ownership as we know it. It's a big job, to be sure. Miss America should have as important a mission. Although David will do a lot of the talking, Stump's gorgeous hazel eyes will also speak volumes.

20 Minutes of Fame, Up From 15

You might remember last year at about this time, when my friend Monica Collins (a.k.a. Ask Dog Lady) asked me about a certain little-discussed, but no less vital, aspect of showing at Westminster. Thanks to Monica's witty syndicated advice column of the same name, dog lovers all over the country (wherever her column appears) had the chance to -- er -- go behind the scenes at the Garden. It just figured that when my 15 minutes of fame came around, that I'd spend it discussing dog poop.

Anyway, when Monica asked me to join her and her co-host on her weekly radio show, I was just tickled to bits. (I did wonder whether I'd have to watch what I said about poop over the airwaves.) We had a delightful time chatting about Stump, and our feeling that his win was a victory for senior dogs everywhere. She asked me to explain some of the acronyms in Dinah's list of accomplishments, and we even had a caller! That was perhaps the quickest 20 minutes I've experienced in my life.

You should be able to hear our portion of the show on the Ask Dog Lady Web site once it's available. The sound experts probably have to edit out all my "um"s and "ah"s. Oh, and we didn't talk about poop. (Much.) The FCC will be proud.

Public Service Announcement: Handling Classes in Fryeburg, ME

Telling Tails Training in Fryeburg is holding breed handling classes with Dayna Rousseau. The classes take place on Tuesdays from 7-8 PM. If you're in southwestern Maine or that part of eastern NH, they should be well worth the trip. I know Dayna slightly from back when I was trying to do agility with Charlie, and Dayna took some priceless pictures of Chuckles for me.

Now is a very good time to get come practice in before the show season starts in Maine. Fryeburg is a haul for me, but if you go, let me know what you think.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Dog Showing in a Nutshell

A big thank-you to Szizlin Vizslas for having this article on the very basics available on their Web site. Although there are parts specific to Vs, most of the article contains information that any Dog Show Newbie can use.