Tuesday, December 07, 2010

A Brief History of Dog Shows

In the wake of recent big dog-show events such as the National Dog Show in Philadelphia and Eukanuba in Long Beach, this article appeared in Yahoo! News. Not sure how long this story will persist, so enjoy it as soon as you can...

A Brief History of Dog Shows

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

It's (Almost) All About Dinah

It's getting to be the time of year where we pack up the show stuff and prepare to hibernate for the winter. Dinah hasn't actually seen the inside of a show ring since the Canadian Specialty in August (though I still wish we could have gone to the Carolinas Regional). We do have two more APDT rally trials coming up on the first weekend of December, and then we'll really put 2010 to bed.

All the same, we brought home a decent small collection of memories this year...

  • BOS at the New England Regional (for the second year in a row)
  • BOS at the Supported Entry the next day
  • 10 AKC Grand Champion points
  • BOS at the Fredericton KC show to finish her Canadian CH
  • Best in Show in the MB-F Virtual Dog Show
  • AKC Rally Novice and Advanced titles
  • APDT Rally Level 1 title with an Award of Excellence (AOE) and 1 leg toward Level 2
  • 7 legs (so far) toward the APDT Rally Level 1 Championship (RL1X) title
  • 1 leg in UKC Rally Level 1 (URO1)
Although I say we're hibernating for the winter, we're really just not going out to compete. When the weather permits, we spend our time at home on the weekends, practicing. Dinah's back in agility class with Jim Gregg, who's a master at deconstructing handling and helping you build a successful process. We've been going to Wednesday-evening rally classes since school started, and will resume when the next semester resumes in January.

Oddly enough, working in rally and agility seem to complement each other — all the more so since Jim is so good at spotting inconsistencies in handling that (especially in my case) seem to be handicapping our progress. Sometimes neglecting the simplest things can make a huge difference. Jim noticed that I wasn't taking the time to catch Dinah's eye in the ring because my ring nerves had me all flustered. Keeping that in mind, I tried to keep eye contact in both agility and in rally, and Dinah did much better. She's always stellar in practice; at trials, not so much.

I'll have to remember to keep Jim's advice in mind next time we go to a trial. I've had the worst time doing APDT Level 2, although we managed to complete the AKC RA. Dinah knocked the jump bar on our first Excellent run, but that has to do with bad agility handling (mine). She was looking at me, and not at the obstacle.

The year hasn't been completely about Dinah, though. Badger Blue managed to take a 4th in his Veterans class at the BCCC National.

Dinah's image has been places, too. Two photos of her — one as a puppy, one as an adult — appeared for the Bearded Collie at the AKC's Meet the Breeds event in NYC last month.

Next month, Dinah and Badger get to be supermodels for a day! They'll be modeling couch covers for the FetchDog catalog. We'll all head to the shoot at a house somewhere in West Falmouth, and a local dog trainer we know will help coax the two stars of the show up onto the furniture, to recline in appealing poses. Somewhere, some lucky copywriter will get to struggle with the temptation to talk about all the dog hair that won't get on the furniture, and we'll end up with some lovely professional photos of the Breakseas. I'm looking forward to it!

Seamus already knows how best to model a couch!

We have to spend every Thanksgiving on the road, so we won't be home to watch the National Dog Show on TV. Have a great Thanksgiving, all, and enjoy the show for us!

Friday, October 01, 2010

We Are Virtually Proud

InfoDog Virtual Dog Show
9/27 - 10/1/2010
Best In Show

Yes, you read that right. Dinah just received her first Best in Show as an adult, and her first in the States. (She was Best Puppy in Show at the Canadian National back in 2006 and had an AKC Puppy Group 2 as a puppy.) Okay, so maybe it isn't a real show, since it didn't involve grooming, gaiting, sweating, driving, or an expensive hotel stay. All the same, it's a Best in Show, and we'll take it.

If you're not familiar with the Infodog Virtual Dog Show, it's an online simulated all-breed show sponsored by show superintendents MB-F, Inc. It's free to enter; all you need are a few nice photographs. There is also a "fun" section where you can enter candid photos of your dog in various categories. Yes, you may enter both sections.

In the dog show section, you may enter with just one show-side photo of your dog, or you may upload front, back, and right side photos and even a video of your dog gaiting. (We have an assortment of very nice stills, but no video.) In a way, this forces you to select from among the piles of posed and candid shots you own to find the ones that would look good to a judge who cannot actually touch your dog or watch the gaiting around the ring. The breed, group, and Best in Show judges' bios are posted as the show opens for entries.

Judging proceeds the same way as it does for any other all-breed show: first the class dogs, then the class bitches, then Best of Breed. Infodog even has little "animations" of the dogs' photos going around the ring to "applause." When your dog wins, you receive an emailed certificate showing the photo, the win, and a rosette. Judges are allowed to post evaluations of the dog they've judged, and some do take advantage of that. I'll never forget the evaluation we received the first year we entered (2008): "This appears to be a quality dog with a correct coat, however there is so much that a judge cannot do in this sort of competition. I wouldn't be surprised to hear that this dog has or will win big." Well, we've done okay since then.

This year Dinah, being a special, started off in BOB. Okay, so there wasn't a lot of competition in breed this year, since there were only three Beardies -- but still, she won and advanced to Group.

Last year, she didn't place in Group, though she's had a Group 3 and a Group 4 in the past. There were some very nice competitors out there. This year, though, was different...

The same lovely blue merle Aussie and some other group competitors from the last were there again this year, though there weren't any Collies. It might be just a virtual Group First, but it was Dinah's first! I was too busy to read email this morning, so I missed the email with the Group 1 inside. Dinah went on to BIS without me.

At lunchtime, I received this in email:

It took me a minute to react (as it usually does) -- and then it hit me. Judging was over. There were no additional rounds to advance to. Dinah had not only won Best of Breed and defeated the other dogs in the Herding Group, but she had also defeated the other group winners! Sure, this is how every all-breed dog show works, and people whose dogs are multiple BIS winners are probably used to this... but all the same, it's our first BIS, however virtual. Maybe a real one is in the cards for someday... most likely, not.

Anyone can enter the Infodog Virtual Dog Show. Get your photos together and come join in the fun for the next round!

Monday, September 13, 2010

End of the Season, But Not

Now that Dinah's a special, we can pretty much pick and choose which shows we feel like entering instead of frantically scouring premium lists for every show on the Eastern Seaboard, in search of one more stinkin' major or a few more crummy points. Quite honestly, I don't miss that part -- but I do miss showing later into the year. Much as I complain about showing into late November or early December, I miss hanging out with my buddies on weekends at the Big E or on some other road trip. Mind you, I don't miss these trips enough to consider campaigning Dinah as far as the GRCH, but I still feel just the teeniest bit wistful when everyone else gets to pack up and go.

Since our last appearance in conformation, though, Dinah and I have been fairly busy training and showing in rally trials in a few different venues. She completed the APDT Level 1 title in July with an Award of Excellence, and her AKC Rally Novice at the very end of August. This makes her Am/Can CH Breaksea November Storm HIC CGC RL1 (AOE) RN.

Not that we plan to stop there. We're entered in another AKC trial and hope to make progress toward the Rally Advanced title (she has one leg already). We have more APDT trials to enter between now and the end of the year, plus we're attempting our very first UKC rally trial in October. My ambition is to work enough to cross over into regular obedience as well. Our rally instructor has a Novice class right after ours, and I might do the occasional drop-in just to see if we're even ready to start just yet. Holding still is not one of the Princess's favorite things to do.

Are we coming back to the conformation ring? You bet your Bean boots we are, but probably not until spring. It gives us something to look forward to during the dark and icy days of wintertime. Until then, you can see us in class with our compadres or playing in the local trials. If you're going to the conformation shows, good luck and have fun!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

O Canada: the Road Trip Movie

Bearded Collie Club of Canada National Specialty
8/11 and 12, 2010
Badger: 4th, Veteran Males 7-9

Judge: David Hyde. Photo by Garth Gourlay.

In a way, Val and I needed to go to Fredericton to prove to ourselves that not all car trips turn into plots for horror movies. Our trip to Minnesota was so Edvard-Munch-The-Scream horrible that we still have PTSD flashbacks from it, and I never did finish my blog post about it from last year. (I might still do that someday, but it would probably end up within the chronology of this blog and pass, unnoticed, into the Collection of Things Best Not Mentioned. Either that, or someone like Rob Zombie will pick up the option for it and turn it into this generation’s version of The Exorcist Meets Sybil. Yes, it was that horrible. Worse, even.) Anyway, we were overdue for one of our own road trips -- so off to the Maritimes we went. We baked in the heat, we got wet in the rain, and we encountered giant spuds on the roadside... but we did have a pretty good time.

When Dinah picked up her last point in Fredericton, I said, “Pack your bags – we’re heading to Belleville!” We’d entered the National two days before, simply because entries closed before we could make it to the Maritimes. If we hadn’t had such a nice trip to Fredericton and back, we might not have gone at all. The very idea of long car rides still makes us both cringe.

So there we were: the two of us plus Kathy with Dinah, Fiona, and Badger -- all packed into a rented Ford Econoline van, eager to prove to ourselves that not all trips have to be Trips From H-E-Double Hockey Sticks. The construction on the way there, plus the traffic through Montreal, made the drive up a Trip From Heck, but we survived. If not for the fact that most of New Hampshire, Vermont, and Quebec appeared to be under construction, we might have made the trip in 9 hours instead of 10 1/2.

The Ramada in Belleville was lovely, with a nice big flat area perfect for showing -- and right by the water for scenic show pictures. We arrived late enough in the week so that we missed having time to explore the hiking trails, but that was unavoidable. Next time, for sure!

Here's a view from Val's and my 4th-floor balcony:

Badger and Fiona, the class dogs, showed on Wednesday, with the boys showing first. Badger was first up on the table:

He's essentially retired from showing, but he still loves to show off occasionally. I brought him along mostly so Kathy would have enough dogs to show, but he cleaned up nicely and looked great in the ring.

Badger ended up taking 4th place in Veteran Males 7-9, which was a pleasant surprise. There were 6 dogs entered and 5 showed up, so he wasn't last in the class. Not bad for a retired guy. He still gets his spot in BCCC history now.

All the weather forecasts the previous week had promised us lovely, 60-degree days and 40-degree nights with a chance of rain on Friday and maybe Thursday. None of us -- especially the hairy members of the entourage -- are huge fans of very hot weather, but Kathy probably dislikes it the worst of all of us. She's the one who has to dress up and run around in the bright sunshine -- while wearing a suit and pantyhose. Can't blame her there. Anyway, the weather forecast lied. By the time we made it to Ontario, it was just plain baking hot. We ended up having to soak chamois cloths to put over each dog before showtime. Luckily, we had electricity available so we could plug in our big fan, and we ran the batteries in the crate fans until they begged for mercy. Dinah relaxed on her waterbed, but Badger just didn't care for his. He stood it for the car rides, but asked to be placed in a crate without the bed -- and then dug up the fleece bed so he slept just on the plastic pan on the bottom. Silly old bluey.

Next, it was Fiona's turn to shine in the baking hot sun.

The Open Bitch class was massively competitive, and Fee acquitted herself very well. There wasn't a bad-looking girlie in the lot. I'd moved Dinah up since she finished in Fredericton; otherwise she'd have been in this class, too.

The judge had pulled out his first picks in the ring in Open Bitch, and then he looked back and looked Fiona over again. He pulled her out to join his other picks, then moved her up to third place. For a moment, we thought he would move her up more, but he seemed content with his choices as they were. Third place at a National is still nothing to sneeze at, and it gave people a good look at Fee.

Thus encouraged, we celebrated with a room-service picnic and high hopes for Best of Breed. If David had liked the B-Man, then he would love Dinah, right? Dinah had been Best Puppy at that specialty in 2006 and Winners Bitch in 2008. With a winning streak like that, she should come home with something very nice from out of the Specials class, right? Even if she didn't take Best of Breed or Best Opposite, even an Award of Merit would have been cause for a victory banquet at Big Daddy's BBQ, home of the all-you-can-eat lobster dinner.

Of course, the big game that everyone plays at dog shows is, "What does the judge like?". Some like good movers. Some like nice heads. Some don't show any pattern to their choices. Everyone scrutinizes the judge's picks and tries to determine the pattern (if any).

It rained in the early morning hours before the show, which to us was an encouraging sign. Dinah loves to show in wet weather; as Kathy says, "She's a mudder." It remained cloudy at showtime, which was a vast relief to everybody sporting sunburns from the previous days of showing.

There were so many entries in Best of Breed that the judge brought everyone in, then allowed the bitches to leave the ring so he could judge all the dog entries first. He would make his cuts, then dismiss the dogs and do the same for the bitches.

By the time dog judging was complete, the atmosphere had started heating up again. I was disappointed that Dinah wouldn't get to show in the rain. Sure, she gets horribly messy, but she plows through the muck and water with such joy that you'd think she actually loved to show. She doesn't really -- she likes it okay, but she doesn't love it. Still, add water and she's a happy camper.

Finally, the bitches were called in. Because Dinah had moved up from Open just the day before, she was placed last in line. She had plenty of time to get bored and fidgety back there, and she made Kathy work to keep her focused. All the same, she looked lovely.

She moved nicely, when it finally came her turn.

We were surprised and disappointed when she didn't even make the cut, but she simply wasn't David's cup of tea -- nor did she feel particularly motivated to make him change his mind about that. David appeared to prefer bigger, longer dogs. Dinah is long enough, but he liked them really long. Badger and Fiona are both longer than The Lovely One. She's also a little girl, and he didn't put up any little Beardies in any of the classes. Anyway, we sadly left the ring and started packing up. Dinah's winning streak at the National was no more. No AOM. No all-you-can-eat lobster.

The top honors eventually went to two deserving dogs: Arwen (whom Dinah has beaten every other time they've been in the same ring) took Best of Breed, and Darcy (Diva's littermate and a very nice boy) took Best of Opposite. All of the specials were nice -- not a bad one anywhere, or an undeserving one -- but it was still a bummer about Dinah's winning streak. Not even Kathy's lucky suit and my lucky earrings helped. (I'm not really a believer in lucky charms, but I do believe in how you act and feel when you have them. It does make a difference when you feel lucky.)

Our trip home took us over the same bridges that we crossed to head home from Gananoque, and we took a shortcut through the farm country in upstate New York that was charming, but not exactly short in terms of time. At least we weren't stuck in miles of orange barrels with kamikaze traffic trying to run us off the road. It took us a good 11 hours to get back, but we made it safely (if a bit punchy toward the end -- we giggled from central MA all the way back to Maine), unpacked in as orderly a fashion as we could manage, and got lucky Kathy on the road for home so she could attend a wedding the next day. She survived it, and we all survived the road trip. Even if we didn't bring home any really big honors, simply surviving the trip without it devolving into insanity was almost enough of a reward. Maybe we can travel again without flashbacks after all.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Public Service Announcement: Dr. Hutchison Seminar, October in Portsmouth, NH

Robert Hutchison, DVM, the noted specialist on canine reproduction and neonatology and arguably the leading expert on frozen semen, will be holding a one-day seminar on Saturday, October 2, at the Sheraton Harborside Hotel, 250 Market Street, Portsmouth, NH. It is being hosted by the York County Kennel Club of Maine, Inc. All interested canine breeders and veterinary professionals are invited to attend the seminar. It will start at 7:30am. Coffee service and a buffet lunch will be provided.

This may be the first time “Dr. Hutch” will be giving his popular presentation in the seacoast area of northern New England. A graduate of Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine, he is affiliated with the Animal Clinic Northview of North Ridgeville, OH. He is also director of the Center for Canine and Feline Reproduction and Infertility and a past president of Lorain County Veterinary Medical Association. He is the author of countless articles and journals on canine reproduction that have appeared in professional publications and he holds canine reproduction seminars all over the world.

At the seminar, he will deliver basic information on canine reproduction, focusing on maximizing conception, prenatal care, successful whelping, postnatal care and the care of whelps. He will take questions from the audience. In addition, there will be a networking period.

The cost will be $99 per person (no canines, please). Payment should by made by personal check or money order in US dollars payable to YCKC—Seminar. Fill out the form below and mail it with your payment to Mr Carroll Goodwin III, YCKC Treasurer, PO Box 336, Alfred, ME 04002. UPON RECEIPT OF APPLICATION YOU WILL RECEIVE AN EMAIL CONFIRMATION. Payment must accompany your reservation.

Registration deadline is September 25, 2010.

For more information and a registration form, please visit http://yorkcountykennelclub.homestead.com/news.html or contact Eileen Kelly at olbaileylabs@aol.com 207-247-3734 or 631-862-9118.

*For overnight accommodations, the Portsmouth Sheraton Hotel has reserved a small block of rooms. For availability visit http://www.sheratonportsmouth.com/. There are also several other hotels in the Portsmouth area. However, all attendees are responsible for making their own reservations.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

O Canada! Part Cinq

Fredericton Kennel Club, 7/24
WB/BOS, 1 point
7/25 RWB

Announcing... Am/Can CH Breaksea November Storm, HIC CGC RL1!

Yes, it finally happened. We finally got that last stinkin' CKC point to finish Dinah in Canada. Now we can show our faces around the BCCC National without having to enter her as a class bitch for the third time.

A lot of Dinah's family members have CH titles from multiple countries -- her sister Buffy (Breaksea November Mist), for example, has been burning up all the countries of continental Europe and picking up championships in each one. Badger's brother Moby (Breaksea Norwegian Wood) has at least all of Scandinavia covered. Dylan (Breaksea Gone West) was the first Am/Can Ch in the family, and Dinah is the second one, as well as the first bitch to earn both.

There aren't huge numbers of Beardies showing around the Maritimes, so sometimes you just have to bring all your breed's entries with you if you hope to earn CKC points without depending on Group 3s -- so that's just what we did. Val and I were overdue for a road trip, anyway. We decided to pack up Trav, Fiona, and Dinah and meet Ashley at the Fredericton shows to try our luck there. Our friend Penny, a local handler who has had a lot of success showing in eastern Canada over the years, offered to handle Dinah to her last point.

The only thing that we can never predict about a show is the mood that the Princess will be in on any given show day. When she's in a good mood and wants to show well, she's hard to beat. When she's Not In The Mood, no amount of cajoling, bribery, or Great Bait can get her to focus on the task at hand. Kathy and I have Talked to the Paw more times than we care to admit.

Val and I made good time on the drive (aside from the summer construction delays), crossed at St. Stephen with absolutely no traffic ahead of us (a first!) and headed for Fredericton. The road between St. Stephen and Fredericton is pretty much a swathe through the woods, and is the kind of drive where you rejoice when another vehicle comes toward you in the opposite lane because it gives you something else to look at. "Wow," Val said. "When a Canadian says that this show is in the middle of nowhere, you'd better believe it!"

One of the joys of driving with a GPS is that it very rarely gets you truly lost. You might not always take the most efficient route to get someplace, but you'll generally get there. We ignored the GPS's entreaties to cross at Houlton rather than at Calais, and for miles afterward, it kept trying to get us to drive back to Houlton to cross.

Our biggest navigational challenge happened in Fredericton, where the Princess Margaret Bridge, which we were supposed to use to cross the St. John River, turned out to be closed for construction. The GPS, in deep denial of that fact, kept trying at every turn to route us that way, until we both told it to shut up and turned it off. We procured directions at a gas station, crossed the river, and headed to the campground to set up.

The drive along the river was lovely, punctuated every so often by a local landmark, such as a giant potato wearing a top hat or a huge carved wooden figure of Sherlock Holmes.

We arrived at the show site, found Penny and the Doberdogs, and set up at ringside just behind them. After the EZ-Up was staked and the chairs and flooring unloaded, we set off to find out hotel, ignoring the GPS's entreaties to take the closed bridge. It finally complied and showed us a route that involved streets that we actually could take to get there.

Once esconced in the hotel, we ordered take-out, exercised the dogs, and readied ourselves for an early wake-up call. Trav was so happy to be out of the car that he practically threw himself at me with his usual "Arrrrr, arrrrr." (Trav and I have deep conversations. He likes to do his pirate impression for me. We talk about his favorite letter of the alphabet and other subjects of great philosophical import.)

When the alarm went off far too early on Saturday morning, we all bundled back into the rental van and headed across the bridge that wasn't closed to the show site on the other side. The GPS was not amused. We passed the Giant Spud again, and pulled into the show site.

Val, aware of my "skills" as a show groomer, neatened up the Princess's feet and got her finish grooming done, then worked on Fiona. Ashley arrived and started prepping Trav.

CKC shows run somewhat like UKC shows do -- all breeds in a group using the same ring, and breeds showing more or less in alphabetical order. Groups sometimes follow the individual breeds, and sometimes take place after all breed judging is over in all the rings. If you're used to AKC shows, where the show secretaries have to juggle rings, breeds, judges, and groups and try to fit them together into a puzzle, then you'll come to appreciate the beauty and simplicity of the CKC/UKC scheme. It does take a short time to get used to the fact that all shows run pretty much the same way -- but then you have one less thing to have to keep in mind.

Penny had four breeds to show, and three of them conflicted that day. We worked out a game plan whereby she would show the Aussie, bring her out, take Dinah in, hand Dinah back to me, and sprint into the Doberman ring next door to show her own dog. If the Aussie took her breed and Dinah took hers, I would be showing Dinah in Group. We all gathered under the roof in the waiting area and assumed our stations. I felt a little bit like a running back waiting for the kickoff.

Penny took third with Jules the Aussie, then offered Dinah various kinds of bait from $15-a-pound roast beef to chunks of liver. I offered up Dinah's old favorite Great Bait and added it to the show menu. The ring steward called for Bearded Collies, and they were off, with Val and Fee behind them.

Dinah seemed in a pretty good mood, and she decided to work for Penny instead of making her Talk to the Paw. I was still worried that she'd decide that the day was getting too hot to show, and take a summer vacation right in the middle of judging. She didn't show with great enthusiasm, but she held it together well enough to take the Open class and get that last point. Fee took Reserve. Dinah ended up going Best Opposite to Trav, who took the breed. (Sadly, Trav didn't get much love in the group -- though the judge looked at him for a VERY long time before calling four other dogs out.)

Outside the ring, we did as much hugging and dancing as we could do without disrupting the rest of the show's proceedings. Penny had had to send her Dobe into the ring with her husband because of the ring conflict, but she suspected that the breed judging wouldn't have gone her way anyway.

One of Penny's friends took this nice photo of The Lovely One in the ring. Thanks, Mark!

When Dinah finished her AKC CH, I'd packed a bottle of champagne just in case we needed it. Because Val doesn't drink and my days of drinking whole bottles of the stuff myself are long behind me (Day, actually. I did that once in college and definitely regretted it the next morning), the only bubbly I could rustle up for Dinah's CKC championship was a can of Red Bull. Anything chilled and bubbly served the purpose. I was just so relieved to have finished Dinah that I would have toasted her success with lukewarm soapy water.

The afternoon grew hot, so we packed up the pups and headed back to Fredericton proper, ignoring protests from the GPS. We stopped at the Giant Spud for a photo shoot, and the dogs drew adoring fans...

After a little celebration dinner (which couldn't include the guest of honor), we passed the rest of the evening sending emails and messages to everyone eager for news, watched the Food Network (porn channel for Weight Watchers), and hung out with the pups. Trav and I had several conversations on the subject of Arrrrr.

The next morning, we drove through a monsoon to the show site. The EZ-Up kept everything relatively dry, but it was so new that I hadn't even sealed the seams yet. We had a few drips here and there, but they didn't compare with the drenching we sustained getting between the car and the tent, trying to keep the dogs relatively dry.

Because Dinah had won the day before and finished, Val and I agreed that I wouldn't move her up. Instead, Dinah would stay in the classes, and I would show her. That way, we shared the points with Fee.

Just before we were supposed to go into the ring, we peeled off our soaked raingear. I looked like a contestant in a wet T-shirt contest, so I had to put my coat back on. The judge, who sported a strange headgear midway between an Arab headdress and a fisherman's sou'wester, removed his hat just as the wind started to pick up, and ended up wearing the same hairstyle that Michael Keaton wore in "Beetlejuice."

Fee took the point and went Best Opposite to her dad, who showed beautifully and looked wonderful -- and who still left the group ring empty-handed. Fee now has 4 CKC points -- only 6 more to go.

We stopped to visit Ann, showered and changed, and got to cuddle a litter of 4-week-old Trav/Sadie puppies, full siblings of Fiona's. I made sure to share a little "Arrrr" with the pick boy, who looks just like a miniature Trav. I told the little brown girl that brownies are special, and swapped conversations and puppy breath with everyone else.

Eventually, we brought the new champion home, and I had the pleasure of requesting a move-up to Specials Only for the BCCC Specialty. I hope we get to go, but even if we don't, this little special is still pretty special.

-- Post From My iSomething

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Public Service Announcement: AKC Survey About Dog Shows

Yeah, I know. I know how the last survey went -- but if you like conformation shows and want our sport to stick around, then here's your chance to speak up and suggest ways in which AKC can make some changes to benefit the sport.

The rest of this post is copied and pasted directly from the email...

The American Kennel Club Board and Staff are currently considering ways to attract and retain participants in the conformation sport. The objective is to consider changes which will result in a better experience for Clubs, exhibitors, and the general public. The goals are to improve entries, level of participation, and, in turn, the financial performance of our show giving Clubs. The information you provide will be summarized and be presented to the Board of Directors in August. As active members of the dog fancy you understand the challenges the conformation sport is facing and we are sure you have ideas on how to improve our sport. What we seek are ideas.ideas on how to improve the conformation show, thoughts on how to attract new people into the sport, and ways to attract the general public to shows so they can learn what purebred dogs are and ! why purp osely bred dogs are important. We have divided this request into 3 parts.shows, new exhibitors, and the general public. We are asking you to provide you ideas, brief and concise as possible in these three areas. You do not have to complete all three sections.just the area(s) where you have a point of view. While contact information is not required it would be helpful in case follow up is needed to better understand an idea. All input will reported anonymously and it is recognized, due to the short timeframe, that your views are not necessarily those of your Club. http://www.zoomerang.com/Survey/ WEB22AWMCSHGMT

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Public Service Announcement: Anne Bowes Handling Seminar

I'm paraphrasing this from the official seminar handout. Note: This seminar is open only to Shelties and auditors until July 31. The seminar opens to other breeds starting August 1. Signup deadline is October 9, 2010.

Anne Bowes Handling Seminar, sponsored by the Colonial Shetland Sheepdog Club and Granite State Shetland Sheepdog Club
Sunday, October 17, 2010, 9 AM - 5 PM
Waggin' Tail Dog Training Center
67 Broadway Street
Westford, MA 01886

Working spots are $75. Audit spots are $40. Lunch and drinks are included in the price.

Classes Offered: Level 1: Have yet to complete a championship on a dog. Level 2: Have finished at least one champion, owner-handled

Each class will be limited to 15 participants and dogs. Participating dogs should be over 1 year of age for the handler to obtain the most benefit. The focus of this clinic is to teach the handler, and not train the dog.

To sign up, send a check made payable to Colonial Shetland Sheepdog Club to:

Elizabeth Hildreth
40 Lincoln Road
Ashland, MA 01721

Include your name, address, phone number, and email. Also state with level class you would like to join, the breed of your dog, and the date when you signed up.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

New AKC Rule for 12-18 Month Class

Thanks to my friend Lisa for bringing this to my attention. She just entered a show in CA and discovered that today was the effective date for the split in the 12-18 month class. As of now, this is an option for the event-giving club. It certainly is something we can consider for specialties going forward.

At least for Beardies, they change so much from day to day as youngsters that a 12-month-old will look worlds different from an 18-month-old of the same breed. Splitting the class gives all of these youngsters a chance to compete against other dogs in similar stages of development. It will make things a little more exciting for the stewards and judges for a while, but no more than other changes.

Here is the AKC rule describing the split. The update is shown in italics.

CHAPTER 3, SECTION 5. The Twelve-to- Eighteen Month Class shall be for dogs that are twelve months of age and over, but under eighteen months, that are not champions. Clubs may further divide the Twelve-to-Eighteen Month Class into two age groups consisting of twelve months of age and under fifteen months, and fifteen months of age but under eighteen months. The age of a dog shall be calculated up to and inclusive of the first day of a show. For example, a dog whelped on January 1st is eligible to compete in the class at a show the first day of which January 1st of the following year and may continue to compete in this class at shows up to and including a show the first day of which is the 30th day of June of that year, but is not eligible to compete in this class at a show the first day of which is July 1st of that year.

Two more changes to the rules that should help breeder/owner/handlers (also cribbed from Lisa's email)...

New BBE rule: You have until the day of the show (instead of the day of closing) to make appropriate ownership transfers and still qualify for this class.

Another rule change is that a BBE entered dog can be moved to Open class (and only Open) if the BBE breeder/owner is not able to handle the dog at the show entered.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Public Service Announcement: Toys-Only Handling Class

Do you have a toy breed dog that you'd like to take to handling class, but are worried that s/he might have a hard time among the Labs and Goldens and other large dogs?

Penny Cary of Petiquette would like to put together a toys-only handling class at Finish Forward in Saco, if there's enough interest in holding one. If this sounds like something you'd like to join, contact Penny or contact Shannan at finishforwarddogs.com. (links to come later)

-- Post From My iSomething

Location:Finish Forward Dogs, Saco, ME

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Best-Laid Plans

2nd Annual NE Regional Specialty, Wrentham, MA, 6/5/10
Supported Entry, Framingham District KC Show, 6/6/10
10 GRCH points

Sometimes, in spite of all the careful planning, negotiating, communicating, and coordination involved in putting on a show, the best-laid plans can... actually work out.

I don’t mind sharing that I had been dreading the Regional Specialty this year. I’d been appointed show chair at a meeting where I wasn’t even present, and from then on I never quite felt that I had the details under control. When you’re coordinating two events at two shows two states away and trying to coordinate between two regional clubs and two all-breed clubs, things can get a little hairy – even by Bearded Collie standards of hairiness. They get hairier still when you’re a Show Chair Newbie.

The signs weren’t looking so good. Beardies ended up being scheduled at 3 PM on Saturday and 2 PM on Sunday – so much for the idea of showing in the morning and then enjoying a leisurely lunch afterward. Our club treasurer ended up having back surgery. A week or so before the show, the sub shop where we’d bought last year’s sandwiches was struck by lightning. A day or so before the show, the weather forecast changed from sunny and high 70s to a tornado watch. The night before the show, the skies opened, accompanied by thunderboomers. You never want to ask the question “What else could go wrong?” – but the temptation to do so anyway is hard to resist.

At least my own anxieties never made it into the premium list. Beardie folks entered the show, some from as far away as Toronto, Charlotte... and even Oregon! Our Sweeps judge was our friend Ann Lord from New Brunswick. We ended up fielding a small but respectable number of entries for sweeps and veteran sweeps, and enough class entries in the regular show to offer a 5-point major in dogs and 4 points in bitches. Trophies? Check. Food? Check. Raffle? Check. Hospitality tent? Check. Tables and chairs? Check. Judge’s gift for Ann? Check. Checks? Check.

On show day, the intrepid show crew appeared, set up the tables and spread out the buffet, the raffle items, the grooming tables, the crates, and all of the other paraphernalia associated with dog shows. Since our part of the entertainment didn’t start until 3 PM, we were able to assemble the party at our leisure, greet our friends as they arrived, groom our dogs, and even do a little shopping. We held a raffle, and Ann managed to win a bunch of the items – so she definitely didn’t leave the show empty-handed.

Sweeps judge Ann Lord goes over a puppy boy shown by Amy Alspaugh Penuel.

Dog shows are social occasions for the Beardies, too. Our dogs got to greet their friends, meet new acquaintances, and mark their territory. Dinah was particularly thrilled to have so many good-looking guys around to flirt with – not only her sweetheart Traveler and his son Brae, but she also took a particular liking to Fuzzy from PA.

Shameless plug: GreenDoggieBags.com outfitted us with a very generous supply of their eco-conscious doggie bags as well as several samples of their green trash bags. The trash bags came in mighty handy both for regular old trash and for bottle and can recycling. I had expected people to remark more on the doggie bags, but folks seemed even more interested in the green trash bags – so it was helpful to have samples of both products. I’m glad to report that we sustained no doggie-bag emergencies, but it was comforting to know that we had the tools at the ready if they were ever needed. We will also have plenty left over for the club’s annual Bounce and BBQ in July. Thanks, GreenDoggieBags.com!

Our Green Doggie Bags display

One thing we can certainly say about our group is that we can certainly feed people! Folks kept arriving with more goodies – veggie platters, fruit kabobs, brownies. We had plenty to eat, and still didn’t have to snarf it all down so we could rush off to groom. The early-morning clouds had burned off, leaving us with that old familiar New England heat and humidity. It felt good to take our time – almost as though we’d planned it that way. There were a couple of distant rumbles from thunder, but they remained idle threats.

Eventually, our ring time arrived. Kathy had about 400 Beardies to show between Sweeps and regular classes, and Dinah (as the special) went in last. I wasn’t sure how badly Dinah would want to show on a hot, sticky day 8 months after her last show, but she was so happy to have both Her Trav and his handsome brother Roy out there with her that she acquitted herself well and went Best Opposite to Roy. Roy went on to Group 2.

The most unfortunate thing about the schedule was that we ended up with the busiest judge of the show. They were holding up the group ring for her while she judged us, so we had no time for pictures or chitchat before she had to go. We were all so hot and sticky by that time that no one was feeling very photogenic anyway – and by the time the poor judge would be available, it would be past our bedtimes. I hope they gave her anything she wanted for dinner that night, including drinks from the top shelf of the bar or the best wine in the cellar.

After Saturday’s showing had concluded, we dragged ourselves back to the hotel and rinsed all the half an inch of sweat and stickiness from our skins. I blasted the AC in my hotel room, and Dinah hopped up onto the bed nearest the unit with a sigh. I have never been so happy to be standing under a running shower in my life! Val and I had Girls’ Night out with Lesley and Sue later that evening, while Pat volunteered to doggy-sit everyone (even Dinah, who knows how to whoop it up with Trav an a hotel room). We had a great time and the waiter was perceptive enough to keep the cold drinks a-coming, but I think I ended up staring at my dinner more than actually mustering up the energy to eat it.

On Sunday, we dragged our sorry carcasses back to the show for another frickin’ afternoon show time. Pat had the Sunday paper. Kathy and Kenny brought chicken salad for lunch (thanks, guys!). We brought out the leftover goodies from the day before and set up a nice little brunch.

The humidity hovered between 100% and 99% for much of the day. It sprinkled fitfully from time to time until the clouds burned off and the sun returned.

“I don’t know how Dinah’s going to do today,” Kathy said. We both knew that Herself likes to put all her effort into one day at the show, and then slack off for all of the other days. Since she showed well on Saturday, we both expected her to just give us the paw on Sunday and do as she pleased.

The other thing that Herself like to do is surprise us, and that she did – by deciding to show beautifully, even at the ragged end of a long, hot couple of days of showing. She arguably worked harder for the second BOS than she did for the first one! She did have some pretty formidable competition in the person of Trav’s daughter Fiona, though. Fee had just gone BOB over her dear dad a couple of weeks before, and was looking good in the ring. Fee ended up going BOW on Sunday, thus scooping up the crossover points from the boys’ 5-point major. Fee’s uncle Roy went on to Group 1 that day.

We all enjoyed watching the judge, who exercised infinite patience with the puppies. “What a nice judge,” someone remarked. “He even says ‘please’ to people in the ring.” Again, since he was the group judge, he had to get to the ring with little time for pictures.

Remember the tornado watch that was forecast for the region? As showing in our ring wound down, we could see that the clouds were growing denser and uglier, and the wind was beginning to pick up. We wasted very little time getting out of Dodge – tents came down, chairs and tables were folded, dogs hopped up into crates in the vehicles – and we cleared out of there before we got blown all the way to Oz. It seemed like an anticlimactic way to spend the time after a reasonably successful show weekend, but we all just wanted to outrun the storm.

Thanks to everyone who entered, brought food and drink, offered goodies for the raffle and bought tickets, and visited during the event. It was great to see everyone – including some new folks we’d only met through email. Thanks too to the show chairs for both host clubs, who made sure that everything Just Worked.

Because we’re hosting the National in Maine next year, it’s a bit too soon to tell whether we will also be holding a Regional in 2011. Kathy and I are trying to work out our schedule for the rest of this dog-show year, and we hope to get to at least one more Regional (Garden State) and the BCCC National. Carolinas is looking mighty tempting, too – and we know they’ll show us a good time. Anyway, we’re glad that our Regional is over, and hope people had a good time.

(The complete results and a bunch of action photos will appear on the BCCME website when I get some time to type them all in.)

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

AKC Screws the Pooch

If you've been following dog shows and dog show news within the past few years, you're already aware that show entries have been on the decline for quite a while. Numerous articles have been written exploring this subject, attempting to determine the main reason(s) for the decline: the floundering economy, onerous anti-dog laws being enacted, the aging of the dog-showing population, lack of interest on the part of juniors, rising entry prices and other costs, the disappearance of the small local dog show... All of these are true and valid reasons, but there haven't been many articles discussing one of the larger and more disturbing reasons: AKC is so determined to make money at all costs that their core constituency -- dog exhibitors and breeders -- is no longer important to them. If they were a corporation, the trade press would be speculating when they planned to divest themselves of the conformation division, and whether they thought they could sell it for a profit.

I personally don't have a big problem with AKC's decision to allow mixed breeds in performance events, in spite of the fact that the decision contradicts AKC's own position as overseer of the sport of purebred dogs. Plenty of mixed breeds compete in leagues such as NADAC agility and APDT rally, and the world hasn't come to an end. What galled me at the time was that the constituency was asked its opinion after the decision was made, and it was evident that AKC would go on with the decision no matter what the member clubs said. If I were an owner of a purebred dog from a breed not recognized by the club, I'd be mighty pissed about now. Anyway, the decision is done, the events are opened, and welcome to the new exhibitors!

Don't even get me started on the long-standing romance between AKC, high volume breeders, pet shop brokers, and so on. When the whole Petland proclamation backfired, AKC backtracked, fortified itself with a few cocktails from the Hunte Corporation's table, and then quietly created the PRIME program in an attempt to woo back the breeders who went off to form their own bogus registries. What's the PRIME program? It's basically a double-secret discount on registrations for pet-store puppies. Pretty soon people can be as proud of their AKC registrations as they are of their registrations with the Continental Kennel Club.

As if that weren't enough evidence of AKC's waning interest in dog shows, the club has been creating rule after rule designed to ensure the extinction of the small local dog show. From piling on additonal educational requirements and rules to campaigning for clubs to advertise on AKC's behalf in the local papers (at the clubs' expense, of course) to ensuring that small clubs forced to cluster to save costs may not share the same volunteer show secretary, AKC has gone out of its way to make it harder to put on dog shows in the first place. They derive only a small part of their revenue from show entry fees and licensing fees, so they've made it evident that they won't miss us when we're gone.

Here, however, is the crowning glory of the whole sad scenario: AKC has decided to start killing off their Best in Show and group judges. It sounds innocent enough: they've decided to start charging each dog show judge an annual fee of $5 per breed. For the judges licensed in only one or a few breeds, this is no big whoop. Many already have day jobs, and they judge a few weekends a month. Provisional judges, eager to complete the requirements for the breeds they want to judge, pretty much pay their own way to their assignments -- plus they don't get paid.

However, consider the Best in Show judges, judges licensed to judge 151 breeds, or even just whole groups of breeds. Annual fees from them can run into the hundreds of dollars. This prospect makes the bean counters at AKC salivate like a cartoon doggie at the sight of a biscuit -- THIS is where they can make some serious judging revenue. Never mind that many of the judges who have reached that echelon are elderly, living on fixed incomes, and derive no benefits from their part-time judging labors. Faced with the prospect of having to pay such huge fees to AKC, it's likely that some judges will drop breeds they don't judge often, refrain from picking up additional breeds that don't fit the budget, or give up judging altogether. This scheme makes Wal-Mart's treatment of its senior employees look benevolent in comparison.

You have to hand it to UKC President Wayne Cavanaugh. In the wake of this pronouncement by AKC, his statement reiterated how much UKC values its judges -- and as a token of that club's appreciation, UKC would send them badges and other small gifts. Coincidence? I don't think so. On the page at the UKC site where this announcement appears, there's a link reading, "If you'd like to become a UKC judge, click here." In light of what AKC wants to do to its judges, who wouldn't want to click there?

-- Post From My iSomething

Sunday, May 16, 2010

PSA Time

Penny Cary has just competed a session of handling classes at Finish Forward Dogs in Saco. Check with Finish Forward to sign up for subsequent sessions.

Penny is also offering a Beginning Conformation class at It's a Dog's World in York on Sunday, June 13 from 9 AM - noon. Contact IADW for all the details.

IADW's regular group handling classes with Sue Burrell are still going on. They take place on Monday nights at 7:45 PM.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Welcome to the Tribe and Some PSAs

I had the pleasure of running into my friend Jill at the Finish Forward Open house this past weekend. We've been friends-of-friends and Facebook buddies for ages now, but this is the first time we've ever had a chance to meet face-to-face and chat. We've trained at the same facility in the past, but never in the same class. It's nice to be able to associate faces with names, especially when your Facebook photos show your dogs' faces. (I recognized Finn the Golden immediately.)

Come to find out that Jill is a Dog Show Newbie! Welcome to the pack, Jill! She's brave -- she purchased a lovely Golden boy-pup named Copley from some top Golden breeders, and is now on the march toward the Big CH. It only takes 752 dogs to make a major in her breed, so you have to be very determined, and have a very good dog, just to want to start the process.

Good luck, Jill and Copley! See you around the rings this season!

Now for a couple of breed handling PSAs:

  • It's a Dog's World in York has resumed weekly group handling classes starting on March 1.

  • Finish Forward is offering handling classes with Penny Cary. If you sign up for this class, you could be classmates with Jill and Copley!

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Newbie Gets a Promotion

Woohoo! Imagine my surprise! This past weekend, I checked my phone messages and found one from a friend in the Midcoast, asking me if I would judge the Working and Herding Groups at her kennel club's spring match. She assured me that I didn't need to be an expert on all of the breeds, and that my eye for dogs would be my best guide. I was pleased as anything to be able to accept.

The only Working breed I've ever had is Newfies, though I've spent time with my brother's Boxers and Mastiffs, and I never met a Rottweiler I didn't like. Come to think of it, the only Herding breed I've ever owned is Beardies. I'm hoping I can persuade a bunch of them to come to the match so I'll have some entries of a breed I actually know.

Anyway, I'm tickled. Even if the position is more ceremonial than anything else, it's still quite a step up for a mere Dog Show Newbie. (This doesn't mean that I'm changing the blog's name to Tired, Jaded Old Dog Show Regular.)

My chances of ever qualifying as a regular AKC judge hover between slim and negative infinity. I've never bred a litter before, which makes it unlikely that I'll ever produce the requisite number of champions. I have been doing my time as a steward, but I mostly like the work.

Anyway, if you're within driving distance of midcoast Maine, come to the match on May 16! The host club is still working out venues and other arrangements, but I'll find out as soon as they're sure what's going on. Come see me hit the big time!