Sunday, June 26, 2011


The longer you remain in the dog world (or in any community, really), the more likely it is that you'll observe not only your own personal milestones, but those of the community. We celebrate birthdays of people and puppies. We bid farewell to our old dogs and our friends' dogs, and to the people we meet in this sport of ours.

AKC judge Lester Mapes was one of those. He died on June 15 after surgery from injuries sustained in a car accident. He and his wife lived in Monson, MA, one of the towns that sustained the most damage from the tornadoes that struck the Springfield area in western Massachusetts. The tornado knocked out two walls of their house and removed the roof. Lester and Judy Mapes were in their car at the time, when their car was struck by another car. Firefighters had to use the Jaws of Life to extricate them before taking them to the hospital. Judy was injured but survived; however, Lester succumbed. This is just all too sad.

His obituary mentions his life in dogs and his equal passion for music and theater. I didn't know him well enough to know any of these things about him — just to note that his time here on earth was still too short.

Lester Mapes gave Dinah her very first AKC point as a puppy. I hadn't yet met Kathy and was still stumbling nervously around the ring with her myself. Despite taking Best Puppy in Show at the Canadian National Specialty, a Puppy Group 2 at another local show, and placing in the puppy class at two regional specialties, Dinah hadn't competed with enough other class bitches to have earned any points. Her perfect shutout score was finally broken, thanks to Lester Mapes, in the cavernous and funky downstairs area of Bangor Auditorium. I guess you never forget your first (point, that is).

Here's our photo from Best of Breed that day (that's Traveler in front of us). Rarely do our action photos include the judge, and it never occurred to me then to ask for a win photo. Try not to wince too much at this display of handling greatness (but at least the puppy's cute)...

Looking through Infodog, I see that other judges we've shown under have also passed. Norman Herbel gave Dinah the Puppy Group 2. Bill Bailey gave her a Reserve in a large and competitive lineup at Ladies'. Robert Moore gave her the 4-point major in Springfield that made her a champion of record, after a long march through zero-point shows and broken majors.

They might be gone from this plane, but they are remembered — and I hope that they've met up with their own old dogs in the afterlife.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

An Even Grander Champion

The July issue of Dog Fancy includes a short article by Nicole Sipe on the AKC Grand Championship program. In it, she mentions that the program has been quite a success for AKC, and she includes a quote from me about the program. (Well, it's not exactly what I said, but the editor got all excited and summed up my answer more creatively than I did.) The gist of that article is that the Grand Championship has brought a number of retired champions back into the ring, and a number of dollars into AKC's coffers. Despite my skepticism about the organization's cries of poverty, I have to agree that any initiative of AKC's that generates support from its core constituency without simply tightening the thumbscrews must be a Good Thing Indeed.

Dog Fancy's publication deadlines happen quite a ways in advance of the actual issue in which an article will appear. Nicole first contacted me about the GCH back in February. Little did either of us realize that AKC would produce a scoop of its own before the July issue reached the newsstands.

Anyway, the GCH program has been such a success for AKC that they've expanded it to include additional levels of achievement. Whereas the original GCH called for 25 points to be earned with at least 3 majors and 4 awarding judges, the new expanded levels of Grand Championship are as follows:
  • Bronze: 100 GCH points
  • Silver: 200 GCH points
  • Gold: 400 GCH points
  • Platinum: 800 GCH points

Seems like you have to show an awful lot of times to get that far... but some dogs have reached the Gold level already and are headed for Platinum. At this writing, a Doberman Pinscher named GCH Ch Mi-Ti's Three Cheers leads the GCH points race with 543. There are 30 dogs in total who hold enough GCH points for the Gold level, so the Dobie is hardly alone.

Just for jollies, I asked a couple of my friends what they thought of the new levels. Most responses ranged between chortles and snorts. "It's just another money-grab." Some felt that the new levels were completely unnecessary, and pretty much everyone agreed that the new levels were reserved for the more wealthy owners out there. If you figure that the #1-ranked GCH now entered shows at $30 a throw and won a 5-point major every time, that's still a $3,258 investment in entry fees alone. Even if you squeeze every penny till it squeals on every other aspect of showing, there's really no way to cheap out on that part. Factor in gas, hotel rooms, handlers, and the gazillion other expenses associated with showing, and you can see how things add up to put the new levels out of reach of many of us mortals.

All the same, this isn't necessarily a bad thing. Many other dog sports require 10 qualifying scores to earn some titles, and performance competitors are no strangers to the concept of "money titles." I've invested in a few myself, between Seamus and Dinah. Although these new levels really redefine the concept of "money titles," at least the money headed into AKC's coffers from the new program might forestall increases in the costs of everything else. If folks have it and want to spend it, then good on them. You might say that the big-time investors are helping to keep expenses down for the rest of us.

Dinah has 10 GCH points with 2 majors and is currently the 87th Bearded Collie in AKC's GCH rankings. With the number of shows we'll be entering this year, I don't expect those stats to soar any time soon. I can pretty much guaran-damn-tee you that we won't be shooting for Platinum level.

What do you think of the new GCH levels? Are you tempted to try for any of them? Have you achieved the "plain vanilla" GCH yet?