Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Retirement Breeds

There's no avoiding the fact that we're all getting older — and especially around the conformation ring. Just surf the various dog-show websites and those for the publications, and see the number of articles that lament the graying of the sport, the increasing average age of the people involved, and so on. Look around you at the next dog show you attend, and note the proportion of gray-haired judges and exhibitors to younger ones. (While you're there, do something nice for a junior handler, even if it's just to say, "Good job." They are the future of this sport, and fewer and fewer of them are taking up show handling instead of XBox.)

Not that I mean this post to be a downer. It's just that I've noticed the subjects of conversations with my friends drifting toward certain subjects more and more often as time goes on. One very popular theme these days is the Retirement Breed. Almost everyone I speak with at a show has, at one time or another, started a sentence with, "When I retire, I think I might get myself [X breed]."

Retirement Breeds are almost always smaller than people's current breeds. Some have easier-care coats. Some have the same sorts of coats as the speakers' current breeds. In Beardie-land, a number of people have "downsized" from Beardies to Lowchens or Havanese — same amount of grooming, but on a dog you can gait around the show ring at a walk, show on a table, and pick up and carry easily.

I'm honestly not ready for the little dogs yet, if ever. Having grown up with Newfies, I still maintain an overwhelming fondness for the giants. I would have a house full of Irish Wolfhounds if they only lived a little longer. As it is, I proudly point to Dinah and say, "I've already downsized! She's the smallest dog I've ever owned."

Still, playing the game of "What If" with friends is fun and doesn't cost anything. The subject of Retirement Breeds came up around the stewards' lunch table at the Penobscot shows. Aside from the folks with Shelties and Chihuahuas, who have probably already downsized enough, nearly everybody added a Retirement Breed to the pile.

French Bulldogs appeared to be the paws-down favorite; quite a few people would trade a little snoring for a short, easy-care coat. Many of those folks thought that Boston Terriers or Whippets wouldn't be bad breeds to downsize to, either. One person offered up a Smooth Collie as a breed that still was respectably big enough to have fun with, but with an appealingly low-maintenance coat.

For myself, I can't imagine not having a Beardie around the house. Long-haired smaller breeds just don't make adequate substitutes for me. Actually, most short-haired small breeds don't do a lot for me, either. If I did cave in and draw up a Retirement Breed Bucket List, perhaps these breeds might make their way onto it:
  • Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. I just love this breed and always have.
  • Skye Terrier. I've met a few belonging to friends and think they're just wonderful. They're definitely not little dogs; they just have low centers of gravity.
  • Frenchie. Of course, the Frenchie! I had one become my BFF at a Mardi Gras dog parade once.
  • Greyhound. Yes, they're big -- but they have hardly any coat, and they wear funky collars so well.
  • Standard Poodle. I had one as a kid. Keep a good groomer on speed-dial if you're not the DIY type, but they're wonderful.
  • Smooth Collie. All the fun of a Rough Collie with a fraction of the maintenance.
What about you? What breeds would be your Retirement Breeds?

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

PSA: Update on Saco Handling Classes

Petiquette and Finish Forward Dogs are offering two sessions of breed handling classes in September. Each session lasts 4 weeks and starts at 6:30 PM. Cost: $80.

The Monday sessions begin 9/5. The Wednesday sessions begin 9/7.

FMI and to reserve your spot: Contact Penny Cary.