… and then put Alpo in his pocket to feed a dog?” Joe Garagiola, February 18, 1998.
Yet again, I tortured myself and my family; ignored my telephone, my crackberry and my own private admonitions that watching this was going to be a consummate waste of time bad idea.
Announcer Jim Fagan was clearly out of his element, butchering the names of many of the breeds, mumbling incoherently about nothing it would seem and bypassing the courtesy of at least getting the numbers and the breeds right when announcing the Best in Show winners as they entered the ring for the final time. I think I heard “This is dog number 22” at least three times as the first few of the seven group winners entered the Best in Show ring.
But that is nothing in comparison to the torturous colorless commentary by Frei and his co-host Tamron Hall. Absent were the casual asides about the character of the breeds and their suitability as working dogs and or pets. Although there were some, the mindless chatter that passes as usable information was thankfully lacking. There were generous amounts of how people interested in pets from these breeds would probably want to “keep the coats trimmed in puppy cuts” but decidedly absent were the remarks about work ethic and purpose. More on the admission that the show dogs have been bred away from their original purposes as in the case of the Dobe.
Pedigreed Dogs Exposed getting to ya?
It was nice to see a large contingent of dogs from Maryland represented in all of the groups; with as many as 8 in the working group. A few from my old homeland of Earlville, New York were represented in the Terrier group.
I was pleased to see Earlville was not a figment of my imagination. In the neighboring town of Hamilton, home of Colgate University, there used to be a wonderful sub shop. But I digress.
Is Vin-Melca the only breeder of Norwegian Elkhounds in the world? Pat Trotter is known for her dogs doing well in the show ring, but one has to wonder if anything but a Vin-Melca dog can win. Although I thought the Whippet was nice, I preferred the Ridgeback for his power and his wonderful conditioning and ring presence. He got lost in the kerfuffle.
The Toy breeds always bring out the ‘awww’ factor in people. I was not surprised with the Poodle’s win, although I thought there were better dogs out there. Pretty hair makes for a nice presentation I guess, as historically, most of the Best in Show winners are hair breeds that take a lot of time and effort.
The French Bulldog certainly had his fans, but truth be told, although I am a fan of the breed I think there were better dogs in the breed ring. The dog that took the breed is Canadian bred, judged by a Canadian judge. That explains the breed ring, but in the group judging it was easy to get lost. I probably would have ended up with the Lhasa. Beautiful handling and presentation, nice dog moving too.
It was nice to see Linda More get the Herding assignment. I had worked for Linda and Eliot More in the way distant past so it was easy to see where she would go with the judging. I probably would have done the same thing with the exception of leaving the German Shepherd out entirely in favor of the Sheltie since movement didn’t seem to be that much of a criterion. I have never seen such a collection of sickle hocks in my life.
In a trip back through the wayback machine I vividly recall a conversation with a prominent handler and soon-to-be judge that “Most of the big winners are sickle hocked. It makes for a spectacular outline and better side gait.”
By this time my husband is ‘getting it’. After several decades, he now knows why I want to twist off my own head stopped showing dogs.
The second day greets us with what was the most atrocious collection of sporting dogs ever assembled under one roof on the green carpet.
Suffice it to say that my breeds of choice, the Flatcoat, the Weimeraner, the Griffon and the Chessy would have been the top contenders, with the Brittany somewhere in the mix. Out of the four dogs in the final cut, it was easy to see the Brittany winning. The better dogs were shown the door.
The working dogs at least offered a better variety of unsoundness from which to choose. Again, a Skansen’s Giant Schnauzer represents, leaving pause to wonder if there are any other breeders of this breed anywhere?
I will not complain about the Dobe, nor the Boxer. Although the Boxer was a little long for my taste, moving she was clean and sound. There was another dog that should have made it into the final lineup however; the Rottweiler. A magnificent dog who had the misfortune of being owned by a first-time dog owner and a first time competitor, as stated by our hosts when he took his turn under the judge’s hand.
Any number of terriers could have won their group. The Terrier breeds are always fun to watch. I remember back inna day when the judges would allow them to go toe-to-toe and ‘spar’ which is obviously frowned on today. My principal concern was an issue of questionable character from the AmStaff and a little spar between the Norwich and the eventual winner after the final selection was made, beyond the less-than-obvious ones linked to in the next paragraph.
The Garden is not about dogs. I am not convinced it ever really was, although I played my part in it for many years. I did not intend this to be a screed about the condition of purebred dogs today or ever, but it kinda ended up that way.
I deliberately removed myself from show dogs in favor of other, more gratifying and meaningful pursuits many years ago. It pains me that so much has changed, so little has changed nothing has changed.
In a variety of articles in the Canine Chronicle, show dog luminaries dissect what they feel is ‘wrong’with the sport as recently as January of this year. I apologize for not supplying links, it seems that the links that were made available to me are no longer functioning.
With the current angst over the recent documentary Pedigree Dogs Exposed and the rapid decline in the AKC’s individual registrations and dog show entries overall, it comes as no surprise to me at least that there may well be changes in the future.
The recent interest in registering mix breed dogs is an indicator that maybe the AKC is grasping. Either with the reality that they can no longer survive as “the Dog’s Champion” or the “Only U.S.registry ‘that matters'” or that the public have finally come to the realization that a pup with AKC papers is no guarantee of anything.
The misrepresentation of dog shows as a showcase of dogs bred to perform jobs they were originally designed for is no more or less critical here than elsewhere. The consummate insult is when the AKC insists that what they do is good for dogs.
Breeders are still the most responsible for the tragic state of purebred dogs, breeding for the show ring and mindless of the risks of concentrating their bloodlines on one or two specific animals. If the vast majority of purebred dogs end up in pet homes, it is of the ultimate importance for any breeder to consider the importance of sound temperament and health in their planning.
I leave the readers with this, conjured up from the wayback machine when I was researching a conversation that had transpired between Joe Garagiola and Roger Caras at the Garden many years ago, inspired by an exchange between myself and Heather Houlihan over at Raised by Wolves.
I met Captain Haggerty two years later at my very first visit of many to the Garden and over the many years that followed, I had the opportunity to get to know him through some of the same email lists and associations we shared in common.
It is so very sad to see that although the names have changed, so much is still the same.