Thursday, February 14, 2008

132nd WKC Dog Show - Part 2 of 2

My concern that the commercials would be so much better than the actual show is quickly overcome by Michael Lefave's fabulous announcer's voice and by the USA co-host/analyst David Frei and his co-host Lester Holt providing commentary. Unlike the boring segments I watched in previous years, they actively work to dispel the high fashion model image of the show dogs and provide information to prevent the mismatching of owners with inappropriate dogs. Several times during the two-day broadcast of the semi-final and final events, Frei and Holt say, "Do your homework." On the last night, Frei says, "The dog you get will live for 7, 10, even 13 years. That's a long time so it's worth your spending an extra month finding out what the dog was bred to do. Go to the Westminster Kennel Club's website, click on the parent clubs, find a dog show and talk to the handlers. Read a book. Make sure the dog's temperament and needs fit your personality and lifestyle."

Through it all, LaFave tells us:

"This dog is not for the first-time dog owner."

"You have to be an alpha human with this dog."

"The Poodle used to be a water retriever and its haircut was designed to protect its vital organs and joints from the cold water it swam in."

"This dog loves children."

"This is the ultimate family dog." Unfortunately, I don't catch which dog he's talking about. It might be the Labrador Retriever.

"The German Pinscher is manipulative, but loves to learn if you take the time to teach it."

"This dog wants to please its people."

"The Doberman Pinscher used to be bred for fierceness, but is now bred for intelligence, obedience, and to be an affectionate companion."

"The Chihuahua thinks it's a big dog. It doesn't know it's a small dog."

"This dog is independent."

"The Anatolian Shepherd is highly territorial and considers its family as part of its turf."

"The Australian Shepherd, despite its name, originated in the Western United States."

We hear early on from Frei and Holt that all the show dogs are pets, some volunteer as an Angel On A Leash or work as certified therapy dogs while others provide service in other ways. From them we learn:

One dog from Colorado revived his mistress by licking her face when she fell unconscious from a heart attack.

A dog from Alaska works as a sledge dog and part-time as a certified therapy dog.

The Kuvasz from Helena, Montana has had run-ins with bears and once saved his mistress from an attack.

The Anatolian Shepherd from Texas had an ear ripped off by a bobcat while he was protecting a herd of goats. His owner sewed his ear back on.

The Siberian Husky loves to run and we shouldn't ever trust it and let it go off-leash.

The dog that likes McDonald's cheeseburgers, barks whenever they drive by a set of Golden Arches because it recognizes from where its favorite food comes.

The Samoyed does whatever is asked of it, whether it's hunting or hauling. The one that won Best of Breed was the maid of honor at the owner's wedding. Holt adds, "The Samoyed should be the mascot for a vacuum cleaner company because it really sheds."

Then, there are the dogs enjoying their celebrity status like Vikki who snacks on Special K cereal and has her own website as well as the dog who started showing only six months ago and has already won the Best of Breed at Westminster, the show where over 2,600 champion dogs representing 169 breeds compete against their breed's standard for Best of Breed, Best of Group, and the grand title of Best of Show.

As with other dog shows, it's hard to see much personality in the dogs trotting around all bathed and brushed to the nth degree, but a few make an impression on me:

The little French Bulldog, bound and determined to sniff THAT spot, finally puts on the brakes and plants his feet in the carpet only to slide along because his handler keeps going, not even breaking her stride.

The Bulldog that decides it isn't going to trot for anything. Walk fast, yes. Break into a trot, no.

Another dog figures out that it can speed up for a few steps and dive down to snatch a treat accidentally dropped by another contender's handler, successfully munching its prize without its handler noticing.

Finally, there's Uno. Only 15 inches high at the shoulder, the little Beagle has the confidence and projects the stature of a large dog with the presence and charisma of a movie star. I'm impressed although I don't particularly appreciate Beagles, except for Snoopy. I had one, or part of one because he was mixed, and knew two purebreds owned by a neighbor and they were always wanting to go off rabbit-hunting as soon as they were out the front door. That we lived with rabbit-filled fields on almost three sides was especially convenient or inconvenient depending if the point of view was that of a Beagle or a human. At least, we humans never had to worry about them running out into traffic.

I'm not the only one taken by the little beast. Uno gathers more of the crowd's support as the show progresses from Best of Breed to Best of Group causing Holt to exclaim, "Look at that! He's a rock star!"

During the final round in which only the seven winners for Best of Group compete for Best of Show, spectators are strongly encouraged to cheer for their favorites. You don't need an applause meter to be able to tell which dog is the audience's favorite. Evidently, Dr. J. Donald Jones of Marietta, Georgia, who remained in seclusion in another part of town until it was time for him to depart to judge the final round, agrees.

The crowd erupts into a standing ovation as Ch K-Run's Park Me In First, a.k.a. "Uno," is awarded the trophy for Best in Show.

Frei is surprised, "We have never had a reaction like this! I've never seen a standing ovation given for a dog!"

It's a great dog show, the best I've ever seen in person or on TV.

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