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Tag: westminster

Colbert hosts his own little dog show

It was no parade of puffed-up purebreds (for which we’re grateful), but Stephen Colbert hosted his own little dog show this week the night after Westminster.

Colbert, explaining that The Late Show is a dog-friendly workplace, featured two staff member’s dogs — neither much resembling anything you’d see at the prestigious Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, which came to a close in New York this week.

“It’s like the Grammys, but with dogs, and less public urination,” Colbert said.

Colbert went on to present “some champions of our own that we are very proud of.”

First up was Riley, whose owner described her breed as “none of the above.” Among her greatest strengths, her owner said, was “she’ll put anything in her mouth.” He described her weaknesses as matted hair and frequent gas.

Then came Dexter, nearly 15 years old, whose owner described him as a “long-tongued mostly pug.”

Dexter’s owner explained Dexter’s tongue doesn’t stay in his mouth because he has no teeth.

Colbert awarded Dexter a ribbon for “Best in Tongue” and gave Riley the honor of “Most In My Office After Paul Has Left, Evidently Forgetting He Has a Dog.”

140th Westminster Dog Show was Frei’s last

A German shorthaired pointer took top honors, David Frei emitted his final bursts of color commentary and journalists waxed poetic — some more poetic than others — as the 140th Westminster Kennel Clug Dog Show came to a close in New York last night.

In the second longest running sporting event in America (after the Kentucky Derby), Best in Show was won by a three-year-old pointer named California Journey, or CJ. He beat out a shih tzu, a bulldog, a borzoi, a Samoyed, a Skye terrier and a German shepherd that had been said to be the favorite.

Or, to put it as briefly as possible: GSP beats out GSD for BIS.

cjAs usual, the event included much pomp and pompousness, and resulted in news coverage that ranged from pandering to ponderous, from the overly simple to the overly wrought.

CNN International summed up the contest this way:

“The competition was ruff at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.”

A Washington Post writer exercised his writing muscles a little more. Make that a lot more:

In the dark forests of 19th century Europe, man was hungry, and wanted meat. Having escaped the horrors of the Second Millennium — the Dark Ages, the Crusades, the Black Death — to emerge from the Renaissance and the Enlightenment with a taste for democracy and venison, our species found that hunting was no longer the privilege of the aristocracy, but the passion of the masses. And, hunting game o’er hill and dale, lord and laborer alike knew they needed a best friend to facilitate their hotblooded pursuit of winged birds and many-pointed stag. But what beast — swift of foot, singleminded in its chase after even the faintest scent of prey — could best serve?

Enter the German Shorthaired Pointer — Europe’s premier hunting dog, as one enthusiast put it, that is “born to run … born to reign.” And the GSP, centuries after the breed was first developed, certainly reigned Tuesday night at the 140th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show at Madison Square Garden in New York, where California Journey, a.k.a. CJ, a prime specimen if there ever was one, took Best in Show, the contest’s top honor.

…The field at Madison Square Garden, not unlike Thermopylae after the storied 300 Spartans met their end, was strewn with the bodies of CJ’s worthy adversaries. More than 2,700 creatures, with comers from all 50 states and the wider world, thought they had the stuff to be, to coin a phrase, Top Dog. There was My Sassy Girl, a Borzoi bitch from Japan. There was Charlie the Skye terrier, from Oyster Bay, N.Y. There was Play It Again Ham, a Samoyed from Readington Township, N.J. — steady and inscrutable as the fluffy, cotton ball-shaped rock weathered the media frenzy.

Sounds almost like he was auditioning for David Frei’s job.

It was the last Westminster that will feature Frei, the much beloved color commentator who — unlike many commentators — actually knows what he is talking about.

Frei will continue to provide commentary for the National Dog Show in Philadelphia.

His resignation from Westminster was prompted by the club’s insistence that his commentary be exclusive to it.

(Photo of CJ by Mary Altaffer, AP)

When is it OK to pick a dog up by the tail?

cross1

Amid the bashing she’s taking on the Internet for picking her dog up by the tail, there are those coming to the defense of Rebecca Cross, owner of Knopa, the Scottish terrier who won Best in Show at Crufts.

But the explanations those defenders offer, and their justifications for the practice — which has existed for years — are disingenuous, misleading and often a little arrogant.

The only time, in our opinion, that a dog should be picked up by his or her tail is … NEVER!

There may be those in the dog show community, and in the worlds of hunters and breeders, who say that view is naive — that certain breeds can handle it. Then again, they have never been picked up by their tails.

Let’s look at their arguments.

1. The tails of some dog breeds are meant to serve that function. They are born with sturdier tails to provide us humans with handles so we can pull them out when they go into holes. Baloney. Clearly, neither God nor evolution put tails on animals to serve as handles for humans. And if breeders have worked to give certain breeds stronger tails, with that in mind, then they had the wrong thing in mind, which is often the case. Their tinkering with dog breeds to make them cuter, lower maintenance or more useful to humans — all in the name of sales, of course — leads to no good, and to bogus arguments like this one.

2. You shouldn’t do it, but, being highly skilled professionals, it’s OK for us to lift certain small breeds by their tails. Balderdash! Running around in a circle with a dog, and brushing its hair, doesn’t make you a highly skilled professional. Showing a dog doesn’t require a PhD. You’re not a doctor, and if you were you’d know that, the tail being an extension of the spine, it should not be used to hold up even part of a dog’s weight.

3. When a dog is picked up that way, most of the pressure is on the front end of the dog, and the tail is simply used as a guide. Bullshit — pardon our language — but anyone with the slightest understanding of physics can see that, when a dog is picked up this way, the tail is carrying at least some of the dog’s weight. And when the front end is being supported by a hand on his or her throat, rather than his or her chest, that too is problematic.

4. If it hurt them, dogs would yelp and whine. Wrong again! That’s not true of real world dogs, or show dogs — maybe especially show dogs who have accepted the fact that the human showing them is going to do this, just as they have accepted the judges who insist on grasping their packages to check for “conformity.”

5. We’ve always done it that way.  We all know that is no defense at all; rather, it’s an excuse used by those who — even when someone is showing them a better way — stubbornly insist on living in the past. And if ever there was a vestige of the past, it’s purebred dog shows.

Those defending the practice offer plenty of what they, at least, see as justification, but little explanation of the reason for picking up a dog this way in the first place.

cross2That’s probably because it is such a silly and superficial reason: By using those two points of contact, they can avoid messing up the dog’s hair.

In that way, the tail lift symbolizes what, at the root, is wrong with dog shows.

And that’s the “appearance above all” mentality behind them.

Judging dogs on their looks — as called for by breed organizations and breed standards — causes suffering and is not in the best interest of the species.

Shows like Crufts and Westminster value “looks over the welfare and health of dogs which can lead to their early death, and that’s not acceptable if we’re really a nation of dog lovers,” RSPCA spokesperson Violet Owens told the BBC.

Although the dog owner’s comments didn’t sound too apologetic — she said she lifted her dog by the tail due to force of habit — Cross did apologize, according to UK Kennel Club Secretary Caroline Kisko.

And just for the record Kisko also said that — no matter what the breed — picking up a dog by its tail is a no-no, at least at Crufts:

“Those showing at Crufts receive clear written guidance on handling their dog, in order to ensure the dog’s welfare, and this guidance makes it clear that dogs should not be handled in this way,” she said.

Pardon me while I perpetuate your legacy

It’s a well-known but little publicized fact that some dogs competing at Westminster and in many other dog shows aren’t brought into the world in a 100 percent natural way.

Since the 1960s, breeders have been harvesting semen from male purebreds — one technique for which is demonstrated in the video above — and inserting it into females in hopes of creating champions.

The American Kennel Club, though it doesn’t allow cloned dogs to participate in the dog shows it sanctions, has no problem with permitting those who are products of artificial insemination.

Over the decades, as with artificial insemination in humans, the technology has progressed and become widely accepted. (My view is, if we are going to widely accept something, we shouldn’t balk at watching it.)

While some human, uh, effort is involved in the semen-gathering method depicted above, more state of the art techniques involve artificial vaginas and electro-stimulation. Even today though, to get the canine juices flowing, breeders commonly use a female dog in heat, parading her in front of the male. She’s referred to as a “teaser bitch.”

Breeders say practicing artificial insemination can help improve the quality of breeds. For sure, it gives them more control, allowing them to overcome logistical obstacles, such as when a male and female are living on opposite ends of the country. They can still have a long distance relationship, so to speak.

It allows a champion male to breed with many more females than would be physically possible through traditional one-on-one mating. It allows older male dogs to continue reproducing after they can no longer mount a female. And it allows a male dog to keep producing offspring long after his death, which is the case with a champion Old English sheep dog named Yoshi.

yoshiYoshi, under his registered name, Lambluv Desert Dancer, won more best in shows than any other sheep dog. He won Best of Breed at Westminster three times, most recently in 1999. He died in 2006, but he could still be daddy to more than 100 future litters.

“I have about 100 straws,” his owner Jere Marder told Bloomberg.com, in reference to the frozen semen samples from Yoshi she has in storage.

No product of artificial insemination has won at Westminster, but last year’s runner up in Best in Breed was a dog created with 17-year-old sperm from one of Lambluv’s sheep dogs.

“Most serious breeders that I know of have something in store,” says Marder, who owns Lambluv Old English Sheepdogs. “If anything, it’s just a precaution; otherwise, if anything happens to your champion dog before you can breed him, you’re out a good chunk of money.”

“It’s definitely a market — and one that’s growing,” said Randall Popkin, owner of the California-based Breeder’s Veterinary Services, which has been storing frozen semen and inseminating dogs with it since 1984.

“When I first started, few breeders were doing this,” he said. “Nowadays, you travel to dog shows and there’ll be three companies there offering to freeze your dog’s semen.”

According to the American Kennel Club, the number of registered purebred litters conceived with frozen semen has risen by 26 percent over the past decade. In 2013, the year for which the most recent data is available, the AKC registered about 2,200 litters that were produced via artificial insemination. That’s about 1 percent of all AKC-approved litters.

The Bloomberg article notes there are downsides.

In 2009, a Pembroke Welsh corgi breeder sued an animal hospital after her dog was allegedly accidentally inseminated with sperm from a Great Pyrenees — a breed roughly five times her dog’s size. The corgi nearly died giving birth.

In addition, there have been lawsuits over samples that were damaged during shipping or produced puppies that didn’t look purebred. In 2012, a jury awarded $200,000 to a Pennsylvania breeder who had sued a veterinary hospital for accidentally defrosting more than 100 samples from her champion poodles.

Marder, who sat out Westminster this year, says she’d love to see one of dead Yoshi’s offspring win there someday. Doing so, the article said “feels to her as if she’s keeping her old dogs alive.”

(Photo: Yoshi, from the website Lambluv.com)

Beagle takes top honors at Westminster

Miss P, a 15-inch beagle, and handler William Alexander, react after winning the Best in Show at the Westminster Kennel Club dog show Tuesday, Feb. 17, 2015, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II) ORG XMIT: MSG215

A beagle named Miss P beat out a shih tzu owned by Patty Hearst, a Portuguese water dog related to Sunny Obama and four other finalists to capture best in show honors at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.

Miss P, whose full name is “Ch Tashtins Looking for Trouble,” is only the second beagle to win best in show at Westminster.

The 4-year-old beagle from British Columbia will retire after the victory, but not before embarking on a whirlwind media tour that includes a stop atop the Empire State Building, steak lunch at a nearby restaurant, a meeting with Donald Trump, and a walk-on part in the Broadway musical Kinky Boots, USA Today reported.

rocketAmong the other dogs competing for best in show was a shih tzu named Rocket,  co-owned by kidnapped newspaper heiress, convicted bank robber and actress Patty Hearst.

Rocket was awarded top honors in the toy dog category.

Hearst is the granddaughter of William Randolph Hears. She was kidnapped by the radical group the Symbionese Liberation Army in 1974, and was later seen holding a machine gun while robbing a California bank. She spent two years in prison.

pattyHer sentence was commuted by President Carter, and President Clinton gave her a full pardon.

Hearst, who turns 61 on Friday, is one of Rocket’s three co-owners. She has been involved in the dog show world for more than 10 years and has also worked as an actress.

A cousin of Sunny, one of the First Family’s Portuguese water dogs, was also in the running, and considered by some to be a favorite.

Matisse won the working group category for the third straight year.

More results, photos and videos can be found at the Westminster website.

(Photo: Photos of Miss P and Rocket by the Associated Press)

Two “new” breeds will debut at Westminster

cotons

What do the Hungarian wire-haired vizsla (below) and the coton de tulear (above) have in common?

At first glance, not a lot.

wirehairedvizsla

The fuzzier version of a Vizsla is a mid-sized dog with what’s been called a “professorial” appearance, while the tiny coton de tulear is a fluffy French breed that resembles a Q-Tip on steroids

Both breeds, newly recognized by the American Kennel Club, will be competing for the first time when the Westminster Kennel Club holds its 139th annual dog show in New York in February.

“Coton is the French word for cotton and that’s what this dog looks like, a little bit of a cotton swab,” David Frei, the host and director of communications for the show, explained to NPR.

“It has got a long white coat, smallish dog; looks more like a toy dog than the non-sporting group that it’s in — fun little dog,” Frei added. “The royal dog of Madagascar, if you will, was exported through the Port of Tulear in Madagascar, ended up in France and other places in Europe before it came to this country and now it’s not really a new breed per se, but it’s new to us.”

Unlike their smooth-coated counterparts, the wirehaired vizsla has an inch-long, rust-colored coat that helps protect it while romping through the brush.

While best known for their hunting abilities, their fuzzy faces — with beards and moustaches and, if you will, Andy Rooney eyebrows — give them a distinguished appearance that belies their playfulness.

The two new additions brings the total number of breeds recognized by the American Kennel Club to 192..

(Photos: Vizsla photo from  Fassfields Hungarian Wirehaired Vizslas;  coton de tulear photo,  Nicaise, via Wamiz.com)

Hickory snubs a steak from Sardis

Among the traditional perks of winning Westminster’s Best in Show are a trip to the top of the Empire State Building, ringing the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange and going to Sardi’s in Manhattan for a steak.

You’d think that last one, at least, would appeal to the average dog — and especially to the pampered pooches that strut before the judges every year at the Westminster Dog Show.

But Hickory, the Scottish Deerhound chosen as Best in Show this week, had virtually no interest in the juicy filet, prepared medium rare, sliced into bite-sized chunks and placed in front of her at Sardi’s. She took only a taste or two before ignoring it entirely.

As her trainer pointed out, there were lots of lights, and hordes of media, and Hickory’s never been real big on steak in the first place.

You could view it as a photo op turned photo flop, but I kind of like the fact that she turned up her scruffy nose at the offering.

In light of all the human control inflicted on dogs during dogs shows, not to mention throughout history, I like seeing, for some reason, a little canine independence and rebelliousness exhibited in that setting. Of course, I don’t know what Hickory was thinking when that juicy red meat was set before her, but I like to think it was this:

Two hundred people have gathered, pulled up in their news vans, and started their cameras rolling, and are lined up outside  — all to watch me eat a steak? OK, then, I’m not going to do it.

Silly humans.