In our “bigger is better” world, there is much discussion over the decline of entries at shows and how this might be abated. It’s true that many small shows in Canada and on the US mainland have become rather ho-hum, predictable affairs. But whoever said a dog show needs to be large to be important? Why can’t events with fewer dogs be just as exhilarating as their larger counterparts?
Within just a few weeks I judged three shows in exotic locations and observed that small doesn’t mean insignificant, dull or unexciting. The three locations were Medellín, Colombia; Beijing, China; and Kaneohe (just outside of Honolulu), Hawaii. All three clubs offered a unique experience and were delighted with their less-than-300 entry.
In the past, many judges have resisted judging in Colombia, and particularly in Medellín, due to its fearsome former reputation as the most violent city in the world. But since the 1993 death of Pablo Escobar, head of the notorious Medellín drug cartel, the city of almost 3 million has thrived. In fact, earlier this year Colombia’s second largest city was chosen “the most innovative city in the world” by the Urban Land Institute due to advances in politics, education and social development. It is now considered the preferred corporate business destination in South America. Medellín is renowned for its universities, commerce, health services, flowers, festivals and nightlife.
Colombia, like most South American countries, is a member of the FCI (Fédération Cynologique Internationale), which has 10 Groups and different standards in some breeds. In small shows, this can often mean that there are very few representatives in some Groups. For example, at this particular show, the Corporacion Club Canino de Antioquia on August 17-18, there were only two breeds in the Sighthound Group, and three in the Teckel (Dachshunds have their own Group).
Yet some of the popular breeds have entries comparable to much larger shows. Although the show only had 256 dogs, the largest entry was the French Bulldog, with 22 in competition. Golden Retrievers were next, with 19 entered, and then Short-Coated German Shepherds with 16. Yes, short-coated, as the Long-Coated German Shepherd is now FCI-recognized, as is the White Swiss Shepherd.
In FCI shows, one can see breeds considered exotic in North America, such as the Fila Brasileiro and the Czechoslovakian Wolf Dog. One is not permitted to touch the formidable Fila (there were five), and none of the judges could get their hands on the two intimidating but skittish Wolf Dogs, neither of which were ready for prime time.
My fellow judges were Mauro Alves from Brazil and Mexico’s Carlos Navarro. However, the rules require that all Colombian shows must have a judge attend in “reserve.” It is most cost-effective to have a Colombian, and in this case it was the well-known international judge Carlos Quinones.
With a small show, the judges have an easy day. Each of us had less than 90 dogs a day to examine. However, puppies, juniors and adults each have their own Groups, so with 10 FCI Groups, there are 30 separate Group competitions each day.
The show was held in Rionegro on the gated grounds of an exclusive polo, golf and country club conveniently near Medellín’s international airport. The facility was outstanding, the club’s hospitality exceptional, and the judges stayed at an exquisite resort located just a polo field away from the show. A daily barbecue luncheon (steaks, chorizo and other delicacies) for exhibitors and judges created tantalizing aromas that wafted mid-morning into the judging tent. If one skipped breakfast, it might be considered an act of cruelty!
Due to its proximity to the equator and its consistent, springlike climate (average 72°F), Medellín is known as “La Ciudad de la Eterna Primavera” or “City of Eternal Spring.” By midday it gets fairly hot, so the club erected an normous tent, which not only held all three large rings, but had room for a large VIP section with tables and chairs, a bleacher section, and the trophies and secretary’s area. Surrounding this main tent was a village of many smaller tents. These are rented by the handlers and exhibitors and provide extra revenue for the club.
Like any dog show, large or small, cream rises to the top. Several top-quality dogs were rewarded by all three judges. Bitches dominated. An exceptional white Toy Poodle, Davinci’s GV Give Me All Your Love, not only took Best Junior in Show all three days, she was Best in Show under Carlos Navarro. She is bred and owned by the well-known handler and judge Gabriel Valdez. The two remaining Best in Shows, both the choice of Mauro Alves and me, went to the elegant Boxer bitch Ch. Atenas Saljelk de Torrealba, one of Colombia’s top dogs of all breeds.
Dog shows in Honolulu are 100 percent American, of course, albeit soothed by a warm ocean breeze, a sarong and a flower behind the ear! The atmosphere is far more relaxed than any mainland show. It’s clear that the exhibitors intend to have fun. They are genuinely supportive of each other, and good sportsmanship prevails.
Hawaii requires dogs to be quarantined (unless certain vaccination protocols are followed, then a dog can go back and forth from the mainland). Perhaps because of the isolation from the mainland, there is little competition to be found in most breeds, and it can be difficult to achieve a championship without a little help from oneself. Consequently, a number of exhibitors entered not one but several dogs in their chosen breeds. Six of the 18 Goldens were owned by one person, as were six of the seven Rhodesian Ridgebacks. All five Miniature Bull Terriers were registered to one exhibitor, as were five of the seven Norwich Terriers and five of seven Chinese Cresteds. All six Italian Greyhounds had the same owner. The four Dalmatians — all champions — were also littermates.
Consequently, although there were a disproportionate number of champions, this does not imply that the dogs lacked quality. The Best in Show lineup was as good as any on the mainland.
The show wasn’t actually held in Honolulu. On September 14-15, the Windward Hawaiian Dog Fanciers Association used the athletic field of a school campus in Kaneohe, which is over the mountains on the other side of the island. The show grounds were picturesque with tall green mountains on one side and the ocean on the other. Each ring had a canopy, but only two rings had reasonable shade due to the passage of the sun.
That sun was relentless, and “hot” doesn’t quite describe it. Neither does “humid,” “sticky” or “steamy.” The first day the poor dogs were panting constantly, and so were the judges! The show’s judges were John B. Ross and me from Canada, Francine Schwartz of Illinois and Oregon’s Dr. Dale Simmons.
There were clouds on the second day and a welcome sprinkle of cooling rain. However, most judges had an easy day in the sun. Only I had more than 100 dogs; the other judges averaged between 50 and 75 dogs a day.
A total entry of 265 meant that the Groups began just after noon, and the show was completed by 2 p.m. On Saturday, Best in Show, judged by Dr. Simmons, went to the German Shepherd bitch GCh. Karizma’s Bonaire Von Loar Kaleef. Sunday’s choice of John B. Ross was Welsh Terrier Ch. Shaireab’s Bayleigh Last Call to Penbryn, which was RBIS on the Saturday.
Club President Mel Rodrigues and his committee treated the judges like movie stars. A fabulous white stretch limousine was waiting to take us back to our hotel overlooking Waikiki Beach. Unlike celebrities, we ungracefully entered the limo (which is extremely awkward to exit, also) and waved goodbye to one of the most beautiful show sites in America.
It is fascinating to see a kennel club in its infancy. Yet there is nothing immature about China’s National General Kennel Club (NGKC). The relationship with the American Kennel Club has been helpful in propelling the NGKC into a maturity that has taken other nations years to achieve.
China is the first client of AKC Global Services, which uses AKC’s expertise to process events and registrations. To be registered, all dogs must provide DNA proof of parentage and be identified by a microchip. This attention to detail has resulted in the AKC permitting NGKC pedigrees to be eligible for AKC registration since 2012.
As China began to develop a sincere interest in purebred dogs, both the American Kennel Club and the FCI competed to persuade Chinese exhibitors to join their distinct and quite different systems. Both organizations were successful, and China now holds both FCI shows and AKC shows — often, cheekily, on the same day!
NGKC hosts about 70 shows a year. They are not large, but they are efficiently run. Most average about 160 dogs per show. Entry fees range from $25 to $50 depending on the event. There was no wringing of hands over the size of the entry we judged in Beijing. The club was delighted because the entry of 213 was apparently a record.
There were plenty of events for exhibitors over a three-day September weekend (September 13-15). Friday saw a grooming competition and a specialty for Border Collies. Judge Barbara Worth Palmen traveled all the way from Texas for an entry of 37.
Saturday and Sunday had two all-breed shows each day. Because the shows are AKC-affiliated, the judges are usually from the US or Canada. Eugene Blake, Doris Cozart, Virginia Lyne, Jeffrey Pepper, Robert L. Vandiver and I adjudicated. Jeffrey Pepper also judged a Golden Retriever specialty on Saturday, and there was a Beyond Champion competition after Best in Show on Sunday.
While 70 percent of exhibitors handle their own dogs, the rest rely on handlers. The dogs were as well-behaved, presented and trained as the dogs in any North American show. It was obvious from their demeanor and professionalism that a number of the Chinese handlers had apprenticed in the US. There were also three Americans who flew in specifically to handle Goldens. The entry of 56 was the largest in the show, and almost all the handlers were required in the Golden ring, which necessitated holding up the other rings until breed judging was completed.
The show was indoors in a large, well-lit facility. There was a big ring in the corner of the building that held Canine Good Citizen tests throughout the day. The rest of the building contained a pet trade show that was not involved with the canine events.
The club’s hospitality was outstanding. An English-speaking member of the NGKC staff of 40 accompanied the judges to every location, whether sightseeing, dining or shopping. It was an extraordinary privilege to visit the Great Wall and the Forbidden City. Beijing’s remarkable zoo housed about a dozen dozing pandas.
Beijing is an ultra-modern city with relentless construction of high rise buildings. The traffic is horrendous, even somewhat frightening, as the skillful drivers excel in weaving in and out between cars to gain an inch. In order to expedite the traffic jams, at one point there were seven cars abreast on a four-lane highway. One wag stated that “the painted lines on the road aren’t defined lanes; they are merely suggestions!”
From the November 2013 issue of Dogs in Review magazine. Purchase the November 2013 digital back issue with the DIR app or subscribe to receive 12 months of Dogs in Review magazine (print and digital versions).