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Monday, December 12, 2011

The Demise of the Purebred Dog? An Editorial Rant

Earlier today, I read that in a Canadian Kennel Club member referendum in which less than 20% of its members voted, the majority voted to remove the word "purebred" from all Canadian Kennel Club by-laws, information and mission statement.

There were additional amendments which can be seen here, including one which stipulates that no one will be allowed to breed dogs that do not conform to their breed standard. For now, I’m commenting on the removal of the word “purebred.” And my reaction is this:

I am flat out astonished. Flabbergasted, really.

I was hopeful that the forum in which I first read the ruling – a show dog e-mail list – would be flooded with expressions of disgust from equally outraged fanciers. As of now, there’ve been few remarks. And this concerns me as much as the ruling itself. The fancy as we know it is doomed if the people most active in it can't muster an expression of disgust.

In response to the referendum, I wrote: “Allow me to share some views that came as a rude awakening to me. They were learned after I got more seriously involved in writing a blog and attended a few media and blogging events. There are Shelter and Rescue people out there, really good people - most of them, who think the Animal Rights people are nuts. And that's great. They also think that breeders, all breeders, are evil. Not so great. In their world, the only good purebred dog is a rescue purebred dog. With several media and blogging events now under my belt, I've come to decide that the word "rescue" is said so often in front of a breed name that it's becoming a breed unto itself. Rescue Beagle. Rescue Shepherd. Rescue Shar-Pei.

     If we in the fancy thought our sport was in trouble before, what the Canadians have done is a forecast of things to come here. Think I'm wrong? Did you ever think you'd see the day when mixed breeds were accepted by the AKC in performance events? Has anyone noticed that on its web site, the AKC now says, "We are more than champion dogs. We are the dog's champion." The word "purebred" which USED to appear there quietly slipped away. What Canada has done is a clarion call for more of us to get off our butts and become more active in whatever way is do-able for each of us or we won't be referring to our breeds when posting a question here  -  we won't be ALLOWED to. Control the language and you control thought.

     Since getting into the blog thing, I've noticed how few purebred dog bloggers who are active in the fancy there really are. I know why this is. We're busy. We're working with our dogs, we're breeding them, showing them, training them, doing therapy and rescue and field work with them. I suspect our  reasoning is that someone else will do the heavy lifting while we do our part by being responsible fanciers.

     It's not enough anymore.

     Not everyone has the time to attend meetings, show up at auctions, do breed rescue, write a blog. But we can become more vocal in our opposition to what's happening to us. Introduce yourself to your local shelter and put a face to the term, "purebred fancier or responsible breeder." Go on Twitter and Facebook, denounce the movement underfoot. Opposing purebreds is the new racism. If you're already doing it, awesome. If not, what would it take?

     You bet I'm worked up.

A response to my post soon followed, and the writer was spot on when she suggested that evidently only 20% of Canadian members felt the issue important enough to elicit their vote, and that if the remaining 80% are angry about the results, they have only themselves to blame for not having voted at all.

That, too, concerns me. Isn’t this apathy exactly what’s happening in our own country right now?

The tables have turned. A purebred dog, once a status symbol for one’s station and affluence in life, is now an indictment of elitism and suggests a lack of sensitivity on the part of the owner to the every-man. Tacit in the ownership of a mixed (or rescue) breed is the understanding that they are somehow nobler than the purebred dog owner. They care more. They’re more egalitarian. They didn’t shop. They adopted.

This is a new kind of elitism.

Not all mixed breed owenrs are like this of course, but it's a pervasive sentiment in many circles, and it's growing.

Relegating “mutts” to the masses while the pedigreed dog enjoyed social status are two ends of a social spectrum separated by about 100 years. And it took about that long to flip the equation. Neither extreme suits me. In a country so concerned about choice, isn’t owning a purebred dog bought from an actual responsible breeder also a choice? The reality is that it is, but one that is increasingly becoming frowned upon. And this means that there’s no choice at all if one wants to be regarded on equal footing as the person who chooses an equally loveable mutt. Why can’t we each have what we want without it meaning anything more than that we love dogs? Some of us need or want predictability in the puppies we get. We like knowing what that puppy will look like as an adult. How big will she get? What kind of temperament can we expect to have? Is the dog going to be too active, or not active enough?

What is especially maddening to me is that this “change in fortunes” regarding mixed vs. purebred dogs isn’t being done TO us. As a fancy, we’re imploding from within. It was Canadian members who voted to remove the term “purebred” from their language. It was the AKC which voted in mixed breeds to participate in performance events. The Canadians explained their action this way:

Explanation for Amendment: As set out in the Explanation for Proposed Amendment #3 in which it is proposed that the word “purebred” be removed from the definition of dog, this amendment broadens the Club’s mandate to speak for all dogs in terms of the work we are doing in areas such as legislation and canine health, and even the transportation industry which impacts all dogs. This amendment also opens the opportunity for the Club to set-up a separate division to deal with non-purebred dogs in which these dogs would be allowed to participate in performance events (i.e.non-conformation events).

In the back of my mind, I can’t help but wonder if it’s possible that the Canadian Kennel Club and the AKC are really the visionaries here.  They’ve seen the proverbial writing on the wall which suggests that the day is coming when it‘s not purebreds versus mixed breeds, it’ll be about dog owners versus everyone. If I’m right, it would seem that the Animal Rights people are on track to fulfill their goal of obliterating dog ownership altogether.

And we’ve helped.
My next blogs will be coming from Florida where I'll be attending the AKC Eukanuba National Dog Show. I'll see you on the other side.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

From Milanos to Mukluks: One Woman's Journey to the Eukanuba Dog Show

Ada Blackjack
In 1921, a 25 year old Eskimo woman named Ada Blackjack was in search of a husband and an income. Seeing an opportunity, she agreed to be the cook and seamstress for a secret Arctic expedition to colonize the desolate Wrangel Island for Great Britain. Instead of finding a marriageable man or money, she became the sole survivor of a harrowing adventure in which none of her male companions survived. After two years utterly alone, she was finally rescued. It’s a remarkable story of an unlikely city girl finding herself in a polar world surviving only by her wits.

I read Ada’s story a few years ago and was reminded of her when I heard about Zoya DeNure and that she would be at Eukanuba.

Iditarod racer, Zoya DeNure
Zoya, an Iditarod “musher,” (her first Iditarod was in 2008) lives in Alaska with her husband, John, and their three year old daughter, Jona, They take in unwanted Alaskan Huskies – shelter and rescue dogs, many of them, and rehabilitate them with a positive training program. Most have been turned into racing dogs who are part of her team or are placed with an appropriate musher where they can do what they love to do: run. It is an unlikely life for someone who not that long ago was an international fashion runway model and record label representative.

Zoya says, "I’m racing to make a difference in the sport, to improve dog care on the trail and in the yard using positive race training that works for every sled dog, young or old. I’d like to get more families and kids involved in our sled dog rescue efforts and interactive programs year-round.”

On the cover of
Mushing Magazine
But how does a girl from Wisconsin find herself in Alaska just off the Denali Highway by way of high fashion houses of Europe? I hope to find out next week when I attend the AKC Eukanuba National Dog Show in Orlando where Zoya will be visiting the Eukanuba Breeder Booth. If you have any questions for to me pose to Zoya, you know where to find me: Remember that Eukanuba won’t be televised until February 4, 2012, so check in on my blog often, become a fan on Facebook, or follow me on Twitter (@KnobNots) to get group results as they happen.

Loading Straw for the Huskies

One of Zoya's Cover Shots

Now Zoya models with her dogs

Mushing in Alaska
Loading Eukanuba Dog Food for her dogs

Zoya from her modeling days

 A "shoot" with one of her dogs

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Hang Nails with Hang Time? A Product Review that Might Help

Yu-Be Moisturizing Skin Cream
I know very few people whose hands don’t tell a story. Age, stress levels, diet, grooming – it’s all there as every aspect of our hands reveals something about us. That said, a universally nagging problem whether we neglect our hands or pamper them is dry hands and hangnails.

Back in the day, I had (I thought) attractive hands and long, stylish nails, but even then I battled dry cuticles. Washing dogs, schlepping crates at dog shows, and living and playing in the dry Rocky Mountain climate made it seem inevitable. Then I took up road cycling; There is no good way to change a flat tire and emerge with nice hands, so I bid the long nails good-bye and welcomed even WORSE hang nails. They looked bad and hurt worse - and nothing I tried helped.

Today, I’m reviewing a cream that came recommended to me a few weeks ago. It wasn’t sent to me, I paid for it. And because it’s been the first thing to actually improve my own dry hands and hang nails, I’m passing it along. Like me, many of you are dog people and we are notoriously hard on our hands. Groomers and exhibitors, take special note, but know that as with any product, your results may vary and you should read the ingredients (coming further down) to ensure that you’re not allergic to any of them.

Yoshikiyo Nowatari
“Yu-Be” Moisturizing Skin Cream is made in Japan, the invention of a young pharmacist named Yoshikiyo Nowatari who formulated it back in 1957. He chose to sell it as a "medicated" cream so families would know it was for tough, dry skin and not a "beauty", "wrinkle" or "anti-aging" treatment. Yu-Be has since become the #1 selling skin cream in Japan and was even used by Sumiyo Tsuzuki on her face as she became the first Japanese woman to ever summit Mt. Everest from the more difficult "Northern Ridge" (the China/Tibet side) AND the first Japanese woman to ever ski to the lowest point on Earth, the South Pole in Antarctica.
Sumiyo Tsuzuki with a tube of Yu-BE
 hanging off her neck from a shoe lace
The cream contains Glycerin, Water, Isopropyl Myristate, Stearic Acid, Glyceryl Stearate SE, Triethanolamine, Tocopheryl Acetate (Vitamin E), Glycyrrhetinic Acid, Camphor, Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Hydrogenated coco-glycerides, Stearyl Alcohol, Polysorbate 80, EDTA, Methylparaben – and note that it does NOT contain sun block or any SPF protection

Yu Be is the first skin product I’ve used to contain camphor, so perhaps it's the camphor that has made the difference. There is a slight camphor odor when the cream is first applied, but it quickly disappears. The cream is Glycerin-based and is also enriched with Vitamin E and Vitamin B2.

The stuff is not inexpensive. My 1.25 ounce tube was $16 at Sephora but I’ve seen it for less on and Ebay. It comes in a jar as well as a tube, and there is an assortment of other products at Yu-Be’s web site. You can also request a free sample there, but you’ll have to pay a $4.95 shipping and handling fee.

The cream is an all-purpose product and can be used on all areas of your body, including your face and lips.

I give "Yu-Be" a hang-nail-free “thumbs up.’

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

How Anthropologie Led Me to a Criminal Life

This is the dress I bought from Anthropologie.

I'd been admiring it for a long time, especially because of the detailed lacing on the back. There's something so............oh, I don't "Tom Jones" about it. Saucy barmaids in British period movies wear lace up bustiers and they always have more fun than the other female characters combined. They're bawdy and mouthy, and secretly, I always thought I'd make a good one. With this dress, I could tap into my inner wench. And yeah, so the laces are on the back. And it has long sleeves. And there's no cleavage.  My dress. My fantasy.My blog.

But do you see something wrong with it?
This is the dress I bought from Anthropologie that almost became the dress I was wearing in my mug shot following my first criminal arrest. I didn't steal the dress, though what I paid for it on sale felt like robbery.

Do you see it yet - the "thing" that's wrong?     
This dress I bought from Anthropologie is a "girly girl" kind of dress. With its flouncy skirt, I would be able to put my hands in its pockets and swish and sway and twirl and flutter about. Only I would be a wench, and wenches don't flutter. They have raucous repartee with dashing men in shirts open to their first rib who only want one thing and I wouldn't care because I was a wench.

And if you haven't seen "it" by now, here's a close up.

It's a store security tag, known in the "biz" as an EAS or check point 'UFO" tag, and it was left on the dress after I bought it and walked out the door.

Sure, an alarm went off as I left the store. I figured it was for the customer entering the store with a return, probably with its security tag attached.  "Putz," I snorted to myself. I thought nothing of it and went home to gloat over my shopping acumen. 

As it happens, I wore the dress the next day. I attended a brunch, and after the brunch, I ran errands. And that's where my troubles began.

See, an EAS tag contains a miniature circuit with a diode that will burn out when a store clerk passes the tag through a demagnetizing device. If it is not swiped, the tag will emit radio waves in response to the transmitter at the door where a receiver opposite it will detect it and sound an alarm. Basically, these tags communicate using Radio Frequency and a lot of stores use them. Including most of the stores I visited after the brunch. And yes, I looked all this up.

"Target" thought nothing of the beeps I set off as I entered the store. Security at Target listens for beeps when someone is LEAVING the store, as I did 20 minutes later. But as I carried no purse, no bags, and wasn't wearing a coat, security virtually ignored me.

Then it was on to the mall. As I left one store and entered the next, I left a series of beeps and alarms in my wake. I was oblivious. I felt pretty good in my new dress - saucy, even, when a plain clothed security guard stopped me at the door of a high end clothing store. "You're going to have to come with me," he said.

"That's it? That's your best pick up line?" I shot back. Remember now. I was a wench. I gave as good as I got.

He wasn't amused and took my elbow. Now I wasn't amused. Wench or no wench, this was the year 2011 and there are certain protocols in place for hitting on women. I was, you see, a MODERN wench.

And I still didn't "get it."

By now we were joined by store clerks looking for a distraction to break their boredom. "She's been lurking around the designer clothes," said one catty eyed lady. "She was in the plus size area, too," added the other. Ouch. This was so not true.

In my defense, I pointed out that it's how I shop. I look at things, I walk around, and then I look at some more things.

The security guard listened carefully. "You set off the alarm," he said. "You must be wearing something with a security tag on it." I invited the store clerks to look at what I was wearing and tell the man that nothing I was wearing was from their store. "Then it must be under your dress," he said with the levity of a heart attack.

In the 1963 movie, "Tom Jones," there are lots of tankards of beer, a lot of turkey legs, several wagons containing loose straw and a ton of winking. I'm certain there wasn't one strip search conducted by security personnel in a dingy room with the police waiting on the other side of the door. Where was Albert Finney when I needed him?

When I felt tugging at my dress, I thought to myself, "OhmyGod, they're not even going let me undress in private." To my relief, however, I saw that it was a third store clerk who held up a corner of my dress in her hand and said to the others, "She's still got the UFO tag on her dress. THAT'S what set off the alarm."

Putting a good face on it: Removing the tag 
Disappointed that there would be no arrests being made that day, my small entourage evaporated back into racks of clothing. As I left the mall, I wrapped my girly skirt around my legs and waddled as far away from store entrances as possible. The next day, I returned the dress to Anthropologie and explained what had happened.

The store manager was mortified. And apologetic. And mortified some more. She didn't offer to give me the dress for free, but she did mollify me by allowing me to take a picture of her removing the tag. "See," I told her, "people never believe that this stuff happens to me. I need proof."

And now you have it.
My shopping weakness

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Road to Eukanuba: Meet the Future of the Dog Fancy

In a couple of weeks, I'll be heading to the AKC/Eukanuba dog show in Orlando where I intend to check in on the future of my sport.

I won't be visiting a high tech booth demonstrating robotic handlers capable of performing a flawless triangle;

I won't be consulting with geneticists on track to construct the perfect dog;

And I won't be learning about a microchip that, once implanted in the brain stem of a judge, renders that judge incapable of error;

I'll be watching kids.

Jackie Kennedy and her dog,
"Hootchie" at the East Hampton Show,
her first dog show
For those of you already in the sport, skip ahead, you already know this next part. But for the benefit of you newer to the dog fancy, I want to you meet the junior handler.

He or she is a kid between the ages of nine and eighteen. They, or someone in their family, owns the dog they show (they have to). To qualify at Eukanuba, they'll have had to have maintained a 3.0 grade average for two semesters before entries closed and earned five first place wins in an Open class. 

And when they're in the show ring, it's not their dog that's being judged, it's them.

Walk by a junior showmanship ring and you'll see a ring filled with different breeds handled by youngsters or teenagers. The procedure they must follow is the same as it is in conformation competition. The ring patterns are the same, the individual examination of each dog is the same.

What a judge sees, however, is the quality of a junior's presentation of their dog. Are they showing their dog in a manner appropriate for that breed? Is the dog groomed and presented well? Do they show "a hand" for the dog when presenting it, or are they over or under handling it. Does does the junior handler address the judge with respect, eye contact and a pleasing posture that showcases their dog? Does the junior know their breed, know ring procedure, know ring etiquette or what to do if there's a gaffe in the ring? (a dog relieving himself, for example).

While a judge DOES watch the dog, it's only to further assess the dog's handler: Is the dog responsive to its handler? Do dog and handler work as a team? Is the dog being moved to the best of its ability? Does the handler know not to put himself between the judge and his dog? Is the handler adroitly accentuating the dog's strengths while minimizing its faults? And how is the junior handler dealing with the other dogs and handlers in the ring?

It's a lot to remember for anyone, let alone a kid.

Harder to see are the intangibles: Lessons learned about sportsmanship, winning and losing, developing a work ethic while learning to balance homework, sports, chores and family with dog shows and the preparation that goes into it.
Another intangible: Children learning how to navigate in the world of adults. If it's true that showing dog is the only sport in which amateurs compete with professionals. then it's also the only sport in which children can compete against adults. Undertand that Junior Showmanship is competition among juniors, but these same kids often compete in regular breed classes against the grown ups.

I won't go into the times I've been bested by a ten year old in the group ring. Nope. let's not go there.

Junior handling is no less competitive than adult competition. Junior handlers are terrific kids and by and large, are good sports. The few that aren't have either been influenced by a pushy adult, or they've lost sight of what's important. Sometimes, witnessing a competitor's loss and subsequent tears is enough to bring them around. Sometimes, being sensitive to a tragedy in the life of a competitor or in a community trumps grandiose dreams of winning. Back in my daughter's own junior handling days, a couple of her fellow competitors were students at Columbine High School when the shootings occurred. We adults were humbled by what we saw in and outside the junior handling ring at the first dog show following that horrible day. There were tears, there were hugs, and the supportive bond between former arch rivals gives me goosebumps to this day. Now in their late 20s,these kids still stay in touch.

8 year old Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy with
her Great Dane, 'King Phar,' during
the 35th annual dog show at the Long Island Kennel Club,
 Seawane Club, Hewlett Harbor, New York.
(Photo by Morgan Collection/Getty Images)

Statistically, I don't know how many junior handlers will stick with the sport into adulthood, but the lessons they learn will serve them into their adult lives. For some, a spectacular future may await: Last year's Best in Show winning Scottish Deerhound at Westminster was handled by Angela Lloyd, the first Best Junior Handler at Westminster (1998) to go Best in Show there. Others who stay in the fancy will most assuredly be the future of the sport, if not the breeds with which they're associated. They'll grow up to be breeders, professional handlers (many juniors apprentice under professional handlers), show judges, AKC reps, club officers or simply continue to show their dogs. Those that leave the sport will still be touched by what they learned as they become parents,legislators, business people, or even First Lady of the United States.

I've been following a few junior handlers over the last few months who have qualified to show at Eukanuba, and I'll report on how they do at the show. I start at one end of the spectrum with a handler who is about to "age out" of the sport and finish with a handler who's been in it a short time. I'd like you to meet them.

Ryan and "Kate"
Ryan, 18, qualified for Eukanuba in the Bred-By class and by getting a Grand Championship on his Whippet puppy. When I first corresponded with Ryan, he was juggling AP classes, the SAT/ACTs and college applications. He'd just returned from Purdue University for a college visit and was about to visit Case Western, Carnegie Mellon,and Princeton with an eye on their engineering programs. He plays soccer, lacrosse, golf or whatever the "challenge of the day" is, and has been a varsity football and baseball player (though Ryan was nursing a surgical repair on a shoulder football injury when we e-chatted). His favorite author is Ayn Rand (Fountainhead, his favorite of her books so far) and is working his way through her other writings. He's also an Eagle Scout.

Ryan will be showing his two and a half year old Whippet bitch, "Kate" (GCh. Wildbriar's Whimsical of Longlesson) of whom he is the breeder/owner/handler. Should "Kate" come into season during Eukanuba (it's forbidden to show a bitch in season in Junior Showmanship), he'll show her father, "Briar" (GCh. Longlesson Run for the Roses). Ryan says, "I see it [Eukanuba] as a last shot at glory, so to speak. After making the finals last year, I definitely want to take the extra step and win, especially as it will most likely be my last time in the Juniors ring. Either way, Eukanuba is so much fun as a celebration of dogs, breeders, handlers and juniors that just being at the show is exciting."

Hagen and "Paisley"
When twelve year old "Hagen' wanted a different kind of dog, she scoured the Internet for some ideas and decided upon a Boykin Spaniel. After initial enthusiasm, the Boykin breeder they approached for a dog felt some trepidation; The "little brown dog," as the Boykin is sometimes known, is a rare and very energetic breed still somewhat new to the AKC. As a junior handler's dog, a Boykin would be a challenge. Undaunted, Hagen, knew this was the breed for her.

She was right.

Hagen and "Paisley"qualified for Eukanuba both in Breed and in Juniors and they've already won three more shows to qualify for next year's Eukanuba. Not only will Hagen become the first Junior Handler to show a Boykin Spaniel at Eukanuba, it will be the first time in Boykin Spaniel history for a junior to go to Eukanuba. "Paisley" will go into the show ranked as the #16 Boykin Spaniel with approximately twenty Best of Breed wins, and very recently, Hagen and "Dogwood's Inspired Journey" (Paisley's show name) were invited to participate at "Meet the Breed" at the large Denver dog shows in February. Showing an unusual dog hasn't always been easy when, along the way, one or two judges not entirely familiar with the breed haven't understood the appropriate way to exhibit it. Still, as Hagen says, "Having a rare breed makes it harder, but not impossible." She credits the help of some highly respected handlers who see something in her and have encouraged her on.

Lindsey and "Mia"
Lindsey is handling one of the more daunting breeds to groom, a Bedlington Terrier. Inspired to show dogs by her mother when Lindsey was nine years old, she's now eleven and will be handling "Jack," also known as Ch. Stoney Lake Jack of All Trades. Lindsey's mother does much of the blade work and scissoring for now, but Lindsey is learning the ropes of grooming a Bedlington. Like Hagen, Lindsey finds it challenging when a judge may know less about her breed than she does. "I find that sometimes judges don't know how the Bedlington is stacked, that their front feet are together at the bottom, or even that a Bedlington goes on the table. One of the judges who thought a Bedlington went on the ground was a Scottie breeder who should have known better."

Karissa, the last junior I'm following, had her very first show in the fall of 2010 where she won Best of Variety over a two day weekend, a first place in Novice Juniors and a Group 2 in the Hound group. Three months later, she completed Novice Junior. By the summer of 2011, Karissa was ranked by "Today's Best Junior" as the #6 Junior Handler showing a Dachshund, the #30 handler (all hounds) among the entire United States, and her dog, a Miniature Wirehaired Dachshund named "Sherman," was ranked by Canine Chronicle as #18 in breed and #16 all breed under her handling.

Karissa is ten years old.

Karissa and "Sherman"
Introduced to the sport by her grandmother, Marlene, Karissa says, ""Junior Showmanship helps me be more comfortable and confident. It has helped me speak and communicate better with adults." Her big goal was to qualify for Eukanuba which she ultimately did by earning eight first place wins in her class (only five are needed). She'd eventually like to show her grandmother's Bloodhounds but recognizes that she has a wee bit of growing to do first. Until then, she enjoys gymnastics, dance classes - and of course, the dog shows. Karissa thinks about becoming a professional handler some day, and already has gotten the attention of a few well known handlers who have taken her aside to offer encouragement and the odd tip. Karissa will be showing GCH CH Tievoli Rumor's I Am M4 (or, as she affectionately calls him, "Shwerm") at Eukanuba.

Sadly, a judge's unfamiliarity with a breed can work against a Junior who is, after all, a child, and knows that it's not only ill advised to instruct a judge otherwise, but may be disrespectful. Surely we've all found ourselves in similar sitations with a boss. Like I said. Life lessons.

More than 200 Juniors Handlers will be competing at Eukanuba (this includes conformation, obedience and Agility), and after having chatted with these kids and their parents, I not only feel pretty good about the future of my sport, I like these kids' chances at Eukanuba.

I hope you'll check back to see how they did.