Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Pleasure amid predictability

To nobody's surprise, Sadie the Scottish Terrier won Best in Show at the 134th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show last night. But while Sadie's victory seemed pretty much a foregone conclusion -- despite the valiant efforts of David Frei and his colleague to inject some suspense into the proceedings -- I found plenty of pleasure amid the predictability.

For one thing, I did get a real charge out of finding out that my Allie and the Golden Retriever BOS winner, a dog named Chaos, share a grand-sire. Speaking of which, similarly star-struck Golden and Lab owners should check out a great website called Just type in the name of the dog you're interested in and voila! if the dog's been entered into the site's database, you can see a pedigree that extends back five generations. You can even search the database by call name instead of registered name. That said, using a common call name may bring you more results than you care to deal with. For example, when I typed in "Allie," I got 77 hits. Some of the AKC registered names for all these Allies are unforgettable, though. There's:

-- Ducat's Tin Pan Allie;
-- Malagold's Tornado Allie;
-- Summit Heritage C U Later Alligator; and
-- Sweet Allie Oop

to name just a few. I can only imagine how these dogs' owners arrived at some of these names (is there an article here?).

Not so surprising but still incredibly enjoyable was watching Westminster BIS judge Elliott Weiss do his thing last night. I first saw Weiss about 10 years ago, when I was covering Westminster for a couple of publications. He was serving as the judge for a preliminary Junior Showmanship competition. I was impressed with how very patient he was with the kids, some of whom were visibly and understandably nervous, and how gentle he was in pointing out their mistakes.

Later, when I wrote a profile of English Setters for the AKC Gazette, I had the good fortune to encounter Weiss via email. He not only is a devotee of English Setters, but has also judged them in the show ring. Here's how he described to me his experience with a legendary English Setter named Hadji:

"He possessed attributes not worded in the breed standard. Not only was he a wonderful example of the breed, but he had a persona no words could capture. He would carry himself into a show ring and defy you not to look at him. He was one of those rare creatures that indeed seemed to command the world around him. He was above all else a great statesman for the breed of English Setters."

When someone speaks of a dog who's not his own with that kind of eloquence and affection, those who are listening can't help but take pleasure in the person's description. And in Weiss's case, one can not only forgive him making a predictable judgment (I really did like this dog better, but what do I know?); one can even concede that maybe, just maybe, he made the right call.

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