... Westminster cast its magic spell. I have to admit I'm often tempted to stay home and watch the show on TV: New York City is not my favorite place to be in February. It was cold when it wasn't raining, or vice versa, and Manhattan can be difficult to take for those of us who come from where the pace is a little slower ... which is pretty much anywhere.
But whenever I do go it's always the same: I'm not sure if it's the city or the dog show that exert its magic, but in the end it's all so exciting that you get pulled into the maelstrom whether you want to or not ... Everyone who's interested in dogs ought to make at least ONE trip to experience Westminster!
Sure, it's fun to watch from home on TV as well, but nothing like the real thing. Partly it's the history and the tradition that make Westminster Kennel Club what it is. This year was their 140th annual show, making this one of the oldest dog shows in the world and the second-oldest sporting event in the U.S. -- close behind the Kentucky Derby. Partly it's the location: Bringing 2,700 dogs into Manhattan in the middle of winter can't be easy, but somehow it works, and having the big city next door lends the show a lot of energy. The green carpet, the purple velvet ring ropes and the purple-and-gold signs never fail to appeal ... and the extra space for Breed judging on the Piers helps a lot. Certainly the evening judging at Madison Square Garden is as thrilling as any Broadway show, with dramatic lighting, star "actors" who put on thrilling performances, and a loud, enthusiastic audience that fills Madison Square Garden to the rafters ... Maybe it's simply the fact that this is such a storied event that everyone tries a little (or a lot!) harder. Everyone involved looks better than usual - the judges, the handlers, even the dogs themselves.
Incidentally, I can't imagine better PR for purebred dogs than those Best of Breed winners streaming into the big ring for the Group competitions. They all looked so handsome, so happy and healthy, and they were so well behaved that I don't see how ANYONE could fail to be impressed. Judging by the ovations that all the winners received, there was no question that the spectators agreed ...
It didn't hurt that the finale this year was nail-bitingly exciting. How refreshing to see "new" dogs go to the top! The German Shorthaired Pointer "CJ" isn't a puppy anymore (I saw him first when he was 3 months old in 2013, and he already knew he was a star then!), but he's only beginning his show career. For us Sighthound people, CJ is of special interest because his handler, co-owner and co-breeder Valerie Nunes Atkinson from California has Whippets as her "other" breed. In fact, CJ's best buddy is a Best-in-Show winning Whippet, Ramona, that many of us will remember Val showing a couple of years ago. HIGHLIGHTS FOR SIGHTHOUND LOVERS
But of course the highlight for Sighthound lovers was to see one of "our" breeds go Reserve Best in Show. The Borzoi Ch. Belisarius JP My Sassy Girl, alias Lucy, is a "new" winner, shown by Shota Hirai from Japan and owned by his wife, Mai Ozeki Hirai, who was at ringside and is a frequent visitor to U.S. shows. Mai's mother, Kyoko Ozeki, who bred Lucy, was also at the show, as was Karen Staudt-Cartabona, who bred Lucy's sire Ch. Majenkir O'Blyss and has worked with the Ozekis for many years. Lucy has visited the U.S. briefly before, long enough to win her AKC championship, a couple of Groups and the Sighthound Spectacular in Santa Barbara, but I suspect we'll see a lot more of her during 2016. By sheer coincidence Lucy will be shown in the US by none other than Val - who got to fly home with both BIS and Res. BIS at Westminster after the show! That has never happened before and isn't likely to happen again anytime soon.
It must have been particularly rewarding to do so well with a Borzoi under a breed specialist such as the BIS judge, Dr. Richard Meen from Toronto, Ontario. Together with his partner Dr. John Reeve-Newson, Dr. Meen bred the famous Kishniga Borzoi that were so successful in the 1980s.
Only four Sighthounds have placed higher than Lucy at past Westminster shows. The Afghan Hound Ch. Shirkhan of Grandeur won BIS in 1957, the English imported Whippet Ch. Courtenay Fleetfoot of Pennyworth in 1964, another Afghan Hound, Ch. Kabik's The Challenger, won in 1983, and most recently it was the Scottish Deerhound GCh. Foxcliffe Hickory Wind who was BIS in 2011. Selecting a Reserve Best in Show is not quite the new invention at AKC shows that many believe it is: it was awarded at many shows in the 1920s, and a Greyhound, Ch. Lansdowne Sunflower, was Reserve BIS at Westminster in both 1920 and 1922.
Second to the Borzoi in this year's Hound group, judged by another Canadian, Virginia Lyne from British Columbia, was the Whippet GCh. Sporting Fields Shameless, last year's top Hound and one of the biggest winners of all breeds in 2015. Third was the Australian-bred Saluki, GCh. Baghdad Eleganza Extravaganza, who is also a multiple BIS winner ... and although a Beagle took Hound Group 4th, we had, in fact, another Sighthound Group placement. Italian Greyhounds are pure Sighthounds by any definition except size, and this year's BOB winner, GCh. Infiniti Holding Kryptonite, managed a fourth placement in a very strong Toy Group under judge Jason Hoke. Kryptonite is a young dog, not even two years old at the show, but has already won several groups.
More Sighthound excitement: The Cirneco dell'Etna was featured with Breed classes at Westminster for the first time. There were 10 entries and a full ringside of interested spectators. Next year there will be Sloughis as well, and I'm sure it's just a matter of time until we get Azawakh classes, too ... and then isn't it time we get our own Sighthound Group competition at AKC shows, just like they have in FCI countries?
THE SPRING ISSUE
The official deadline for ads in the Spring issue of SIGHTHOUND REVIEW will be past when you read this, but you may still be able to get something in if you hurry. Our brilliant graphic designer Theresa M. Lyons will accept ads as late as she can and may be able to do a beautiful page for you -- if you contact her immediately via Facebook or email at SighthoundAds@aol.com.
The ads are priced so low because we want everyone who's proud of their Sighthound to be able to advertise. See details below.
If you have not paid for your subscription yet, it's high time to do so ASAP. If you are taken off the mailing list you may not be put back on again in time for the next issue ... and that means we can't promise you will get the Spring issue, which promises to be even better than usual.
We are still working on the editorials but have been promised photos of ALL the Sighthound BOB winners at Westminster. Patricia Gail Burnham -- whose article in the Winter issue was so well received -- writes about "When is a Trot not a Trot?" We have a report with lots of action shots from the open-field Grand Course to balance all those glitzy Westminster photos. Sir Terence Clark sent a fascinating article on early Salukis in Egypt, Dr. Göran Bodegård writes about particolor Afghan Hounds and Editor-at-Large Denise Flaim dips her toes into the controversial field of crosses between Sighthounds and other breeds ... I'm hoping there's space for one of my "historical" pet projects: a look back at the Top Sighthounds for the past 90-plus years, all the way back to 1924 - with photos! I spent a lot of time digging out information and can promise it's a fascinating overview. I'm also working on records of past national specialties for all the Sighthound breeds: If you can help with details from any parent club, I'd like to hear from you. If we can get this into the next issue it will be timely as the Spring show season gets going in earnest.
That's just a partial list of what's planned so far. There will be lots more to read, and the usual dynamite letters section, where our readers get a chance to vent their feelings!
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As always, we look forward to hearing from you!
Publisher & Editor-in-Chiefsighthoundreview@impulse.net
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Publisher & Editor-in-Chiefsighthoundreview@impulse.net
P.O. Box 10
Ojai, CA 93024
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SHOW YOUR SIGHTHOUND TO THE WORLD!
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