Sunday, February 14, 2010

It Has Never Been About the Dogs

The Grey Lady writes about the M-word in dog pageants.

Karma points for the scare quotes around the word "pets."

US Today gives Frei his podium for the party line that dogs who live in crates with professional handlers are "just like your pet at home." Just like JonBenet Ramsay was just a regular little girl playing dress-up.

Srsly, could this dog want to be where he is any less? (Video -- I did not embed because of obnoxious continuous stream ads.) Hey Frei, slap his head back towards you and the newstwinkie again, show us how much you love him. Yeah, he runs wild on a ranch in Texas. Or lives in Missouri, with another "owner." Or in Illinois. Or at Frei's apartment in NYC. Depends on which member of his "ownership team" or handler or PR shill is holding forth on how he's just like your pet at home.

Three more recently working breeds get a stake through their hearts this year. The AP acts as the ACK's press agent on this one.

I will not be watching, unless Perfesser Chaos decides that it is time to get a flat-screen teevee; he knows he can count on my foot going through the tube of the old one when the GSDs and border collies take the stage. Or the obese Labs. Or the lumbering goldens. Or any other visually apparent atrocity against dogdom.


  1. Just like JonBenet Ramsay was just a regular little girl playing dress-up.


  2. It would be impossible for me to agree with you more. Sure, just like the dogs at home - yeah, right. My retriever is on the sofa and my GSD is here in the kitchen snoozing on a rug. I'm sure all of those breeders and handlers pat the bed each night for their dogs to cuddle with them to watch teevee. Oh, don't get me going - don't get me going...

  3. I have never understood how dog shows can be so popular on television.

    If you watch any other "sporting event," you have some idea of what is going on.

    It is explained that the dogs are being judged to a standard for their breed, but it is never explained what that standard is.

    And to be honest, no one could do a TV show that explained what the standards' esoteric measures are.

    I think most of the appeal is people watching tv, just to see their breed paraded around.

    All I say is thank goodness for the Outdoor Channel!

  4. I love the line about the 95 golden retrievers.

    I guarantee you that all of them have too much hair and too much bone to be useful for anything, except for hair dressing.

    If you want to see a real golden retriever, check out Ginger:

  5. Well, I'm sitting with my show dogs watching TV. My newest show puppy Friday's dad was at Westminster last year, and I know for a fact that he spends most of his time running around a huge working farm. My current litter of puppies is cuddled in front of the pellet stove; they have a pedigree that is almost entirely champions as far back as you'd care to go, and I certainly hope to get some top show prospects out of the group, but they'll spend most of their lives on a couch or a bed with their person too.

    I don't pat the bed at night because the dogs have beat me to it. I have to shove them over to climb in.

    Scottie is totally right that the US coverage of the shows does a terrible job explaining what you're seeing. Crufts is much better because the commentators will tell you what they see as excellent and what they see as mediocre, but the US coverage is aimed at the layperson dog owner who just wants to root for his or her breed. Watching the individual breeds with someone who knows the breed is much more instructive.

    Westminster is an event; there are shows and parties that surround the two actual days of judging at the Garden. The overwhelming majority of dogs entered are there because it's such a huge dog-centric weekend; they are not being campaigned and for many of them it's the only weekend of this year that they'll be shown. The other 263 days of the year they're lying on their backs on somebody's sofa.

    The hundred or so dogs that are being campaigned full-time and are actually in contention for the top Group and BIS slots have probably lived on the road this year, yes, but they do not have bad lives. Where a typical house dog with working owners goes into a crate or a kitchen for ten hours a day and then (hopefully) gets a walk when the owner gets home, a top special has most of every day dedicated to him or her. They get bathed, massaged, exercised, groomed, and on the three days a week when there are shows they are "on" until maybe 3 or 4 PM. Then the grooming job is broken down, even the poodles go back down into normal hair and wraps, and they go back to the RV to watch TV. Most days they spend hanging out with their handlers, who are very attached to them.

    There are bad apples in every sport (and this is certainly true in dogs) and, yes, it's very political and yes, we do chalk and use hair spray and all that. Those are completely legitimate things to discuss and criticize if you'd like. But it really is completely accurate that show dogs are pets 99% of the time, and pets who live in incredibly good homes.

  6. Fascinating. In what way is this a "sport?"

  7. Hi, Heather...I love your blog although I rarely comment here, petconnection or anywhere else. Do you mind if I linke yours to mine? I just started it today. Thanks, Brooke
    ps: here's the link if you want to verify:

  8. I'm not sure that the popularity of dog shows on TV is all that odd.

    Entertainment featuring vapid, artificially-enhanced creatures who prance around in a pointless way and don't resemble healthy, normal beings seems to be the norm.

  9. Have you seen the various "here's my kid dressed up as a whore for your judging pleasure" shows on TV?

  10. It's another demented form of reality TEEVEE for a lot of folks. I am a past participant and have been to the Garden many, many times.

    I'll watch for the fictitious and potentially dangerous misinformation that the commentators ruminate on the certain breeds and their virtues as working dogs, send a polite yet disparaging letter as I have done for the past umpteen years about that soddy claptrap they pass as virtuous information and look for friends that I have not seen in years and marvel at how much or little they have changed.

    I have found that the information that they DO provide about the breeds is so laden with such BS that it's comical to watch, but I do, every year as I have for the last few decades and laugh. And cry.

  11. Linda, I would KILL to get the clip that I remember from years back of Joe Garagiola and that smug POS Roger Caras arguing over the old English sheepdog.

    Garagiola was pointing out that there was no way the dog could see with all that hair over his eyes. Caras was putting on his expert voice and insisting that it could see just fine, and spinning the bullshit about how the hair on the face protected the eyes while the dog "herded sheep." And the dumb jock Garagiola -- who might, you know, have some insight into what it's like to have to work at a run in the midst of a lot of fast-moving and uncooperative beings -- wouldn't back down, and kept calling bullshit.

    While this particular fiction of Caras' was not in the category of most dangerous, and didn't even meet the highest standards of Fancier Fiction, the exchange was memorable for its rarity.

  12. I remember it; it was the year the OES went Best. '77 or 78 I think.

    Ceiling Zero was the dog's name if I recall.

    It was within a few years either side of the year the red Sibe Sierra Cinnar was shown with his missing ear.

    I wish more people would ramp up the Bullshit meter and start calling these 'experts' on their totally bogus interpretations of why the dogs are built the way they are and start calling spades well, you know...

  13. Linda, I don't think it was that long ago. I doubt I was watching it on teevee in the 70's. And I know that I CRS from that long ago.

    It was probably the Group judging that I was watching, and I'm thinking early to mid 90's.

    Maybe Joe made this point at every opportunity, so we are both remembering rightly?

  14. I've never understood the need for dog shows or pagents of humans for that matter. Neither are competitons that, in my humble opinion, better our world in any form.

  15. Mayhap. I do remember an exchange between the two, I do remember an OES winning best under a lot of controversy.

    It was the year I met Cap Haggerty. That had to be the late 70's.

  16. My apologies. Ceiling Zero never won at the garden, the dog I was thinking of was a dog named Lancelot. It was 1975.

    Gawd, that was a long time ago. You are correct, the exchange between Joe and Roger was much later.

  17. Joe Garagiola hosted the WKC from 1993 to 2002 and was summarily dismissed, probably because he called them like he saw them.

    More here:

  18. Interesting article on the 3 new breeds. I don't know anything about the other 2, but I was not happy when the PSCA decided to pursue AKC recognition for the Pyr sheps. That article is wrong, by the way. They have not guarded sheep in France since medieval times - that would be the Great Pyrenees. Rather they have herded sheep in France, probably since around the stone age. I have one who has not been "re-conditioned" by US views of appropriate temperament. He is in no way a "family dog". He seems timid to the onlooker, but he is in actuality a bold, fearless little asshole who will take you out without a thought if you upset me. People think he's timid because he has no use for them and refuses to be "friendly". Interesting dog who has improved my training skills immensely. Half brother on his father's side to one of the AOMs at Westminster and on his mother's side to the other AOM.

    And by the way, some dogs love dog shows. I have one who sulks for days if he doesn't get a bath when the others do. He knows bath means show.


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