Feb 122003

I must read the wrong blogs. Where are the Westminster roundups?

Here’s Best in Show, a Kerry blue terrier, Ch. Torums Scarf Michael (The Ch. stands for “Champion of Record.” The standards are complicated; you have to earn a certain number of points at American Kettle Club shows. All the finalists in Best of Show at Westminster are Ch.’s with plenty to spare.):

Ch. Torums Scarf Michael

“There are few or no blue or bluish animals,” wrote Thoreau, but this dog certainly seemed blue on my television, though less so in the photograph. Kerry blues have slight sway-backs, tails that line up with their back legs, and beards, which all conspire to present a remarkable S-curve as they trot. The animal was superb, and deserving, and yet I rooted for:

Ch Luxor's Playmate of the Year

This is Ch. Luxor’s Playmate of the Year, the Ibizan hound, pronounced, for some reason, “Ibethan” by all of the announcers, as though they’d acquired a collective lisp. She won the Hound Group this year in an upset, the first time ever for an Ibizan, and was a huge crowd favorite for Best in Show. Now you see why. Have you ever seen such a magnificent creature?

Finally, this year, after nearly a decade at the helm, Joe Garagiola, America’s preeminent disciple of the I-know-nothing-and-won’t-learn-lest-it-interfere-with-my-rustic-charm school of broadcasting, was given the sack. Pliant weatherboy Mark McEwen, his replacement, studied enough to tell most of the breeds apart without assistance. But like his predecessor, he said a lot of things like, “The dog knows this is best in show.” Why, of course he does. He looks around the ring, sees that the other dogs aren’t in his breed, or in his group either. What else can he figure?

McEwen even memorized a few fictoids for the occasion. When the Puli — the corded dog best known for the lame Super Bowl ad where a guy puts it on his head and pretends to be a Rastafarian — came out, McEwen told us that the plural of Puli is Puli. So I’m thinking, the plural of dreadlocks is — dreadlocks. (Alas, McEwen was wrong. The plural of Puli is Pulik, they’re Hungarian.)

APB to real dog experts: somebody please tell me why poodles are clipped like topiary, while every other breed makes do with a natural, if occasionally elaborate, hairstyle. My girlfriend needs to know. I can’t keep coming up empty on this question every year.

(Poodle Update: Erik Freeland writes: “Originally the dog was a water retriever. The clip had to do with insulation and water resistance. I am not sure if the modern clip is 100% the same as the original, but that I believe is the intent.” Maybe. But then why aren’t other water dogs clipped the same way? I’m still accepting suggestions.)