I’ve spent more than a decade now editing articles about dogs, researching various canine-related topics and, for the last three years, writing about them.
The thousands of stories I’ve polished for other writers and the hundreds I’ve penned myself are never from an insider’s perspective. My background is in journalism, not in dogs. In my early career, I wrote about local government. I wasn’t a city council member. I just wrote about their decisions and the potential effects on the city’s residents, businesses and future. I wasn’t a member of the school board, but I did my best to tell readers what the board members’ votes would mean in the classroom.
As for the dog world, I grew up with the lovable four-leggers, of course, a variety of purebreds and mixed breeds, almost always in multiples. But my family didn’t breed or show, nor have I participated in agility, obedience or earthdog. My contribution has always been refining text, listening to my sixth sense when something in an article isn’t quite right, recognizing a good photograph when I see one (and perhaps more importantly, a bad one), and, now, as a writer once again, knowing with whom to talk about performance events and canine health, and what questions to ask them.
So, as I watched the re-run of the recent National Dog Show Presented by Purina with my husband and adult sons, and laughed at or refuted their wry comments about the variety of breeds and people in the show, I was surprised to be sharing details about many of the dogs with them. As the Groups proceeded, I realized that I knew much more about these dogs than those in any other show I’d attended or watched in my almost 12 years on the periphery of the dog world.
I was actually kind of surprised by how many of the dogs I recognized, what I knew about their rankings and even about their pedigrees. Then it dawned on me. For almost a year now, I’ve been editing Billy Wheeler’s Back Story multiple times a week and, since it launched in July, Christi McDonald’s Fancy That articles each Monday.
While I was looking for misplaced commas and reader-friendly sentence structure, and occasionally double-checking a dog’s registered name on its kennel website, among the many other tasks that make up the editing process, the mountains of information that Billy and Christi pack into their pieces had apparently been sinking in.
I knew that German Wirehaired Pointer GCh. Mt View’s Ripsnorter Silver Charm – I like to call him ‘Oakley’ – and English Springer Spaniel GCh. Wynmoor Champagne Supernova – my cyber pal ‘Peyton’ – were neck-and-neck in the rankings, and even that they were ahead of the Number 3 and 4 dogs by tens of thousands of points. Unfortunately, neither was in Philadelphia, so I couldn’t regale my sons with their accomplishments this year. In the Terrier Group, I absolutely recognized ‘Sky,’ the now more-famous-than-ever Wire Fox Terrier GCh. AfterAll Painting the Sky, who went on to win Best in Show. And I knew we wouldn’t be seeing ‘Fifi,’ Doberman GCh. Protocol’s Veni Vidi Vici – with spaces between each word no matter what any catalog might say. She was in Columbus, Ohio, that day.
When judge Mrs. Vicki L. Abbott gestured toward Sky, I wasn’t the least bit surprised. I’d been following that dog all season through Billy’s near-obsessive tracking of the top dogs and Christi’s painstaking research into the backgrounds of the year’s movers and shakers. Neither was I taken aback when Reserve went to Affenpinscher GCh. Banana Joe V. Tani Kazari. I feel like ‘Joey’ and I are old friends by now.
I’m still no insider, but it made me feel good to know that I could actually share some meaningful tidbits as I enjoyed the broadcast with my family. My sons may not remember much of what I told them, but it was pretty cool – for a change – to be peppering them with data on a topic about which I actually knew more than they did.
So, thanks, Christi and Billy. You pushed me to a new level of insight this year. And that’s no small feat at my age.