My favorite Christmas gift this year was a set of 1930s-size cocktail glasses, testament to my tendency for looking to the past for directions on how to navigate the future. Despite my penchant for looking over my shoulder, I have always been relentlessly optimistic about the future. As I sit here with a perfect-sized gimlet, I can’t help but think that 2012 was my favorite year so far.
I started the year on the Empire Polo Field in Indio CA near Palm Springs. I got there early on the first day to be sure I did not miss a thing. As I arrived, a hot air balloon hovered over the show grounds, framed by palm trees and mountains. There are not many venues more beautiful. However, I was there for the kickoff of an ambitious new online dog site, Best In Show Daily, and my focus was on the spectacular collection of dogs. Among the BIS winners were the Kuvasz, GCH CH Szumeria’s Wildwood Silver Six Pence, who would remain in the Top Ten Dogs All Breeds all year, finishing in the Number Seven spot.
In February, I would return to Madison Square Garden for my first Westminster Kennel Club show in three decades. Despite the chaos of the ongoing renovations, the show delivered all the excitement and drama that we have become accustomed to. 2011’s Number One Dog, the Black Cocker Spaniel, GCH CH Casablanca’s Thrilling Seduction, was defeated in the breed, and the Sporting Group went to the 2010 Number One Sporting Dog, the Irish Setter, CH Shadagee Caught Red Handed, returning from maternity leave in diva style. The BIS would go to the dog that finished second in both 2010 and 2011, the Pekingese, GCH CH PalaceGarden Malachy. Leave it to a Peke to have the last word.
In March, another PalaceGarden Pekingese would ignite a firestorm when she was disqualified at Crufts under the British Kennel Club’s new rules. Those of us who held the British dog fancy in reverence were shocked by the wholesale assault on some of our most ancient breeds. While we were dismayed at the British response, we were bolstered by the AKC’s reaction which stated that there would never be such a rule here in the US.
That same month I would make my annual trek to Louisville KY for the Ketuckiana Cluster, simply one of the best concentrations of canine excellence around. Though not as glamorous as Palm Springs or Westminster, Louisville just overwhelms the fancier with beautiful dogs everywhere. Louisville’s four big, big BIS would go to three of our 2012 Top Ten, the Doberman Pinscher, GCH CH Protocol’s Veni Vidi Vici; the Wire Fox Terrier, GCH CH AfterAll Painting the Sky; and the Miniature Pinscher, GCH CH Marlex Classic Red Glare. The Doberman with the very un-Doberman name, FiFi, had started the year taking two of the four BIS at the huge Rose City Classic in Portland OR, and her two in Louisville would make her the early rankings leader. I would get an opportunity to watch the Wire Fox, Sky, take another BIS in April in Sacramento CA, while back in Northern California for my granddaughter’s baptism.
By May it had become clear that 2012 would be The Year of the Sporting Dog, with the German Wirehaired Pointer, GCH CH Mt View’s Ripsnorter Silver Charm, the English Springer Spaniel, GCH CH Wynmoor Champagne Supernova, and the previously mentioned Black Cocker Spaniel, Beckham, all occupying a Top Ten berth. The GWP, Oakley, would spend the Memorial Day week in Kalamazoo MI for the Western Michigan Apple Blossom Cluster, a remarkable display of cooperation among five different clubs. Oakley took home two of the five big rosettes and the Number One ranking.
By midyear, it was becoming apparent that the race was coming down to two dogs, the GWP, Oakley, and the Springer, Peyton. I spent the last weekend in June at the four-day Oklahoma City Classic, another well-run collaborative effort. Although the event is no longer broadcast, it is still, in my opinion, a marquee event. Beckham and Oakley would split the set, each taking two of the BIS.
Beckham left OKC just one BIS shy of the record for Sporting Dogs and four weeks later, on July 29th in Marion OH, Beckham and handler Michael Pitts would claim their 118th career BIS, breaking the record set in 2009 by the Pointer, CH Cookieland Seasyde Hollyberry. Beckham and Michael would adopt a more relaxed show schedule and leave the race for Number One to Oakley and Peyton. For the rest of the year, the two would thrill galleries and armchair quarterbacks with numerous face-to-face encounters, maintaining a five-month dead heat.
In my attempt to visit with fanciers from every corner of the US, I spent two days in Greeley CO, just north of my childhood home of Denver. Not only did I get to again see the winningest Kuvasz of all times, GCH CH Szumeria’s Wildwood Silver Six Pence, I saw the Harrier, GCH CH Downhome Hitech Innovator, who would give us some of the most dramatic moments of the year.
The first week of October was a Terrier enthusiast’s holy grail, the Montgomery County Kennel Club show, and it’s three all-breed warmups. At Thursday’s Hatsboro Kennel Club event, I met the American Foxhound, GCH CH Kiarry’s Pandora’s Box. Jewel and the Harrier, Chet, gave us the perfect addition to an already exciting year, as two of the rarest breeds in the AKC registry scrambled to the top of the Hound Group.
My daughter’s wedding in November kept me home that month, but allowed me to prepare for the perfect capstone to the year, the AKC/Eukanuba National Championship (AENC) in December. The week’s opener, the Space Coast Kennel Club Of Palm Bay show, featured the most competitive group I have ever witnessed. Paula Hartinger’s Sporting Group included the Top Sporting Dog of all time, the Cocker, Beckham, the Number One and Two Dogs All Breeds, the GWP, Oakley, and the Springer, Peyton. Seven of the Top Ten Sporting Dogs were present (the remaining three had been beaten in the breed by one of the other seven). The BIS show would go to the Number Five Dog, the Affenpinscher, GCH CH Banana Joe V Tani Kazari.
The last week of the season became an elaborate game of musical chairs as four of our Top Ten dogs abandoned Orlando for the two remaining venues, Cleveland and Allentown PA. The Foxhound, Jewel, remained behind in Orlando for one day to collect the BIS at the Brevard Kennel Club show, a move that would ensure she remained the country’s Number One Hound. The Harrier, Chet, would not finish empty handed as his late season charge, with four BIS in December, gave him the final Top Ten berth. However, the Wire Fox, Sky, would grab the big prize of the 2012 AENC, serving notice that she is likely to be the favorite entering 2013.
Let’s see, my first visit with my new granddaughter, my daughter’s wedding, a thrilling race for Number One, two of our rarest breeds in the Top Ten, throw in the institution of the Reserve Best In Show and the first all breed BIS by a Russell Terrier…yes, it was a very good year. Stick around. I have a feeling the best is yet to come. And that’s today’s Back Story.