Thailand is a country known worldwide, not only for its sensational beaches, resorts and that old cliché, “The Land of Smiles,” and that really is so, but also for its cultural heritage dating back to the early 15th century and beyond. The rich beauty of the landscape and the endless niceties of its people abound. Despite the sometimes political uneasiness, there is this indescribable and devout respect for the Monarchy. In particular is the most revered King of Thailand, HRM Bhumibol Adulyade (Rama IX) of the Chakiri Dynasty, known far and wide for his devotion to the people and their needs, as well as his lifelong interest as a humanitarian, and the love of animals, especially the canine species. Together with HRH Queen Sirikit, they are recipients of a deep devotion that sets this nation apart from most others in the region!

The country motto is “Nation, Religion and King.”

Religion is a priority for citizens of Thailand, with Theravada Buddhism being highly respected. Photo by Keven Harris.

The current capital, Bangkok, dates back at least to the early 15th century, when it was a village on the west bank of the Chao Pharao River, under the rule of Ayutthaya. Because of its strategic location near the mouth of the river, the town gradually increased in importance.

Bangkok initially served as a customs outpost with forts on both sides of the river and became the site of a siege in 1688 in which the French were expelled from Siam. After the 1767 fall of the existing capital, Ayutthaya, to the invading army of Burma which ravaged the area, destroying temples and burning it almost from existence, the newly declared King Taksin established his new capital in Bangkok, which became the base of the Thonburi Kingdom.

In 1782 King Chulalok (Rama I) succeeded Taksin. He moved the capital to the eastern bank’s Rattanakosin Island, thus founding the kingdom of the same name. The city pillar was erected on 21 April, which is regarded as the date of foundation of the present-day city. While settlements on both banks were commonly called Bangkok, two treaties established in 1826 and 1833 refer to the capital as the City of Sia-Yut’hia.The modern capital of Bangkok still straddles both sides of this mighty river as a result.

Scenes like this can be found throughout Thailand. Photo by Keven Harris.

Today, from a national population of 66.7 million, the city proper services a population of some 6.3 million with a further 14.6 million inhabiting the 50 regions that surround the metropolis comprising the entire area of Bangkok. This capital is a sister city to 23 others in 15 countries. Not the least of these are two of some significance, Brisbane, Australia, and Manila, Philippines.

Thailand is one of the most prominent nations in Asia for its love of pure breed dogs. This hobby sport is genuinely and openly supported by the Monarchy; the King himself is widely known to the people for his deep interest in and affection for dogs and dog shows.

More than 20,000 people flocked to the shows at the Impact Arena, Exhibition and Convention Centre, as did more than 100 vendors. Photo by Keven Harris.

There is one special event which brings exhibitors from around the globe to compete for HRM The Queen’s Trophy as the ultimate award for Best in Show – the SmartHeart Impact International Dog Show, over four days at the Impact Arena, Exhibition, and Convention Centre, the second largest of its kind in Asia. This complex is located at Mueang Thong Thani (Pakkret), about 40 km from the city centre. Each year the Impact complex hosts 15 million visitors to some 500 events and concerts, including our own Kylie Minouge, the Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton and Janet Jackson. It is also home to the Thailand Tennis Open.

And so, it was here in hall Number 5/6 that the Kennel Club of Thailand held the 2013 SmartHeart Impact International Dog Show, challenging for the Queen’s Trophy.

To say that this was impressive would be an enormous understatement! Hall Number 5/6 is a pillar-free expanse, having a floor area of some 140,000 square feet, housing some 100-plus pet-related vendors. Twelve official coffee lounges, bars, pubs and restaurants are all within the complex or at worst a short walk in any direction. In addition, some 15 fully loaded, Thai cuisine eateries sat almost at ringside with a large area set aside for tables and chairs to complete the dining area. The entire concept and its enormity are an experience to be seen to be believed.

For me, it was wonderful to catch up with so many friends from other countries, rather akin to a national specialty where once a year breeders and friends come together for a few days of competition, fun and enjoyment, or, as did I, to see the Impact shows unfold and deliver a story to readers.

This event at the latter end of June was put together by the Kennel Club of Thailand President Maam Wanida Busakornnun and her band of workers. It was home for four or more days to eight international judges from six countries.

A show in a different part of the world is, of course, a chance to see a variety of breeds, including this Thai Bangkaew, which won the breed’s national specialty held during Impact. Photo by Thailand Pet Journal.

Australia featured with two of the eight judges – Doreen Duffin from Victoria on a return visit and Timothy Thomas from Queensland on his first out-of-Australia assignment, no doubt a big thrill for him. Heading the remainder of the panel was longtime friend and a most likable fellow, James Fredericksen, accompanied by James Noe, and both from the U.S. Then there was that forever gentleman Philip John from India, the popular Horst Kloibenstien from Germany and the two doctors, Eugeny Kuplyauskas from Russia and Annukka Paloheime from Finland.

Happiness, disappointment, drama, late finishes, exhibitor anger, confusion, judges in downtime waiting, timing problems, frustration, complaints! Some or all of these elements were a part of one or more of the many competitions that were conducted over the four days of Impact. The general consensus seemed to be that despite the three very large judging rings and eight judges, at least one more of each may have accounted for less overall frustration and relatively earlier finish times which went late into the night.

Dogs Dismissed Without Comment
Sadly there was much angst among exhibitors in one particular ring, several of whom are known internationally for their individual prowess as breeders of high quality stock and who had traveled at some great expense from other countries, only to find themselves and their exhibits sent from the ring with no apparent explanation from the Finnish judge. A word in the ear to the ring steward from the judge and a gesture to leave the ring from the steward left these exhibitors in total shock.

Not the least of these actions of being dispatched from the judging area was directed at the American and International champion and Number 1 dog in Thailand, the British Bulldog and at the American champion and Philippine Hall of Fame Boxer, which has won BIS under several breed specialists and was the 2012 pre-national and national specialty winner. (The total Boxer breed entry was dismissed with no awards made.) A well-performed champion Bullmastiff, a regular Group and BIS winner under a multitude of internationals, suffered the same fate.

After discussions between owners and the steward, it was alleged that in the judge’s opinion the major problem in Boxers was insufficient bone and heads not large enough, and with the Bulldog, insufficient length of tail! Clearly, while not a single competitor or the gallery would or could agree with the non-award penalty from this out-of-nowhere reasoning, it did appear to those concerned to be a case of throwing the baby out with the bath water. With breed type and breed hallmarks of the affected breeds being an apparent secondary consideration, exhibitors were left wondering about the considerable expense of being at Impact or why they even bothered in the first place!

The Labrador Retriever National Specialty saw this dog crowned BIS. Photo by Thailand Pet Journal.

In an interesting twist and prior to coming under this judge, the Boxer from the Philippines had already taken four BOB awards, and the Bulldog and the Bullmastiff managed several Best in Group awards between them, with the latter accounting for one of the six all-breed BIS on offer – all under other judges on the panel.

It may well be said that while dog judging is subjective by nature and that exhibitors know the risks when entering, it could also be said that, in this instance, neither seemed to play a part!

There was much the same taking place when Chihuahuas came to be judged. At the time, I was sitting with world-renowned Papillon breeder Ejima Chie from Japan who, like most of us in the gallery, was lost for words as Japanese, Korean and other local and international exhibitors of high repute and their charges received that same wave from the steward to the exit – with not so much as a word!

Two Pomeranian specialties were held during Impact. Thai Ch. Cutiekid Elvo, owned by Li Zhang Qing, was BIS of the first specialty, under judge Mr. Timothy Thomas of Australia. Photo by Thailand Pet Journal.

The Pomeranian ring also suffered its own problems when high profile breeders from Russia brought things to a standstill, insisting that they were entitled to compete for reserve CACIB and apparently implying they would send word to the FCI if not judged. The Finnish judge did what was necessary, and it sorted itself out. In the meantime however, much discussion on the matter had been taking place between the judge and two others who were sitting inside the ring. From the chatter taking place outside the ring, the perceived discussion was apparently ill-received and not appreciated by the Pomeranian fanciers. It’s that old saying: “When judging, be seen but not heard!”

Exhibitors expressed disappointment that the non-awards and dismissals from the ring were not done via communication between the judges and themselves. It is a true measure of character of any judge who does not care to face the exhibitors and explain to them straight up as to why such decisions were made. Thankfully, our own Australian judge did approach exhibitors where, in her opinion, there was reason to withhold, and she gave what she considered an appropriate explanation. Well done, Doreen Duffin.

Another Thailand original, the Thai Ridgeback, had its national specialty in Bangkok. Photo by Thailand Pet Journal.

A Spectacle of Dogs and People, Nonetheless
Nevertheless, with all of that, the presentation of six all-breed events, nine specialties and/or nationals, with an overall entry of 5,000-plus, was no doubt a dog show spectacular highlighting pure breed dogs before the public.

Add to this some 20,000 paying members of the public, pushing strollers holding dogs and not babies, making vendor purchases and each day filling the judging area six to 10 deep at ringside. To my mind, it made for an atmosphere that was electric to the max.

BIS of the second Pomeranian specialty was Thai CH. Morgan’s Modern Design, owned by Chay Kulnipat. The judge for this show was Mr. James E. Frederiksen of the United States. Photo by Thailand Pet Journal.

It could never be said that from a spectacle point of view and the overall success at the end of four days that Impact 2013 was anything but a win-win for the organizers.

The winning exhibits competing for the coveted Queen’s Trophies were not only worthy of their position on the podium, they are and have been in the winners’ circle many times previously under any number of respected judges from around the world.

The major awards are as follows:

The 95th Thailand Kennel Club all-breed show was attended to by Doreen Duffin, awarding Best in Show to that Bullmastiff Thai GCh. Full House Limited Addition, owned by M. Ame-on Praiwan and Ng Chee Yen.

The 4th 2013 FCI all-breed show had Philip John taking care of business with him choosing the Yorkshire Terrier as his Best in Show, multi-country GCh. Nanette’s October Sand Dune, owned by Ms. Nanta Tansacha. This exhibit also found itself on the winner’s podium for the first AKU all-breed show judged by James Fredericksen, and again for the 7th International FCI all-breed show under Dr. Annukka Paloheimo. Odd fellows out in centre ring were Dr. Eugeny Kuplyauskas, who selected the Toy Poodle Int. Ch. Jap. Ch. Pop Trick JP Great Victory, owned by Sachiyo Kitatanio Minooshi.

Last but not least was the Best in Show award for the last of the FCI Internationals under the hand of Horst Kliobenstien. He selected the Affenpinscher Thai Ch. Noa V Tani Kazari, owned by G. A. Schilders.

All of these supreme winners were presented with the appropriate rosettes and the coveted Queen’s Trophy.

In addition to the major winners, I was able to obtain photos of the Thai Ridgeback and Thai Bangkeaw Nationals, as well as the Labrador national and Pomeranian specialties, thanks to Thailand Pet Journal and Dr. Boy Sukit.

For me, Impact 2013 was a blast and proved beyond any doubt that you learn something new every single day without having to try very hard at all.

A post-show trip to the northern part of the country provided a chance for the author to see the Mekong River. Photo by Keven Harris.

Time for a Little R&R
All done and dusted, a lovely evening meal, a few drinkies and another early night at the OMNI Residential Towers apartments to pack for a flight next morning to Udon Thani for a little R&R with non-doggy hosts Lloyd De Gruchy and his wife, Penn.

Situated way north of Bangkok where clearly the air is fresh and the going somewhat slower are great resorts and restaurants serving the best in Thai and Western cuisine, including that place called “Good Old English Breakfast.” Actually, it was more like a great home-cooked Aussie breakfast, the nearest I have experienced to that served up to judges by the committee of Beenleigh Kennel Club.

The Udon Royal Thai Air Force Base, built by the U.S. Army in the ‘60s, served as the U.S. frontline during the Vietnam War. This caused the economy in the area to soar, spurring on the construction of accommodations, hotels, bars and coffee shops that catered almost exclusively to the U.S. service men and women at that time. Today, most of these are still in operation.

A pleasant drive north for around 45 kms and one can find oneself right on the banks of the mighty Mekong River with Thailand on one side and Laos in clear sight on the other. Here the locals from both countries come to visit the Tharsadet Market on the Mekong to peruse and purchase almost anything from foods to clothing, Thai candies, nuts and much more.

A quick visit to the Sala Kaeo Kou Temple is a must-see, where the many giant carvings and formations of the culture and love of Buddha are displayed, the most impressive of them being a seven-headed dragon and the 100-foot and as-yet-incomplete laid-brick Buddha which guards the entrance to the temple grounds. All this topped f by a beautiful lunch at the Rabeangmaekhon restaurant at the Mekong River Hotel.

It was soon time enough to head back to Udon to relax before the flight home.

To see more photos from Impact 2013 and of Thailand, click here.

Keven Harris has been a judge for 41 years, the last 28 as an all-breed judge. He is approved for all Groups, including Miscellaneous, and Best in Show by the American Kennel Club. This article is reprinted with the kind permission of Dog News Australia.