For The Dogs

DWAA board member Joel Gold and myself during the annual Dog Writers’ Association of America. Submitted photos

Two weeks ago, I made my annual trip to New York City for the Dog Writers’ Association of America awards banquet, and for the events surrounding the Westminster Kennel Club dog show.

This year, I received a Maxwell award for my reference book, “101 Things to Know Before Getting A Dog.” DWAA board member Joel Gold presented the award. You don’t really need to know 101 things of course, but there’s lots of useful information in the book about different types of breeds and what to expect from them, as well as information on different kinds of food, health issues, and training. Instead of playing catch up after you’ve gotten a puppy, this book gives you a head start before the puppy arrives.

During the day I enjoyed a visit to “Meet the Breeds” presented by the American Kennel Club in conjunction with the Westminster Kennel Club. I love every part of a dog show, including obedience and agility, but I’m beginning to love Meet the Breeds as much. It is a really wonderful way for people to see different breeds and to talk to people about what the dog is like. There were 136 breeds of dogs represented and almost 30 breeds of cats. At each booth, people were eager to share information about where the animal originated, what, in the case of the dogs, it was bred to do, size, coat care, and personality. People at dog shows are happy to share information, too, but sometimes they’re busy doing something else to spend much time talking. At Meet the Breeds, that’s what they’re there for.

Because my friend and I were there early to pick up our Westminster press credentials, I had the advantage of visiting many booths before the general public was admitted. At the Leonberger booth, I got a sticker that said, “Sit. Stay. Shed.” This booth had four of these giant dogs and a long piece of carpet designed for hugs and cuddles with the gentle dogs. Children seem drawn to these dogs, and the dogs seem to reciprocate the feelings.

In honor of Valentine’s Day, the Boxer booth had a kissing booth, a small table decorated with hearts where you could “kiss” a Boxer who seemed very happy with the attention.

I also met the Nederlandse Kooikerhundje. The AKC has just recognized this breed. The Kooiker is from the Netherlands where he helps lure wild geese into pens. His name translates as “small geese-penning dog” and is pronounced Koi-ker-hund-Juh. The dogs are medium-sized red and white dogs with a black fringe called “earrings” on the ears. Their feathery white tail and their playful manner is what lures the birds into the cages.

The other breed newly recognized by the AKC is the Grand Basset Griffon Vendeen. This wiry-coated hunting dog is from France and he and his shorter relative, the Petit Basset Griffon Vendeen used to be interbred and the puppies then sorted by size. Today they are separate breeds with the GBGV having a proportionately longer muzzle, longer ears, longer tail and longer back. Both these breeds have a loud voice to help lead the hunter in the right direction.

Because I also enjoy cats, I spent time checking out the feline side of Meet the Breeds. The International Cat Association had an agility ring set up and I watched both an Abyssinian and a Japanese Bobtail practice agility. The agility ring had a tire jump, four bar jumps, weave poles and two tunnels. The cats seemed to especially enjoy the tunnels, sometimes opting to stay in them for a while.

I have always loved Abyssinians and their long-coated variety, the Somali, for their gorgeous reddish coats, but I’d never met a Japanese Bobtail before and I fell in love with this sweet kitten, which the owner was gracious enough to let me hold. She was mostly white with a black cap and black around her stump of a tail. In Japan, these cats are considered good luck, especially the calicos.

Before we left Meet the Breeds I had my picture taken with one of my favorite dogs, the AKC mascot, Bailey the Beagle. While the name may sound masculine, Bailey is a female, and she proudly passed all the exercises required to earn the Canine Good Citizen title, something any well-trained dog can do, whether purebred or mixed breed. If you’d like to try it with your dog, check out the AKC website for more information.