Thanksgiving is the time of year when we give thanks and when friends and family gather for a meal, generally turkey and all the trimmings. It's a time to catch our breath before the Christmas frenzy. I'm thankful for a lot of things, and near the top of my list are my dogs. I think what they're thankful for is leftovers.
I don't give my dogs much in the way of leftovers, but they are likely to get a bite of turkey, and, Rhiannon is pretty passionate about mashed potatoes. Griffin used to start begging the minute Jim started mashing, but Rhiannon is patient, and waits until we've finished eating, although she usually demands her bite of potato before we serve dessert.
As always, moderation is the key when giving treats. Think lean turkey, not the fat. If gravy is in the picture, a very small spoonful will flavor a bowl of dog food. Think green beans, not green bean casserole. A taste of pumpkin or squash is fine, but pumpkin pie is not. Too much rich food can cause digestive upsets, as well as adding unneeded calories to your dog's diet. I try to be very careful with what "people food" my dogs get, but I have to confess that when we whip the cream to top the pumpkin pie, the dogs each get a beater to lick.
Besides Thanksgiving dinner, many people also enjoy the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade, and many also enjoy a day of football. I like the parade, but I'll pass on the football. My Thanksgiving Day tradition is the National Dog Show. The Kennel Club of Philadelphia presents the National Dog Show the Saturday before Thanksgiving, and NBC tapes it for broadcast on Thanksgiving.
Unlike Westminster, where the group judging and best in show judging is shown in its entirety, NBC just shows the highlights of each group, and then shows the best in show judging. For those who are just moderately interested in dog shows, this is probably just right. It's hard to watch three hours of a dog show unless you're really interested.
The National Dog Show, like Westminster, is a benched show, one of only six remaining in the United States. Unlike most shows today, where the entrant can show up anytime before ring time and is free to leave immediately after showing, at a benched show, when the dog is not in the ring, being groomed, or being exercised, it must be at its bench for the day. Benched shows give spectators a chance to learn more about particular breeds, because the owner or handler is generally with the dog and is happy to educate visitors about their breed.
The other remaining benched shows are Westminster Kennel Club, Golden Gate Kennel Club, International Kennel Club of Chicago, Detroit Kennel Club, and the United Kennel Club's Purina Points Bench Show. This last show is for dogs from the hound group only.
In Philadelphia, there have been dog shows since 1876, when there was a show as part of the Centennial Exposition. There was a Philadelphia Kennel Club in 1896 and then, between 1899 and 1909, the Philadelphia Dog Show Association held shows. This group reorganized and became the Kennel Club of Philadelphia and has held shows since 1912. The shows were suspended during the Depression, from 1928 to 1932, but they resumed in 1933, and have been held annually ever since.
For those with more interest in felines, this past weekend, I was in Los Angeles for the Cat Writers' Association annual conference. There, I enjoyed talks by Animal Planet personalities Jackson Galaxy ("My Cat from Hell") and Karen "Doc" Halligan.
If you've never seen Jackson, he looks like an ad for a motorcycle club ... big silver hoop earrings, and forearms covered with tattoos. But, his heart is as big as the earrings. He loves cats and works hard to help people solve problems that might otherwise mean another cat in a shelter. He also works with shelters to help them with better cat care and cat training. Besides a seminar, Jackson stayed for two hours, signing his book, "Cat Daddy." I haven't read it yet, but from the portion he read during the seminar, I know I'll enjoy it and learn something as well.
There was also a seminar on clicker training your cat, with two gorgeous Bengals as students, and another seminar with Arden Moore and her "ambassacat" Zeki. And, I brought home lots of cat goodies. My next column will be all about cats.