For those who acquired a succession of memorable dogs because they just couldn't resist the dog with the flopped ear at the pound or the role-poly pup in the neighbor's litter, a dog show can be a bewildering experience.
People don't just like dogs. They take them very, very seriously and discuss blood lines and movement and muscles and bone structure.Show dogs are a special breed and so are their handlers and owners, who share intense enthusiasm, a special jargon indecipherable to an outsider, and a fraternity of feeling as they meet on the dog show circuit.
Yesterday the National Capital Kennel Club held its 64th All-Breed Dog Show and Obedience Trial at the Rosecroft Raceway Club House, Oxon Hill, Md. Attending were 2,000 dogs with their owners and handlers from as far away as California.
Parksway Kimona Lisa, better known to her friends as Mona Lisa, was more interested in the liver tidbits in the man's pocket than in prepping for her competition in Akitas, Open Bitches. The akita, royal dog of Japan, has been recognized as a breed only in recent years by the American Kennel Club.
Still in her puppyhood, Mona Lisa has been a reserve winner several times.
"That's like the best of the losers," explained Ed Parks, her owner from Chesapeake, Va.
"It's like a beauty contest," his wife, Billie, added. "There can be only one Miss America."
Their frisky akita had drawn an admirer in Earl Caulder, of Riverdale, Md., who said he owned a half-akita, half-chow a cross-breed for which there was no place at a dog show.
"But there is a place for it in the heart of the-owner," said Parks with a flourish of hand and feeling.
As a dog showman, he was a different breed from the owner met soon thereafter exercising his dog outside the rosecroft clubhouse.
"Nice dog," was a fatuous remark, it must be admitted, but the sun had come out and spirits were expanding under is warmth.
This is not a dog. This is a Borzol," the owner answered disdainfully. There are all breeds.
No one can converse for more than one minute with show dog owners or handlers without revealing that they are an outsider.
"You wait for the hair to be blown." Gloria Snellings was explaining as she brushed Raylu Ceasefire (born on July 4) for the wire-haried terrier competition.
Blown with a hairdryer?
"No, one. The hair becomes dead and is pulled out with the fingers, and then in six to eight weeks, the coat is ready for showing. It takes timing," the owner explained patiently to a novice-class questioner.
Annette Baier, of Clinton, Md., was watching Raylu Ceasefire's grooming. She also was the owner of a wire-haired terrier, "much too soft and the tail too short" for showing.
"But I still love him," she added quickly, as if guilty of indiscreet disloyalty.
It takes a passionate dedication, not without a touch of fanaticism at times, to breed and show dogs as a hobby. It also takes money.
For the professional breeders and kennel owners, it is a business. It means more profit from stud fees and puppy sales when a dog accumulates enough show "points" to qualify for the Ch. (Champion) before his name. Then you can take out ads in the show catalog that announce: "At stud to approved bitches only."
A big, shambling, bearded young man (no. he really didn't look like his dog (was brushing his Old English sheepdong with cornstarch as a drying powder.
Bill Stine, who came here from Strongsville, Ohio, with his wife, Judy, and Loveshire's A Hy Hope and his sister, Loveshire's A Sassy Lassie knows that what it costs to breed and show dogs on the side.
"I was on unemployment last year," he siad. "Someone pointed to our dog and grooming service as if we were making a living. So I pulled together all the receipts - entry fees, vet bills, freed bills - and it came to a loss of $1,100 even without travel expenses to the shows and with the money for puppy sales.
It was the peaceable kingdom. Hundreds of dogs lying side by side without a dogfight or growling confrontation. Dogs standing or lying patiently for an hour to be brushed, cipped and combed.
Ch. Heavenly Dynasty's Mei Boitoi (he answers to Boi-toi) rested languorously on a purple-velvet terrycloth covering befitting the champion title before his name. he amassed the necessary 15 points with show wins by the time he was 18 months old.
Mr. and Mrs. Melvin Johnson keep their champion shihtzu as a "house dog" in their Severna Park home.
"He plays with the other dogs. We just don't want them eating his fur," observed the owners.
Most of the dogs yesterday were experienced enough to have a show behavior, Peggy Johnson, of the National Capital Kennel Club, noted.
"But they are still dogs. Mine goes home and chases balls and sticks."
That made an observer feel much happier as she watched patient animals on the grooming tables being snipped, clipped and powdered.
But is there a danger of overbreeding in show dogs? No, Mrs. Johnson answered, not with good breeders who match for temperament and personality as well as structure and substance.
"It's when I read about a German shepherd attacking someone that I get angry," she said. "The dog was probably bred in the backyard without regard for temperament."
You meet some very unusual dogs (as well as people) at a dog show.
For instance, take the Dandie Dinmonts, really Cheviot terriers renamed after the farmer in "Guy Mannering."
And then there are the basenjis, whose devoted supporters include Ross Newmann, the show chairman, who sports a basenji - decorated tie (imported from England for $25).
"They may be the original dog dating from about 3500 B.C.," Newmann says with the enthusiasm of a convert. "They were native to the Belgian Congo. They don't bark, have any body odor, or attract fleas. They're only 18 inches high but they are fearless and will attacks tigers and even elephants in packs."
Someone mentioned later that basenjis - whcih have an absolutely fetching wrinkled forehead - do make a sound like a "yodel."
Early this morning a cleanup crew will be working with shovels and pails on the Rosecroft grounds. That's an important part of the agreement that the kennel club makes with the Rosecroft Raceway.