Ring feel

It’s funny but when each judge approaches Kunga in the ring for the first time, I can tell whether they’re interested in him or not.  Does this happen to other people?

I think a good judge will give every dog the chance to impress her.  She’ll take the time to do an actual examination rather than a cursory look, will really watch the movement, will give a second look to every dog.  But the reality is that most judges seem to make up their minds almost instantly when they take their first look at the line-up.  Is this expertise or prejudice?  I must say I resent it when I’ve paid my money and the judge can’t be bothered actually to examine my dog.  I’ve been in the ring when the judge glanced at us briefly, stood back when I opened the mouth so I doubt whether they really saw the bite, and did no more than check Kunga’s hind end to be sure he’s a boy.  OK, he may not be to your taste, but for heaven’s sake this is unfair to just pass over any dog like this.  It’s disheartening to have to stand through the rest of the class when you can feel the disinterested vibe.

In many countries the judge must offer a brief written evaluation of every dog.  Here in the US that only happens in the IABCA (“international”) shows.  I kind of like the idea that the judge must give at least some thought to why she likes or dislikes your dog, and justify it in writing.  (Wonder how many times “too blue” or “too natural-eared” would show up…)

Then there are the times when you can feel the attention and concentration of the judge radiate toward your dog.  This is exciting in a visceral way, and gets both Kunga and I wound up to peak performance.  Both of us can tell there’s some real interest from the judge, and it makes the rest of the class exciting to participate in.

Maybe I have to take a lesson from Mari Lynn Davisson (the well-known Dane handler), who told me she concentrates on one thought in the ring, like a mantra: “look at THIS dog!  Isn’t s/he something!”

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Great Dane Specialty

The Great Dane Club of Greater Denver pulled it off again: a fantastic specialty day of two shows, including puppies and veterans!  We had a great turn-out, 3 and 4 point majors in both bitches and dogs.  The big dogs came out, too: we had 3 top-ten dogs and one top-twenty dog standing in line in the Best of Breed class.  There were some pretty girls as well, who gave the boys a run for the ribbons. As usual, the whole crowd cheered when the veterans went around, and it was good to see all those doggie faces we’ve been missing in the ring since they retired.

Kunga didn’t win anything at our specialty this time–it would have taken a pretty ballsy judge to put up a natural-eared blue shown by a local owner-handler over all the big names and famous dogs.  But I was certainly proud of my big boy, who showed well in the second of the two shows and minded his manners in the ring despite the huge mass of dogs crowding into the small available shade.

I wonder, what if we had a pool of dogs entered and all the handlers drew a number and got a random dog to show?  Would the judges still be inclined to pick the same dogs?  It would be interesting to have some of those big names stacking Kunga and trying to present those lovely long floppy ears.

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Rejoicing

We lose a LOT when we show.  It sucks every time.  But when we’re losing, someone else is winning, and I think it takes some of the sting out if we can be glad for that person and their dog.

At a recent show in Laramie, WY, the weather was dire (cold, rain, wind–it’s ALWAYS windy in Laramie) and the grooming areas were less than ideal.  Kunga lost Best of Breed both days (though he did get Select Dog both days too).  But a friend from our Denver club finished the young harlequin dog he has been campaigning.  Finishing a championship is exhilarating, and it’s sure fun to be there when the whooping and hollering takes place. There is hugging and jumping involved as well.

Our friendships and pleasure in each other could outweigh the loss on any given day, if we let them.  Turn around the losing and you see the shiny side of showing: the winning. I’m trying to learn to rejoice in that no matter who walks away with the purple and gold ribbon.

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Kunga’s going to be a daddy again

I’m glad to announce that a lovely blue bitch in Florida is in whelp to Kunga.  “Juno” is the product of a KRW sire and a Sharcon (Tomahawk daughter) dam.  Puppies are due the first week in July, just in time for Juno’s owner to spend the Fourth of July weekend helping them into the world!

For more information or to fill out a puppy application, visit www.delladanes.com.  You can see Kunga’s pedigree on this site (go to “about”), and Della Danes will be happy to discuss Juno’s pedigree with serious puppy buyers.  Let’s hope for some little show prospects!

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Evacuation?

Our insurance agent told us that Boulder is the city in Colorado most at risk from flooding.  This year our snowpack in the mountains is at 247% of normal, and we’ve had weeks of on and off rain down here in the foothills.  Pretty soon those two factors are going to combine, and the risk of flooding is real.

If we had to evacuate, we’re sunk.  Where do you go with two BIG dogs?  Most temporary shelters set up for emergencies won’t allow pets and I’d hate to see them in cages at a shelter.  That’s what happened to many people when the wildfires struck the mountains this spring: they had to board their animals at the Humane Society.

So I’m putting together an emergency kit just for the dogs: we have extra bags of food, and we could get their beds and bowls into the car quickly.  Not sure what to do about crates: they’re heavy and difficult to move around and take up a lot of space in our van, so those might be left behind.  I think we’d just have to find a place for us and park the van nearby and let the dogs stay in it.  Not an ideal solution!  We’d be glad to hear from anyone else about their emergency plans: what do you do with your dogs?

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Lament of a stud dog owner

Championship finished…check.  All health checks completed and tests normal…check.  Good pedigree…check.  Characteristics to improve the breed…check.  So, we’re ready to offer Kunga at stud.

Funny things happen when you start advertising your dog for breeding.  Things like getting a contact: “I ned champion pupps.  Please send pedigri and costs now.”  No kidding.  I’d sure like some champion puppies myself, but don’t happen to have any.

Or this: “My girl is very nice she is AKC registered and had many litters.  I will pay $200 for breeding.”  Really?  Not to my dog you won’t.

Maybe I’m being too sniffy about this but I hear so much about Danes being rescued from horrible homes, about clueless buyers who don’t realize that “Great Dane” really does mean Great BIG Dane, about puppy mills who breed anything that moves.  A friend suggests I stay civil no matter what—there’s an opportunity for education in every reply—so I’ve tried.

But there’s still the worry about everyone who inquires: how can I sort out the people breeding for money?  So far the serious inquiries (I don’t count those above) have come from the small circle of people that I know or that know friends of mine, so I have high hopes that any of Kunga’s pups will end up in good hands.  Still it’s nerve-wracking to think of those helpless little animals being sent off into the world with relatively little protection from the idiocy of the human race.  Should there be “parental rights” for the owners of breeding animals, so that the pups can be retrieved from situations that don’t pan out?  We try to do this through contract, but it’s sad to see how ineffective that can be.  When it comes down to it we have to trust.  I understand better now why the dog world can seem so small and insular: in some ways it helps to protect our puppies.

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Kunga’s international title arrives

Wow, 10 months after the shows and submitting paperwork, the title certificate for Kunga’s IABCA championship has finally arrived!

For those who don’t know about these competitions, they’re run by an outfit that puts on four weekend shows, two per day, during which at least one non-American judge will view your dog.  If the dog receives the highest category of award in at least 3 of the shows, you get this title, without regard to whether the dog has beaten any other dogs competing.  For we Americans, it gives us the chance to taste a little bit of the international approach to judging, where the judge provides a written evaluation of your dog after each class (not in the group judging, though), which can help a novice to assess the stronger and weaker points of a dog’s conformation.  These shows are very low key, and generally a good way for a young dog to get more experience in the ring as well as earn an “international” championship title.  Visit www.iabca.com for more information and a show calendar.

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Dog Show Mystery Books

I enjoy reading mysteries, and was delighted to find there are a few set in the dog show world.  The only series I’ve found that involves the show world in every book is that by Laurien Berenson, whose protagonist shows standard poodles.  Most of the actual dog show stuff in the books is pretty realistic (especially her descriptions of the appalling food), though it’s not the heart of any of the books.  I learned enough about poodle grooming to be glad that I show Great Danes.

There’s a “dog walker” series by Judi McCoy that has a heroine who telepathically connects with her dogs: kind of silly but fun.  One of them (“Death in Show”) involves the dog walker in a dog show when a handler is killed.  It’s pretty lightweight but easy reading.

There’s even a dog show mystery by someone from my state of Colorado: Ellen O’Connell’s “Rottweiler Rescue.”  The rescuer takes a rottie to a new adoptive home, only to find the owner has just been killed.  Since the owner was in the world of dog shows, the protagonist gets drawn into shows to find the killer.   There’s plenty in the book about the nastiness between handlers and the conflicts in the ring, but also an appreciation of the beauty of the dogs and the fondness for them by their owners.

Hum, maybe we need a mystery involving Great Danes…who slobbered on the top of the fridge?

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Going Down

A friend is dealing with the difficult decision of when to put down her beloved dog.  He has cancer and is in obvious pain but is still semi-functional and occasionally tries to rally to play with his owners.

This must be the hardest part of dog ownership (or as they insist in Boulder, CO, “guardianship”): when is the right time to let go?  Some of us have this devastating decision taken out of our hands through accident, sudden illness, or even gentle old age.  But most of us have or will face a time when we must take the dog to the vet and say goodbye for the final time.

There have been some very caring and wise comments left on my friend’s Facebook page, most of which boil down to “the dog will let you know when it’s time” or “you’ll just know when it’s time.”  But can we really be clear when that right time is without question?

When my last Dane was suffering with the end stages of wobbler’s, he had lost control of his bowels but not his bladder.  He could stand but couldn’t walk over slippery floors to the outdoors.  Still, we held onto him even though I cleaned up his bed every morning and had to help a 170 pound dog outdoors several times a day.  While he was still happy and loving—and, the vet assured me, in no pain—it was almost impossible to contemplate having him put down.  But at last the dog found it almost impossible to get up, and I was not finding it easy to lift him.  We were going to be traveling and I couldn’t bear the thought that my boy might die without us there, in the company of a stranger.  And we could never ask a dog-sitter to make the call that the dog was so near his end that he should be helped out of this life. Instead, we chose a sunny day in June to have the vet pay a visit to our house, and were able to be with our dog in his yard as the injections were administered and he died in our arms.

Our dogs have no say in when their lives will be sacrificed.  All the more important that we weigh this decision carefully.  My own view is that, if possible, our dogs deserve a peaceful and dignified death, surrounded by people that love them.  But I cannot judge anyone who would make a different calculation on timing than I would.  It’s just too hard.

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Puppy Time

[Kunga at about 10 weeks]

Seems like it’s puppy time this spring.  I keep seeing news and photos on Facebook of litters from Canada to Florida to California.

One of my Facebook friends has an 8 week old blue boy, his first Dane, and he’s nuts about little “B”.  I love to follow this man’s posts as he researches, asks advice, plans a raw diet, tries to decide what’s the absolute best thing for his puppy. B. is already accompanying his owner to work and sleeping on laps and teaching his new family the joys of Dane antics.

What a contrast to the sad stories of abandoned, beaten dogs I also see all over the web.  How can we look at Patrick (the dog in NJ starved and tossed in the trash) and understand the mind of the person who could behave this way to another being?  Patrick was once someone’s adorable puppy, but his life took a sadly different direction than my friend’s Dane.

Maybe what we love most about pups is the potential they represent for the best of ourselves to come out.  How we treat them is a reflection of who we are and who we are trying to become as humans.  When we see a puppy we can envision the future dog, influenced by us for better or worse.  They are slates on which we write our love and caring, or our carelessness and cruelty.  I like to think that my dogs have made me a better person, more patient and more understanding, but I realize that I have also lost my temper, failed to see things from a non-human point of view, and been unfair with discipline at times.  When we have been kind, consistent, and responsible, they are, too.  They reflect us back to ourselves.  Not all of us achieve perfection in treating our dogs, but with each new puppy we have a new opportunity.

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