2017-04-27 / Columnists

Pets, Pets, Pets

I was thrilled to be asked to judge Sight Hounds and Pariah Dogs at the first United Kennel Club (UKC) Match Show on Long Island last Sunday April 23 at Old Westbury Gardens during the Dog Days spring weekend there. But I was in panic mode too. I’d never judged at a dog show, and wasn’t sure I’d do right by the dogs or their handlers.

My only other judging assignment was a far cry from a Match Show at glorious Old Westbury Gardens, of all places. In 1983, when this “Pets” column was only months old, I judged a Brownie pet show. I had a wicked case of laryngitis and performed my task as a mute. The bewildered Brownies were perplexed by such a weird Marcel Marceau pet writer pointing at winners and desperately trying to speak.

The Babylon pet show was decades before it became my responsibility to collect data from Westminster Kennel Club judges about each dog chosen Best of Breed. These Brownies would be 40-year-old women with Brownies of their own by now. I had the difficult duty of sorting through 10 dogs, two cats, a hamster, a turtle, a baby goat and a toy monkey. Trophy winner in the most unusual pet category was the two-month-old goat. His young owner tied his blue ribbon around his budding horn.

"Grace," the Belgian Laekenois pup at the UKC Match "Grace," the Belgian Laekenois pup at the UKC Match Back to 2017-Dog Fanciers of Long Island, the first UKC organization on Long Island was sponsoring this event. All Match shows are for fun and practice. Winners do not accrue points toward their championship. The entries are more flexible. Purebred dogs didn’t need to have UKC registrations, and neutered pets were eligible too. Rescued, racing Greyhounds could participate for free.

I was invited to judge by my friend Tracey Monahan, chairperson of this show. English Springer Spaniels are her breed. We’ve worked together at Westminster, and she’s been a great advocate for rescue dogs and cats. This was a landmark event because it was a UKC show rather than American Kennel Club (AKC) which is familiar to people who watch Westminster, the National Dog Show or the Beverly Hills Dog Show on TV. Breed grouping is quite different in each registry.

Judging Gun Dogs at Old Westbury Gardens Judging Gun Dogs at Old Westbury Gardens AKC vs. UKC: The AKC was established in 1884 in Philadelphia as a governing body to enforce dog show regulations. (Westminster had already held seven shows by then.) Presently the AKC places 201 recognized breeds and varieties into seven groups: Herding, Hound, Non-Sporting, Sporting, Terrier, Toy and Working.

The UKC, headquartered in Kalamazoo, was founded in 1898 to get away from conformation-only and the “wealthy man’s hobby.” In- stead, the emphasis would the “Total Dog” focusing on how the dog performs as well as it looks. Intelligence and working ability were written into the breed standards. Presently the UKC recognizes over 300 breeds and divides them into eight groups: Herding Dog (eg. Border Collie); Scenthound (such as a Beagle); Sighthound & Pariah Dogs (including Afghan Hound); Gun Dogs (like English Pointer); Guardian (such as a Great Pyrenees which guards sheep); Northern Breed (like the Akita and Siberian Husky); Terrier (eg. Westie) and Companion (such as Chihuahua and Cavalier).

In my panic mode I started studying UKC breeds standards. This categorization makes a lot of sense. To clarify, the UKC divides Hounds into how they hunt- by scent like Beagles and Bassets or by sight like Borzois and Basenjis. Pariah dogs are ancestral dogs from the equator or Southern Hemisphere including Xolos (Mexican Hairless) and Canaan Dog from Israel. Sighthounds are ancient breeds too so Pariah and Sighthound flow together.

Northern breeds have a similar body style. In silhouette, Malamutes do resemble Akitas. The UKC takes care of my pet peeve. Elkhounds are in their Northern Group. I never understood why the AKC put Norwegian Elkhounds into the Hound Group, especially when one wins over my beloved Afghans. Elkhounds are not hounds, yet do fit the Northern profile. Guardian breeds protect people (Dobermans) or livestock (Anatolian Shepherd). The UKC Companion Group is similar the AKC Toy Group.

The UKC breed list is so comprehensive. Just look at some of the recognized Herding Dog names- Saarloosewolfdog, Polish Owczarek Nizinny, Romanian Mioritic Shepherd Dog. It was also interesting to see some of the Southern regional varieties Last Hope rescues as transport dogs, like Carolina Dog or Mountain Feist, on the UKC list. Many of UKC breeds are AKC coming attractions.

UKC Match: I spent the last few weeks studying canine anatomy and UKC Sighthound and Pariah Dog breed standards. I was so worried despite dog show friends reminding me UKC shows especially Matches were relaxed and fun. All the other judges were quite experienced. I was the rookie.

It was a beautiful day at Old Westbury Gardens. Dogs registered at the event. We were surrounded by puppies too- an Akita quartet with their Great Grand mama; bouncy Golden Retrievers and English Springers; Chihuahuas and a Cavalier I wanted to stick into my handbag. The puppies were adorable in the ring. Some were on a leash for the first time. “Grace,” a Belgian Laekenois pup, was entered too. She won the Herding Dog Group. This breed resembles the Berger Picard (affectionately known as the Winn Dixie dog) but we were lucky enough to have a Picard walk by so we could compare the breeds.

When entries closed, there was one Scenthound –“Blizzard” the Beaglewho later won Best in Show, and one Sighthound and Pariah Dog-Roger, an ex-racing Greyhound. There were more entrants in the other Groups. Match judging went from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

My Greyhound missed his group call the first time, came back later and missed it the second time too. All my worrying was for naught. I didn’t have any dogs to judge. Later I walked up to the Phipps mansion to see and owners strolling about and happened to pass Roger and his family. Oh, well.

So at the end of the day, I’ve still never judged at a dog show but I had tons of fun. My judging jitters will have to wait for another opportunity.

For Adoption at Babylon Town Shelter (631-643- 9270) Lamar St. W. Babylon: “Biscuit” 17-179 is the world’s friendliest Mastiff mix. He had a dental and mass biopsy (benign) courtesy of the shelter. “Jeffrey” 17-200 a sweet Pekingese will have his crooked jaw looked at when he goes for his neuter this week.

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