Bits and Pieces: Eukanuba in the Rear View Mirror

by Susi on December 28, 2010

in Dock Diving, Eukanuba National Dog Show, Rhodamine, World Challenge

Post image for Bits and Pieces: Eukanuba in the Rear View Mirror

Real Men Wear Rhodamine

The next three pictures are ones you’ve seen before in earlier blogs; Look at them again and see if you can find what they all have in common.

See it?

Jason Taylor and Gina DiNardo

It’s the PINK. More precisely, it’s Rhodamine, the branding color Eukanuba uses in their pet food packaging. It’s also the color that showed up in all sorts of places during the Eukanuba National Championship weekend.

I first noticed the color (not yet meaningful to me)  when I checked into the hotel. A table set up near the check-in counter held “goodie bags” for judges judging at the show. I remember thinking how nice, if not quaint, that the blue and pink tissue wrapping was gender appropriate for male and female judges. Only later would I realize that the blue wasn’t just any blue, it was the AKC’s own version of color branding, while the pink was what I’d come to know as “Rhodamine.”

Rhodamine Accessories

On my first day, attendees at a security meeting were encouraged to stop at a table on their way out the door to select an accessory to wear over the weekend: A neck tie, bow tie, cummerbund or “Pashmina,” all in Rhodamine. Since I wasn’t an employee, I didn’t feel entitled to help myself, but Eukanuba had that covered. Each invited blogger received a gift bag of their own and before the end of the weekend,we had our own Rhodamine apron and Pashmina.

Associating a color with a brand is nothing new. Think of a box of Crayola crayons and instantly, you’re able to picture the yellow and green box with which we grew up. You probably even remember the smell of those new crayons. Color association is powerful, but I noticed after attending a couple of parties that Eukanuba also made it chic. For lack of a better way of phrasing it, “anyone who was anybody” was wearing a Rhodamine shirt, tie, cummerbund or Pashmina over the next couple of days. Pashminas were available for purchase, but only at one of the parties which limited their distribution. While it was entertaining to see how different women incorporated Pashminas with their cocktail dresses or suits, I got the distinct impression that wearing this color was “cool.” It spoke to one’s status as having a special connection to Eukanuba either as a guest, employee, or, at a minimum, as someone who present at the only place where the Pashminas were sold.

From here on out, I’ll always associate Rhodamine with Eukanuba. That’s a lot of bang for a color buck.

How Google Saved My dignity

I’d like to think I’m not a complete sartorial boob, but there was no hiding the fact that when I got to Long Beach, I had no earthly idea what a Pashmina was.

Watch this amusing video clip to see that I wasn’t alone

Pashmina. I’d been hearing this word all day, and when I was told I had one in my goodie bag, I was the picture of gratitude. It’s how I was raised. I just didn’t know what one was. This conversation didn’t help:

Eukanuba: You have a Pashmina in your bag.
Me: Awesome, thanks!
Eukanuba: Be sure to bring it to the cocktail party.
Me: Of course!
Eukanuba: It’ll come in handy later in the night.
Me: Um, okay.

Without verbs or adjectives, all I knew was that a Pashmina was light enough for me to carry and that it was handy in the dark. Cool! I was getting a flashlight!

When I rifled through my goodie bag that afternoon, however, I realized that they’d forgotten to include it. I laid out the bag’s contents on my bed: Apron, lanyard, shawl, assorted reading material, tickets for lunch and dinner, a schedule of events.There was nothing here I didn’t recognize. I was really disappointed. I didn’t know what Pashmina was, but I still wanted one.

A little bit later while waiting for photographs to download to my blog, I killed time by checking in with some favorite web sites: Drudge Report, Twitter, Chocolate, Leather and the Firemen who love them, ESPN…and suddenly I had a V-8 slap-upside-the-head moment: Google images! I would see what a Pashmina was. The page loaded and with a start, I looked from the computer screen to the bed, and from the bed back to the computer screen. A Pashmina was a shawl!

Dr. V wearing her Pashmina

With a bit more research, I learned that technically speaking, a Pashmina is a hand spun shawl made from the wool of the Pashmina goat found in the Himalayas. I supposed that over time, the name morphed into another word for shawl, but just maybe, it was also a way to weed out hicks from fashion forward city women. At this thought, I straightened my shoulders with indignance, threw out my chest (and immediately threw a couple of Advils into my mouth having just hurt myself), then promptly determined that I was going to wear my new Pashmina to that night’s party with style.

People would later wonder how the impoverished Russian woman in the babushka got into an invitation-only cocktail party.

Funny. I never saw her.

Russian Dogs, or How to Silence a Press Room

Please note this clever transition onto the subject of Russian dogs.

During the rehearsal for the World Challenge, we learned that a Pembroke Welsh Corgi named “Andvol Pinkerton” was being handled by the wife of a highly placed Russian official. We didn’t know who the woman was, but her VIP status was underscored by the large press contingent from Russia that seemed to be everywhere, including the press room where I later worked.

“Andvol Pinkerton” and his mysterious handler

Now it made sense. When I worked at my computer in the press room later that afternoon, a photographer next to me needed help identifying the breeds in the photos he’d taken that morning. We got to chatting, and I mentioned that he would probably want to get a picture of the Pembroke in the World Challenge competition. When he asked why, every Russian in the room suddenly stopped talking, stopped what they were doing, and watched us.

In an old E. F. Hutton commercial, a young professional from the brokerage house is about to share a tip when everyone in the restaurant stops what they’re doing to listen. The voice over says, “When E. F. Hutton talks, people listen.” With the abrupt silence around me, I had just become that young professional.  I was suddenly thrust back to my childhood growing up as the daughter of Iron Curtain refugees. I’d heard stories from my parents. It was an unsettling moment.

I know now that the dog’s owner/handler is Olga Shuvalova, the wife of the Russian First Deputy Prime Minister, Igor Shuvalov. She did a lovely job handling her dog and will be someone you’ll want to look for when the show is televised in January.

The Women of Eukanuba

From executives to sales and everyone in between, there are scores of women who work with Eukanuba. I want to introduce you to a few of the ones I met:

Gina DiNardo is with the AKC (see her photograph at the top of the blog), but you’ll come to know her as the host of Eukanuba’s televised show on January 23rd. More than a pretty face, Gina was a Best Junior Handler at a Doberman Pinscher National Specialty, and from there, she took two Dobies to #1 national rankings as an owner/handler. With 30 Bests in Show and Bests in Specialty, when Gina talks, you should listen (note clever reference to an earlier paragraph).

Vicki Seiler

Vicki Seiler is the Project Manager of the AKC Eukanuba National Championship, but for those of you who have ever been the Show Chairman of a national specialty or an all-breed show, you’ll understand her real job description, only with a 4,000 dog entry. When I had questions about my hotel and flight arrangements, it was Vicki whom I pestered about them. Later, I came to realize that my issues were 11,999th on her list of 12,000 things to do, but she never let on that they were anything less than her most important task that day. I felt a bit foolish for days.

Then I saw Vicki at the Best in Show awards ceremony.

Looking amazing in a slinky Rhodamine dress is a cosmic leveler, don’t you think?

Bev Van Zant and “Flat Tyler”

It was sheer coincidence that I would be flying on the second leg of the flight that took Eukanuba’s two social media gurus from Ohio to Long Beach. I had wondered how I would recognize them, but few people at the gate carried SCREAMING PINK TOTE BAGS and I was able to spot them immediately: Bev Van Zant and Jenifer Borke. I sat next to Jen during the flight and learned that we had much in common, including cycling and an appreciation of farm animals. About the time Jen was telling me about finding her goat standing on the back of her donkey, Bev made her way down the plane’s aisle, put a piece of cardboard next to me and took our picture. This was my first introduction to “Flat Tyler,” a two dimensional representation of Bev’s real life rescue Bichon Frise, “Tyler.” I would come to learn that Bev not only carries “Flat Tyler” everywhere (her dog’s proxy for when she’s away from home) but she chronicles his adventures photographically.Bev will be starting a blog for all “flat pets” and I think she’s onto something.  I predict big things for her and Flat Tyler.

Jen in action

So let’s review: Blogging, Cycling, outrageously loud tote bags, a goat that stands on a donkey who dislikes goats, and a cardboard cut-out of a real life dog whose owner took his picture on a patrolman’s motorcycle in Times Square surrounded by New York City’s burly finest.

I instantly liked these women.

It’s possible you may have encountered these ladies, yourself. If you ever had occasion to call Eukanuba  during the alarming Chinese Melamine pet food Recall of 2007, chances are that it was either Bev or Jen who took your call. You should know that if a dog became sick, or worse, they wept into their sleeves before taking the next call. I not only came to respect these ladies and their respective blogs, I came to regard them as friends. They laughed at my lame jokes, weren’t visibly shocked at my Pashmina ignorance, and genuinely love cats and dogs.

To see Jen’s goat and donkey and follow her blog, click here.

Bev and Jen

Follow Bev and Flat Tyler here.

Chanel

Meeting the Group Winners

If I didn’t feel spoiled enough being a blogger at Eukanuba, an additional perk was meeting the winner of each group. Sometimes I was posting results to Facebook and Twitter and wasn’t always able to get up close and personal with each dog who came by, but when I could, I was in as much awe of them as I would have been had each of them been a rock star.

The winner of the toy group, the Pekingese named, “Malachy,” was every inch a royal dog, while “Chanel, ” the Hound group winner, was the picture of elegance.

Scout

I was especially smitten with “Scout,” the German Wirehaired Pointer and winner of the Sporting Group. He looked into my eyes and I never knew what hit me.

Knowing that I would be at Westminster,I asked his handler if “Scout” would be there. “No,” his handler replied with the sure sound of regret. “His owner wants him back. He wants to go hunting with him.”

I thought about that, and about the loss it would mean to the people who’d not yet seen him. I even mentioned it to a fellow fancier. I was humbled by her response. “The look in his eye that you fell in love with?” she asked. “It’ll be nothing compared to the look in his eye when he runs free in nature doing what he was bred to do.”  And she was absolutely right. Scout is the poster child of our sport. Soundness and type are winning combinations not only in a show ring, but in the environment in which a dog can do the job he was meant to do. Scout has a job and I’m happy for him.

Regrets: Or: I Wish I’d Seen More of This

Junior Showmanship

The “Drive By” photo I got of the Junior’s ring

An almost universal complaint among fanciers is that we are “graying” as a demographic. Worse than the fact that fewer new people are coming into our sport is that there are fewer young people getting involved, as well. The reasons are better left to discuss another time. The point I want to make here is the importance of supporting the kids that are involved now. They’re not just the future of the sport, they are the only hope some breeds have of continuing on.

For that reason, I would liked to have been present at the Junior Showmanship ring if for no other reason to show my appreciation with my presence and my applause. As the parent of a former junior handler, I know how many directions kids are being pulled in these days. With so many more options available to them than even 15 years ago, competing at a dog show doesn’t have the allure it once had. Pity, because there are lessons to be learned as a junior handler that can’t be learned anywhere else.

I think I know one way to bring back the appeal. The Best in Show dog and his handler received a $50,000 check – enough to pay for most of, if not an entire college education at some schools. Wouldn’t it be nice to see our sport put up this kind of money to the accomplished teenager handler? And while we’re at it, let’s make it interesting. In Europe, junior handlers are given the leash to a dog unfamiliar to them just before they go into the ring. The kid that can show off the attributes of a dog they just met is the kid I want on my dog if I can’t show my dog, myself. Kudos to Katie Mazurowski and her English Setter for being that person.

Dock Diving

The Dock Diving Pool

I’d only read about dock diving before I got to Long Beach, so Eukanuba was my first chance to see it in person. In hindsight, the first dog I saw in action was the very best dog I could have seen; It wasn’t just my first time, it was HIS first time, too.

I watched as the dog’s owner walked him to the edge of the dock and showed him the water. I watched as she and the dog walked away from the water far enough to give the dog a running start. I watched as she threw the floating dumbbell into the water and urged her dog, “Go get it!” And then I watched the dog run like mad toward the water only to put on his brakes at the very last minute. Had he been a cartoon dog, we would have heard the “Screetch!” sound and seen smoke wafting up from scorch marks on the deck.

Eventually, the dog make a leap of faith by leaping into the water.

…And when it was over…

The thing about dogs and kids is that they’re not really good at “faking” joy. The dog emerged out of the pool, tail wagging like a metronome, and ran back to his mistress eager to do it again. A dock diving dog was born.

I would liked to have seen more dogs, especially the experienced ones, show off their stuff. You can’t watch this sport and not smile.

The California Narcotics Canine Association

Demonstrations of dogs in partnership with handsome, young, ripped cops. Yup. That pretty much says it all.

Obedience and Agility

Hi. My name is Susi and I am too a) lazy, b) busy, c) all of the above to work my dogs in agility and/or obedience. I greatly admire the people and dogs who do either. Eukanuba hosted both disciplines, and the dogs that competed were there only by invitation. It was the canine equivalent of seeing Olympians at their sport. We in the conformation world are sometimes accused of being the swimsuit segment of a beauty pageant, while agility and obedience dogs are the “talent” division. I think each event calls for different strengths from both dogs and handlers, but I rather like the expression, “Balanced dogs have a title at both ends.” I’ll leave it at that.

Meet the Breeds

Susi and Hannah. You figure out which is which.

Yes, I got to judge the “Meet the Breeds” competition. And it was more than an honor, it was great fun. It was especially satisfying to be able to have the kind of moment I had with “Hannah,” a Harrier, a breed that is low in the ranks of popularity for reasons that elude me. “Hannah” was a delight. And she smelled nice. I would liked to have had this kind of moment with every dog there.

Happy Trails to You…Til we meet again (Roy Rogers)

Sadly, this brings to an end to my series on the AKC Eukanuba National Dog Show  It feels inadequate to say a simple “thanks” to the people most responsible for showing me around: Bev VanZant, Jenifer Borke and Jason Taylor. They took me under their wing and extended to me such warmth that I came to regard them as friends.

To the folks at Eukanuba, I offer my appreciation for inviting me to be their guest and providing me with the plane ticket, hotel room, and a damn fine Pashmina. I promise never to use it like a flashlight.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Anonymous December 28, 2010 at 3:59 am

Thanks for sharing your experiences with those of us who could not be there.

Reply

Bev December 29, 2010 at 7:50 pm

Susi, you are a treasure! If I had known that you were clueless about the pashmina–I would have played it up more!! Flat Tyler sends his regards,and Fluffy Tyler wants to meet you!

Reply

Marcetta sharp August 14, 2015 at 8:53 pm

I just have a question about a DOG BREED
Is there such a breed of dog that has the name “shawl”
That is a big breed.

Thank you

Reply

Susi August 14, 2015 at 9:22 pm

Not to my knowledge, Marcetta. The word “shawl” can refer to a “mane” of longer hair or different coloring on a dog – is it possible that when you heard the word, it was being used in that context?

Reply

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