At the end of the day, he’s like any other guy.
He likes his dinner on time. He likes to get dirty. He likes his iPad v2. He’ll never admit to it, but he likes to watch “Dancing with the Stars” in bed. And when no one is looking, he likes to adjust his “manly bits,” presumably to make sure they’re still there. He’s got hairy legs, an even hairier chest, and because all his friends do it, he wears what I guess you could call a pompadour.
But he’s a super star in his industry, and like “Bono” or “Sting,” he goes by one name that has instant recognition. His picture appears in magazines – of course he has a Facebook page – and he draws attention when he goes out. The guy can’t even take a shower without the paparazzi showing up.
I confess that the first time I met him, I misjudged him. He was so handsome, I stereotyped him as a pretty boy. And I said as much in a blog. Almost immediately after the words were published, I heard from his friends. “You’ve got him all wrong,” they said. “You need to get to know him better.”
When I realized that we would all be in New York City at the same time last month, I took their advice.
I interviewed him while he was taking a bath, the only time he had available in a busy week. I tried not to gawk and asked him about his recent successes and hopes for the future. Meanwhile, a pretty strawberry blonde named “Julia” poured shampoo on him and massaged his scalp with long, deep strokes. When she moved to his neck, his eyes rolled and he would have to stop to catch his breath. You could tell. It felt so….darn…good.
Wait, you know I’m talking about a dog, right?
Seriously, you didn’t think I was interviewing Johnny Depp while he was getting a bath, right? If you can arrange this, we should talk. But I digress.
“London,” a Standard Poodle, and I first met in Orlando after he’d won Best in Show at the AKC/Eukanuba National Dog Championship last year. As he gaited past the table where I sat with the media, his charisma wafted behind him like the vapor trail of a jet. Though he was among six other magnificent dogs in contention for the highest award, on that day you couldn’t take your eyes off him.
Later, as invited bloggers had their photographs taken with him, I kneeled down to get a better look at his face. We locked eyes.
I later wrote, “It’s thrilling to meet a great dog, but it’s downright intimidating to meet a great dog who KNOWS he’s great. When I looked into the eyes of “London,” I got the sense that this was a dog utterly comfortable in his skin and quite accustomed to admiration…as I was nose to nose with [him], I was praying the dog wouldn’t spit on me and turn his head in disgust at this mortal in his face.”
It was probably that last sentence that got me an invitation from his owners, Michele Molnar and Jamie Danberg, to get better acquainted with their dog, London. I would say that seeing him “buck naked” during his pre-Westminster bath at the Hotel Pennsylvania was getting pretty well acquainted since you can tell a lot about someone when their nether regions are being rinsed in front of a stranger.
I was hardly alone. Coming off the heels of his success at Eukanuba, there was a lot of interest in London as you can see below:
As I stood by, the Puli owner in me watched with great interest as his coat was soaped and rinsed. A Puli, of course, is a corded breed which may be shown brushed in the United States, while a proper Poodle coat, typically shown brushed, has all the attributes needed to cord. London’s coat, I noted, took a long time to get saturated. Seeing it wet and feeling its texture lead me to believe that it would make a spectacular corded coat. I made a mental note to mention this to his owners whom, I was sure, would want to interrupt their dog’s career in order to cord his coat on my say so.
Eventually the photographers left and as the time came for London to be dried, the rest of his team arrived: Sandra Tomkins, one of his co-breeders (the other, her sister) and his handler, Ann Rarigh. If you ask the right questions, speaking to a dog’s breeder is like chatting with a proud new mom; Why yes, we knew he was special from an early age, and indeed, London was an adorable baby. His favorite puppyhood toy? A stick he found in the yard which he carried everywhere. He did have another favorite, an old tennis ball. Now his favorite toy is his “Busy Bee.”
Look at the photo below: Now I ask you: Is this the face of a dog who delighted in rolling old, worn out tennis balls through mud and hiding them behind silk cushions once they were soggy orbs?
I think so too.
To give insight into London, the adult dog, however, I can do no better than to use Jamie’s own words in describing what it’s like to live with him.
“London has a great sense of humor and is always in a very good mood. He loves to fetch Frisbees – the full sized original Hasbro model, he doesn’t care for knockoffs. When he doesn’t always retrieve them and hides them in the woods, instead, he thinks he’s being quite funny. The Poodle has a warped sense of humor and actually believes that when he buries the Frisbees, they’ll germinate and grow into Frisbee Trees. Not only has he shared his basic knowledge of Frisbee farming with us, but he’s also confided that his secret “green paw” trick is to urinate on the buried Frisbees with PP (Poodle Piss). He thinks the trees will grow faster and produce a bumper crop of larger Frisbees because of the magic ingredients in PP. I’m nervously waiting to receive a “cease and desist” order from Hasbro any day now.”
Personally speaking, if there is a secret trick in anything I learned about London, it’s his reward snack for great behavior and performance in the show ring: Eukanuba’s Healthy Extra Adult Biscuits. Sixty two biscuits. Sixty two Bests in Shows. Jamie jokes about purchasing P&G stock since he’s confident that London’s love for these treats will make sales of the product sky rocket. Note to self: P & G is up .32 from the last trade of $66.90 since I started writing this…..
All joking aside, fanciers know that it’s not enough for a dog to have soundness and type. London also has one other attribute of all great show dogs: He LOVES to show. As Jamie notes, “…dog shows are just a blast for London, and every time he enters the ring with Ann, he’s having a fantastic time for himself. I truly believe that dogs themselves want to strut their stuff – not only to please us – but to also show other dogs how much fun they’re having with their human playmates in the ring. We’ll all know when London decides for himself that “showing” is no longer fun; It’ll be London, himself, who decides when he’s ready to give up confirmation, retire, and find something else enjoyable to do. “
By the time London’s coat was dry, he had an appointment coming up with his handler, Ann, and a pair of scissors. It was time for me to go. As I was packing up, he nudged me.
“You play poker?” he asked.
“Well, yes I do,” I replied with surprise.
Two “poker hats” and a deck of cards magically appeared out of nowhere and I found myself staring at the worst hand of five card stud that any person in the history of the grooming room of the Hotel Pennsylvania has ever had.
I caught him looking at my cards. And between you and me, I’m pretty sure he was cheating. It’s outlandish that a Poodle would have a Royal Straight Flush after one hand.
I raised an eyebrow. He shrugged. “Skill,“ he said.
Didn’t I tell you? At the end of the day, he was just like any other guy.
To follow London on his Facebook page, visit: http://www.facebook.com/#!/LondonTheStandardPoodle
You’ve gotta love a guy who’s not ashamed of what it takes to look good: