Don’t it always seem to go/
That you don’t know what you’ve got/
‘Til it’s gone
From “Big Yellow Taxi” by Joni Mitchell
The 2015 Eukanuba National Championship is now in the rearview mirror, and Joni Mitchell’s epic “Big Yellow Taxi” (in which we don’t always appreciate what we’ve got until it’s gone) reminds me that we also don’t always know what we’ve just experienced until we’ve had time to reflect on it. It’s been almost 48 hours since I returned home from Eukanuba, time enough to ruminate on what I saw there this year.
The gentleman in the photo above is Johnny Shoemaker, a chap I’ve never personally met, but whose sequined sartorial collection has been a fixture at Eukanuba every year I’ve attended. I’ve come to look for him the same way one looks for a present under a Christmas Tree, an assurance, if you will, that traditions continue and all is well. Well, he was there, and all is well. Perhaps you’re asking: Why shouldn’t it be?
There was curiosity, if not concern, within the dog fancy last year over the purchase of Eukanuba by the Mars Corporation, and what would mean to the popular dog show. When Eukanuba invited me to attend, I jumped at the chance to ascertain for myself what, if any, impact the sale would have. Early on, the numbers alone revealed the short answer: Combined with other weekend events such as the AKC Agility Invitational, Obedience Classic and Junior events, the overall show totals topped 6,100 entries making the 2015 Eukanuba National Championship the largest dog show held in the United States in the past twenty years. This is wonderful news to those who have feared that the sport is on the ropes.
Do statistics alone, however, reveal the heart of an event?
For three days, I wandered through the massive Orange County Convention Center in Orlando hanging out at rings, chatting with exhibitors, observing interactions and in general, soaking up atmosphere. Eukanuba’s new ownership was not a topic of discussion foremost on people’s minds. In fact, it never came up, and that was a very good thing because fanciers don’t welcome distractions from the serious business of competition and breeding the next generation of sound purebred dogs.
Eukanuba built this show fifteen years ago, and fanciers have been coming ever since. New ownership didn’t change that, and wisely, neither did it change the elements that people have come to expect from the show. The famous “pink towel drop” still happened (like Christmas elves, Eukanuba staff scurry through the grooming area late at night draping amply-sized rhodamine pink towels over crates and grooming tables, along with other goodies), the vendor area was still the best place to buy dog accoutrements, and Eukanuba was still the place where important achievements were announced, such as the Breeder of the Year award that went to John Buddie this year for his Tartanside Collies. Read more about John Buddie and the other finalists here.
Personally, I did miss having the World Challenge Finals as part of Eukanuba’s line up of events. Up until 2014, it was a spectacular special attraction that brought together under one roof some of the finest dogs from the rest of the world. The idea of moving the Finals to Europe had always been discussed from the early years of the Competition, and in alignment with the AKC, FCI and TKC, it was decided that Amsterdam in 2014 was the right place and time for such change. Few of us could attend the World Show, and what transpired there this past weekend can be seen at the Eukanuba World Challenge Facebook page here:
There was never a better time for someone unable to attend Eukanuba in Orlando to be able to follow it on-line. Live streaming enabled home viewers to follow group and Best in Show judging as it happened, but if you missed it, the show will re-air on the FidoTV Channel (channel 245 on the DISH Network) at 6:00 pm EST and 10:30 EST on December 24 and December 25, 2015.
New this year was the use of Periscope, a free new live streaming phone “app” that brought a “you are there” feel to other Periscope subscribers. Periscope subscribers could watch interviews, events, and competition on their Smart Phones in real time, and text questions to those of us who were “scoping” on our phones. For anyone new to the app, the videos are available for viewing by one’s followers for 24 hours before they expire, but they can be saved to a camera roll. Below is an interview I had with a very impressive young lady who should make us feel a bit more assured about the next generation of fanciers:
Eukanuba is special not just for its world class competition in the conformation ring, but for presenting the rich variety of activities that one can do with their dog – all under one roof. I suspect that the way to the public’s heart is through the performance events because while not everyone understands breed judging, everyone “gets” speed, obedience, agility, and distance – – – components of agility, obedience and dock diving. These perennial favorites are a big draw to the public, and brilliant planning sees to it that spectators must pass by other venues to get to the staging areas. One such venue is “Meet the Breeds” which I believe is one of the most important activities in which any of us can participate as fanciers. Our dogs are our best “PR,” and as dog owners, we are ambassadors of our respective breeds. “Meet the Breeds” brings together the public with our dogs and provides a critically important chance to state our case for purebred dog ownership and responsible breeding. It’s also an opportunity for even the most seasoned of dog fanciers to meet rare breeds, such as the Azawakh. I apologize for the ten minute long interview, but I could’t get enough of being near these dogs:
I come full circle with another verse out of Joni Mitchell’s, “Big Yellow Taxi:”
They took all the trees/
And put them in a tree museum/
Then they charged the people/
A dollar and a half just to see ‘em.
“Meet the Breeds” is an important way to avoid a day when “they took all the breeds, and put them in a dog museum.” I think we all sense that this notion is less outlandish now than it was even ten years ago. The judges who judged at Eukanuba last weekend know it, as well, because every group judge went out of his or her way to very publicly express appreciation for the breeders responsible for the incredible line up of exquisite dogs that stood before them.
To borrow a line from the movie, “Field of Dreams,” I deeply appreciate Eukanuba for “building” this show so that we may come.
Footnote, I have lots of “scopes” and pictures that I’ll be sharing here and on National Purebred Dog Day’s Instagram page over the coming days. #eukanubachamps #AD