On the second weekend in November, the dog show scene moves to the Delmarva peninsula, that long stretch of land between the Chesapeake Bay, Delaware Bay and Atlantic Ocean that is claimed by three states, Virginia, Delaware and Maryland.
The Eastern Shore Classic dog shows are held at the Wicomico Youth and Civic Center, a big, airy, well-lit center in Salisbury, Maryland. The weather was cold, in the low 40s, and a lingering nor’easter sent high tides to almost the levels of the previous week’s hurricane – but not quite.
Norma Sellers of Fenwick Island, Delaware, watched the inlet canal rise over the dock, over the retaining wall, and half way up her lawn – where it stopped before invading her first floor garage and storage area, an area that had been thoroughly damaged by Hurricane Sandy.
When the water started to recede, she breathed a sigh of relief, brushed her Brussels Griffon puppy, Minnie, and headed to the venue.
“This is a great show for a puppy,” she said. Minnie pranced out to the end of her lead and stared down some spectators. “It’s spacious and it’s not noisy. The acoustics are great. It’s not scary like some big, noisy shows are.”
To make it even more attractive for puppies, Talbot Kennel Club held Best Puppy in Show competition on Thursday. Minnie the Brussels Griffon took second in the Puppy Toy group to the Pug puppy.
Norma said there was an advantage to being second. “It’s perfect. We get a ribbon, but we don’t have to stay three more hours for Best in Show.”
Talbot Kennel Club offered unusual trophies, lovely herons painted by local artist Bill Richardson on plaques, trays, coasters, and for the Puppy Group, towels. The elegant silver, gray and tan herons were the epitomy of a purebred animal native to the Eastern Shore.
David Haddock was in from Tennessee to judge eleven Working breeds. He mentioned what a hard job it was to pick the best Doberman in the entry at Salisbury, which was full of quality.
“It’s nice to have choices,” he said. “So many times, there is an obvious winner and everybody else. It’s nice when there is more than one dog there to be rewarded. That’s where the judge can be subjective.”
After praising the Best of Breed St. Bernard and Samoyed, he said, “The most exceptional dog I had was in my own breed. I’m highly critical of my own breed, much more than of others. It doesn’t often happen that you see one you would have been proud to have bred yourself.”
Jennifer Vawter left her booth, International Canine Semen Bank, to watch the supported entry of the Portuguese Water Dog Club of America, with 40 entered, since that’s her breed. When not ringside, she was busy collecting semen behind the demure black curtain of the ICSB, a threshold some experienced dogs were extremely eager to cross.
“Someone asked me to hold a dog at ringside. It was a Great Dane I had collected before. He was delighted to see me. It was really embarrassing. He jumped on me and tried to grab me with his front legs. Finally he was knocking me down so hard I said to the owner, ‘I can’t hold him! Get somebody else to hold him who hasn’t jerked him off recently!’”
That’s the joy and the danger of being an expert in artificial insemination; a) the dogs love you and b) the dogs LOVE you!
The St. Bernard, Ch. Jamelle’s Aristocrat v. Elba, was the triumphant Working dog, taking home three Group 1s and two Group Seconds.
David Gansz planned to show his two Belgian Tervuren puppies himself, until he hit a slippery spot on the floor and “the puppy went one direction and my legs went the other.” A sprained ankle was the result.
He took photos from the balcony while Andrew Green showed one puppy and his friend Elizabeth Smith showed the other. He reported that the two Tervs had a great time in the backyard in New Jersey while Hurricane Sandy blew in around them. They were happy to play with giant branches being knocked down to within their reach.
Elizabeth Smith, president of the Northern New Jersey Collie Club, had Andre the Rough Collie up on the grooming table for his weekly brush out. He has just earned his backpacking titles from the American Working Collie Association, which means verifying 12 miles of backpacking through the city and 20 miles of backpacking on country terrain. “He could earn a Grand Wilderness title for backpacking 200 miles. But I don’t think we’re going to try that,” said Elizabeth with a smile.
Andre is a seasoned Therapy Dog, who has a title for doing 25 visits, and is halfway to the next title, which requires 150.
“We started at a new nursing home, and on the third visit, we went into a room and the director said to the patient, who was in decline and didn’t recognize anybody, ‘We have a dog here.’ The patient looked up and said, ‘Oh, it’s Andre!’ We were shocked at that, that she recognized and remembered him, when she doesn’t remember anybody else.”
The healing power of dogs mixed with the magic of dog shows on a deep autumn afternoon.