The press releases urged us to “Celebrate Dogs!” and the 13th Annual AKC/Eukanuba National Championship provided the perfect opportunity to do just that. It was an extravaganza in every sense, showcasing our dogs in a variety of venues and gathering canine greats from more than 40 countries to join us. The two-day event has blossomed with new competitions and demos added yearly to the mix.
AKC and Eukanuba promoted the event as “National Championship Week,” with the Space Coast Kennel Club of Palm Bay, the Brevard Kennel Club, the Central Florida Kennel Club and Orlando Dog Training Club making up the Orlando Cluster on Tuesday through Thursday; followed by specialties and the inaugural AKC National Owner-Handled Series Finals on Friday; and culminating in the National Championship on Saturday and Sunday.
Entries were impressive, with 673 in the Sporting Group; 542 Hounds; 567 in the Working Group; 451 Terriers; 618 Toys; 478 in the Non-Sporting Group; and 461 Herding dogs. The Miscellaneous Class was well represented, with 14 of the 15 breeds entered. On Friday, a Foundation Stock Service (FSS)/Miscellaneous Breeds Open Show judged by Marjorie Tuff and Dr. Steve Keating, respectively, gave us all the chance to see many of the rare FSS breeds that are working toward Miscellaneous status.
The AKC National Owner-Handled Series Finals was a special invitation-only competition open to the Top 10-ranked dogs in the AKC National Owner-Handled Series in each breed/variety from the 2012 and 2013 qualifying years, drawing an entry of 520 dogs. Sheila DiNardo judged the finals and found her winner in Armando Angelbello, showing his Miniature Pinscher GCh. Marlex Classic Red Glare.
From the popular AKC Meet the Breeds booths to dock-diving demos by canine athletes to complimentary “AKC Breeder-2-Breeder” seminars, the Orange County Convention Center was teeming with activity. It didn’t hurt that the weather in Orlando was glorious, rewarding all the diehard exhibitors who had persevered through the snowstorms and freezing rain that was gripping much of the country.
A welcome addition to the festivities both nights was Christopher Walker, the AKC’s new Assistant Vice President of Social Media Outreach/Communications. Chris hails from Ireland, and he handled his announcing duties with aplomb, that lovely lilt of his giving the international flavor of the show some added flair.
The 2013 ACE Recipients
The American Kennel Club Humane Fund Awards for Canine Excellence (ACE) are among the most poignant presentations made at the show. In the Exemplary Companion category, the winner was ‘Bart,’ a Vizsla owned by Darcy Hodges that developed a limp during the hunt and field season at age 3, after gaining his conformation title. Eighty percent of Bart’s scapula was eaten away by cancer, and his left front leg needed to be amputated. Four months later and just three weeks after completing chemotherapy, Bart earned his Senior Hunter title and went on to the Master Hunter level. He earned his MH 10 months later and became the first Vizsla in history to complete the title on three legs. Soldiers from the Wounded Warriors program traveled to Atlanta to watch Bart compete in a field trial.
In the Law Enforcement category, the award went to ‘Zeke,’ a Belgian Malinois with the Harrisburg (Pa.) Police Department. On March 15 K-9 handler Corporal Tyron Meik received a call to assist a nearby police department. A suspect had allegedly stabbed and shot an individual before turning the gun on police. He then fled in the vicinity of an elementary school and busy shopping area. Zeke tracked the suspect within 15 yards of his hiding spot. The suspect shot him in the neck, but even with a bullet in him, Zeke held the suspect until he was subdued. Bleeding and going into shock, Zeke was airlifted to an emergency veterinary hospital. He has since made a full recovery.
‘Jesse,’ a German Shepherd Dog owned by Susan Condreras, won in the Search and Rescue category. Jesse is a dual-certified National Association for Search and Rescue search dog for both live area search and human remains detection. She is also a Therapy Dog International Remarkable Volunteer Achievement dog, with more than 250 therapy visits to her credit.
In the Service category, the winner was ‘Tuesday,’ a Golden Retriever. She and her owner, Captain Luis Carlos Montalvan, were partnered through Educated Canines Assisting with Disabilities after Luis returned from two tours in Iraq with a spinal cord injury, a traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder. The team has visited schools, military installations and universities; and given presentations at health conferences and the Pentagon. Captain Montalvan went on to earn a Master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University. Columbia presented Tuesday with an honorary degree for the part she played in this achievement. Captain Montalvan wrote an inspirational memoir about their partnership, which quickly made the New York Times bestseller list.
‘Drago,’ a Spinone Italiano owned by Lauren Friedman and Christopher Sweetwood, won in the Therapy category. Drago has made more than 1,000 visits and has competed in conformation, obedience and the field, but he faced his greatest challenge in Newtown, Conn., last December when he was called upon after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Drago and Lauren spent every day at the crisis center, providing love and support. He accompanied kids and adults in counseling sessions and spent time with children while their parents were occupied with chaplains and psychologists. When other Newtown-area schools reopened on December 18, Drago returned with the children.
Is it any wonder everyone rose to their feet to honor these amazing dogs and their selfless, giving owners and handlers for their unforgettable contributions?
Breeder of the Year
The AKC’s Breeder of the Year award is bestowed annually on “individuals who have dedicated their lives to improving the health, temperament and longevity of their chosen breed.” This presentation at the National Championship is given the full measure of respect it deserves, with the Group nominees walking onto the floor accompanied by past winners in their Group. For 2013 the Group nominees were: Randy, Anne Marie and Peter Kubacz, Ramblin’ Acres Irish Setters (Sporting); Janet and Linda Souza and Jamie Souza Bartlett, Limerick Irish Wolfhounds (Hound); Joe and Tootie Longo, Longo Great Danes (Working); Winifred Stout, Quissex Smooth Fox Terriers (Terrier); Armando and Xio Angelbello, Marlex Miniature Pinschers (Toy); Michael and Linda Brantley, Dreamland Chow Chows (Non-Sporting); and Leslie and Don Jeszewski, Highcroft Collies (Herding). The ultimate honor was bestowed upon Winnie Stout, a gracious and humble master-breeder, with more than 300 Smooth Fox Terrier champions to her credit and more than a half-century of devotion to her breed. She was accompanied by Barbara Miller of Max-Well Norfolk Terriers, a past Breeder of the Year winner.
The Eukanuba World Challenge
When it comes to “growing an event,” there is no better example than the Eukanuba World Challenge, which sees more than 40 countries sending a top dog to compete for the title of Eukanuba World Challenge Champion and a total of $15,000 in prize money. The sheer pageantry of this event, with flag bearers and dignitaries leading the dogs and handlers into the ring on Saturday night, is a sight to behold. Judging took place during the day, and the 12 finalists from four sections were announced on Saturday evening. They were: from Section I, Formula Uspeha Colibri, Smooth Dachshund, from Russia; Soletrader Bjorn Borg, Petit Basset Griffon VendŽen, from the United Kingdom; and GCh. Coventry Allure At Wyndstar, Pembroke Welsh Corgi, from the US, eligible after Coventry Corgis had won the Eukanuba Breeder’s Stakes earlier in the day. From Section II: Nangite’s October Sand Dune, Yorkshire Terrier, from Thailand; GCh. Protocol’s Veni Vidi Vici, Doberman Pinscher, from the US; and Soletrader Peek A Boo, Petit Basset Griffon VendŽen, from the United Kingdom. From Section III: Filisite Brash Koh-I-Noor, Scottish Terrier, from Russia; Pitera of Moly Bo Bo, Maltese, from Taiwan; and Afterglow Maverick Sabre, Standard Poodle, from the United Kingdom. Finally, from Section IV: C.E.G.L.I.A. Monika De Don Eloy, Dogo Argentino, from Argentina; Magic Sunrise Great Gentleman, Phalene Papillon, from Latvia; and Halley De Black Shadow, Doberman Pinscher, from Malaysia.
These dogs came with impressive global credentials, and on Sunday night Miguel Angel Martinez had the honor of going over the dynamic dozen. His First Runner-Up was ‘Fifi,’ the Doberman from the US. Runner-Up was the stunning Dogo from Argentina. Mr. Martinez’s World Challenge Champion was the Standard Poodle ‘Ricky’ from the UK, shown by Jason Lynn, and bred by Michael Gadsby and Jason.
A word about Ricky and the realities of offering a show in the US that actively encourages dogs from around the world to compete. A number of dogs coming over for the Eukanuba World Challenge are also entered in breed competition, which comes as no surprise when there are three all-breed shows and many specialties held earlier in the week. Ricky is the No. 1 dog all breeds in the UK for 2013. He also won Best of Winners at the huge and internationally attended Poodle Club of America National Specialty in 2012. He finished his American championship in Orlando under breed specialist Dennis McCoy. However, earlier in the week he was defeated for Winners Dog by a puppy because the AKC judge couldn’t deal with his undocked tail. (That comment was made to owner-handler Jason Lynn; it might have been wiser had the judge said nothing.) If foreign dogs are going to be encouraged to compete at this event, it stands to reason that will include a number of undocked and/or uncropped exhibits. AKC breed standards vary in their “must be/should be” docking and cropping requirements. Judges vary as well. The American Rottweiler Club has implored judges through regular magazine ads in recent years to honor the parent club’s insistence on a docked tail, yet we recently saw an undocked champion Rottie in this country get a Group placement. Some judges will consider the tail merely one component of many that make up a worthy representative of its breed. It seems appropriate that the AKC, in its first letter to judges being invited to officiate at the AENC week, remind them that there will be undocked and uncropped dogs exhibited. Those judges who can’t get past natural tails and ears on breeds that are typically docked and cropped in this country should decline the assignment. Not doing so would only upset them, offend foreign exhibitors currently being subjected to inconsistent judging over three to five days of American shows, and reflect negatively on this world-class event.
The flip side of this dilemma is that I loved watching Claudio De Giuliani of Belluno, Italy, judge Neapolitan Mastiffs and a phenomenal entry of 30 Cane Corsos. What a privilege for these exhibitors to have an Italian judge evaluate their Italian breeds, and what an education for all of us at ringside.
The Prestigious Bred-By-Exhibitor Best
All too often what should be our most prestigious class at dog shows, Bred-by-Exhibitor, is relegated to a filler class. This is both sad and demeaning. Thankfully, the AKC/Eukanuba National Championship elevates Bred-by to star status, and breeder/owner-handlers respond accordingly. Bred-by Groups are judged on both afternoons, and there is rapt attention at ringside with many heavy hitters in contention. The seven finalists included American Foxhound Ch. Kiarry’s Pandora’s Box with Lisa Miller, the top Hound in the country and chosen Group First on Saturday evening by Frank Sabella; the acclaimed Old English Sheepdog, GCh. Bugaboo’s Picture Perfect, Reserve Best in Show in 2013 at the Garden from the classes; and Sarah Lawrence’s Shih Tzu Ch. Krissy’s Savvy Jasper. Representing the Non-Sporting Group was none other than the Eukanuba World Challenge champion, Ricky the Standard Poodle from the UK. In the end, judge Dr. Anthony DiNardo went with the Old English Sheepdog, handled by breeder Colton Johnson, who owns him with wife Heather, Ron Scott and Debbie Burke.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Best in Show
The Best in Show lineup was, in a word, stellar. These seven charismatic show dogs were there to perform and did not disappoint. The Irish Water Spaniel, GCh. Whistlestop’s Riley On Fire, proved she was aptly named, giving it all she had for handler Rick Krieger. Representing the Hound Group was the aforementioned American Foxhound ‘Jewel,’ proudly piloted by Lisa Miller. The mighty Portuguese Water Dog ‘Matisse,’ GCh. Claircreek Impression De Matisse, had an incredible year and looked brilliant on this night with Michael Scott. GCh. Afterall Painting The Sky, the Wire Fox Terrier, kept up her momentum and showed superbly for Gabriel Rangel. The classic Pekingese GCh. Yakee Easily Persuaded made a great picture with David Fitzpatrick. The Standard Poodle GCh. Dawin Hearts On Fire triumphed in a tough variety and Group, ably presented by Sarah Perchick. Finally there was the powerful-moving German Shepherd Dog, GCh. Wolf Creek Galaxy Of Merivern. See the Group winners and Bred-by-Exhibitor Group winners.
Charged with making the all-important decision was Barbara Dempsey Alderman, who has done it all in our sport … from Afghan Hound breeder in the 1960s to successful professional handler to well-respected all-breed judge. On this night she looked radiant in a sparkling pink-and-blue jacket (the colors of the AKC/Eukanuba National Championship logo). The two top dogs of the year shared the spoils once more, with Sky the Wire taking Reserve and Matisse the PWD going BIS.
Monday morning and the reality of exhausting travel back to the lands of snow and ice would arrive soon enough. But before then, a thankful dog fancy got to enjoy one more celebratory night in warm, magical Orlando.
From the February 2014 issue of Dogs in Review magazine. Purchase the February 2014 digital back issue with the DIR app or subscribe to receive 12 months of Dogs in Review magazine (print and digital versions).