Behind the Ribbon: An exclusive interview with new AKC Champ London!

As a non-dog show person, I was admittedly nervous going to a big dog show like the AKC/Eukanuba show. I don’t know the lingo. I don’t know how to conduct myself. I was worried that if I admitted I was as clueless as they come and didn’t know a triangle from a drum that I might be laughed out of the place. After all, dog show people aren’t like the rest of us, right? They’re kind of stuffy. Pretentious, even. Out of touch with all of us regular folks slumming it in the trenches.

As it turns out, though, I couldn’t be more wrong. The dog show people I met are- get ready for it- just like anyone else, plus ribbons. They are dog lovers first and foremost, who just happen to have a hobby I’m still learning about. Take Michele Molnar, for example- the lady of the hour, owner of London, this year’s winner at the AKC/Eukanuba National Championship. I asked her if I could interview her for the blog in advance of the show’s air date this weekend, and she immediately accepted. She’s fun, accessible, and above all a total dog lover.

SundayPictures 1336

That’s Michele in the killer red dress. Anyone who can rock red sequins like that is good people, that’s what I say.

And what about the man of the hour himself, Grand Champion Jaset’s Satisfaction- aka London? He held himself with such composure that I think all us bloggers were all a little scared to go up to him after his big win, concerned that perhaps such a dignified gentleman might be mortified to be surrounded by the great unwashed masses.

London, BIS AKC/Eukanuba 2011

Well, all of us except Susi (of course). Here she is attempting to stare into his soul. Kind of like when you see the tourists at Buckingham Palace trying to rattle the Queen’s Guards. No dice.

But much like his owner, London is totally down-to-earth. Sure, when he’s on the job, he’s all business, but when he’s at home with handler Ann Rairigh, guess what he likes to do? Sip martinis? Sit around with other poodles and scoff at the hairless breeds? Actually, according to Michele, he spends the day romping in the yard, barking at squirrels, playing with toys, and taking naps underfoot.

His favorite toy, by the way, are his squeaky toys. Left to his own devices, he pulls out all the stuffing and covers the house with white squeaky toy guts. See? A troublemaker just like all the rest of them. And lest you think he only likes to hang out with other poodles, his BFF is Bucky the Pomeranian.

“The biggest misconceptions I think the public has that people involved in dog shows aren’t every-day people,” said Michele. “If one started talking to the exhibitors, one would quickly find out that for the majority of us are involved in dog shows as a hobby.  We have lives, a day job, etc. outside our passion for dogs.”

That hobby can be time-consuming. London spends, on average, 2-3 weekends a month at dog shows, wowing judges. And as you can probably surmise, prepping a standard poodle for a show can be a bit labor-intensive. The distinctive clip is a matter of form following function:

“Not many people know that the poodle was originally bred for hunting,” says Michele. “The trim allowed the poodle to wade through the marshes and not get caught on brambles and weeds, but kept all the major organs and joints protected from the chill of the water.”

But on show day, London’s not exactly prepping for a mud run. He needs to be picture-perfect:

photo courtesy Michele Molnar

And that takes a bit of time. “Grooming for standard poodle that is going to be shown starts with a bath, a blow-dry and scissoring a few days before the show,” says Michele. “Feet, face and if it is adult, legs are shaved.  Then at the show we re-brush and scissor to make sure the shape is perfect.  With all the prep time before we even step in the ring, we can put in 3 to 5 hours in on a single dog.”

But the time and effort paid off when London, who turns 4 in mid-March, took the grand prize at the AKC/Eukanuba show.

“We didn’t even dare to dream that he would win Best in Show. With having won both the variety and the Non-Sporting group the day before, we already were on cloud nine.  Who could ask for anything more?” says Michele. “The line of the dogs in Best in Show were the who’s who of competitors and any one of them deserved the win.  So when Judge Polly Smith pointed at London and Ann, it quickly became an overwhelming emotional moment.  Complete disbelief and tears as ‘We couldn’t believe it was happening’, as it was beyond our wildest dreams.”

Smiles all around after London wins Best in Show. photo courtesy Michele Molnar

Happy pup, happy owner, smiles all around. Just another loving dog owner, see? Plus ribbons. Big ribbons.

Proud parents! photo courtesy Michele Molnar

And an upcoming spot on the Big Bronze Trophy.

photo courtesy Michele Molnar

Thank you again to Michele Molnar and London for giving me a behind the scenes look at the life of a champion! Best of luck to Team London as they head next to Westminster!

London and Michele are online at Facebook and on Twitter, where they will be joining the Twitter party for the AKC/Eukanuba show when it airs on Saturday on ABC. I hope you all get a chance to hop online and say hi during the air date and see London in his A-list performance!  If you have any questions for London or Michele, feel free to post- they have been super nice about answering them.

Filed: Blog Tagged: , ,
  • Another awesome post! Can’t wait to see the show on Saturday!

  • Rose D.

    Wait, confused. He doesn’t live with his owner? How does she know anything about him then? It’s like race horses? I always hate when owners take credit for that, they did nothing! It was the trainer, and the jockey, or in this case, the handler. I don’t understand…

    • Jeanne above responded about how it often works with show dogs. I think Michele is the first who gives credit where credit is due to Ann for her handling work! It’s a team effort, and everyone is involved and loves the dog.

      • Anonymous

        Absolutely – the whole team behind London loves him, each and every one! It was so evident after his win, he loves them as much as they do in return!

  • Jeanne

    Depending and the breed and the level of showing you are, you’ll find that some dogs live with their professional handler when showing – especially if they show frequently. With all the time it takes to get them ready for a show, and then showing, it’s easier. These aren’t the type of owners who show their dog, get a title and are done. This is mostly at the highest level of showing and the more prestigious/famous kennels/breeders.

    Some breeds are less labor-intensive and are more often handled by their owner, such as my breed. I’ve got 2 Belgian Tervuren. And while they have alot of hair, grooming is kept to a minimal – bthe them, dry them, trim their feet/lesg so that they’re neat, trim up any crazy whiskers and you’re done. i can get it all done in a little over an hour. And that’s just routine grooming that they get anyway nothing out of the ordinary. We go to local show and once they get their conformation title, they’re retired from that ring and we continue on with the fun, performance stuff.

  • Susi

    A balanced and nicely written piece, Jessica! And I wasn’t do much staring into his soul as going that some of that beauty and dignity would rub off on me. Thanh GOD no one heard London whisper to me, “Too late, lady.”

  • London S Poodle

    From everyone with Team London… THANK YOU!

    xoxo London
    Handled by Ann Rairigh | Assisted by Julia Kinsey
    Owned by Beth Harris, Michele Molnar and Jamie Danburg
    Bred by Chris Bailey and Sandra Tompkins
    Ads and Social by Sarah R. Dulski

  • Lindag

    Very interesting to see a behind the scenes look. I love watching dog shows on television and have often wondered about the dogs, their owners, their lives as pets. Thank you for bringing light.

  • Foghorn O’Kalshnikov

    Wait, they put a little model of the winning dog on the trophy? Really? That is very cool!

  • Azariafghans

    Nice article! Showing for some of us is a hobby, for others like the professional handlers, it is a job! Either way, most of us take it quite seriously! Could only imagine winning BIS at a prestigious show like this!

  • Niko S

    Watch out New York – Here comes London !

  • Robbin

    Nice article and such an exciting time for London and its owners! London is a “handsome” dog and a champion…best of luck to Team London at WKC!

  • Tracey

    I can personally say that Jamie Danburg and Michele Molnar are very much dog people. They showed me such compassion for my best friend Tyson of 14 years last year when I was forced to make a decision. They truly love dogs and take the time to be involved in all aspects of their pet’s lives and also their friend’s pet’s lives. We’ll be cheering on London, wishing him the best of luck at Westminster!!

  • Jess Robinson

    What a great article! I didnt know a lot about what goes in to prepping show dogs for such events like AKC Eukanuba and WKC and its nice to see that the dogs are treated just like any other pet. London looked beautiful on ABC this past weekend and I wish him the best of luck at Westminster next week!!

  • S Riff

    Yes, very nice article! London is so impressive. I will be be one of those cheering him on as well. Go London & the Team!! You can do it again at Westminster. Wishing Jamie and Michele all the best on Saturday…

  • Canine candids by Lynda

    I can verify London is VERY down to earth, I took many photos of him before I actually met him… He literally jumped into my arms… Which made me a bit nervous… He has a lot of hair but is still quite heavy lol I had to have help getting him off because I was afraid I would drop him awkwardly!

  • Donna

    It is refreshing to hear show dogs are so much like my Bichon at my feet right now. My Princess Stella loves taking the stuffing out of toys also.

  • Sundust

    what a stunning dog!!!! what a show dog!!!

  • This is such a great post! What a gorgeous dog, totally deserving of the win. I don’t know how the Poodle people do it. They go through so much work getting their dogs ready for show. I loved where she talked about London’s hobbies of ripping up squeaky toys, and chasing squirrels. Just like any other dog. He doesn’t let all that fame go to his head!