The day before I headed to the AKC Eukanuba National Championships, I was talking to my sister on the phone. “I’m heading to a dog show,” I told her.
“The AKC Eukanuba show?” she squealed. “I LOVE that show!”
So it was from my sister, a legal professional with no ties to the animal community whatsoever, that I learned that this show was a Really Big Deal. It’s actually better that I really didn’t know what was in store for me, since I might have been too intimidated to focus by the level of access we bloggers were granted. I showed up with nothing more than reading the AKC Tips for Dog Show Newbies and the hope that I would be able to somewhat follow what was going on.
The very first event to which I was ushered upon my arrival was an incredibly distinguished roundtable: Richard Learwood, Eukanuba Global Marketing Director; Dan Rajczak, Senior VP, Global P&G Pet Care and Snacks; Ron Menaker, AKC Chairman of the Board; Mabe Rodriguez, VP and General Manager, North America P&G Pet Care. The gentlemen to the far right I unfortunately do not have names for but I believe are representatives from the FCI (World Canine Organization).
I felt like a a bit of a rube sitting there listening to these people talk about the goals and future of the AKC, the FCI, and Eukanuba’s role in the event, but could anyone ask for a better introduction to the this facet of canine life? (I’m happy to go back and summarize the discussion in detail should you guys be interested, but I wanted to share the overall experience without getting too bogged in details in this post.)
Then we sat down with the lovely Gina DiNardo, Assistant Vice President of the AKC and the host of the televised show. She spoke about the production elements that were going on behind the scenes and how the show we watched would be transformed into a TV event, then answered our questions about the show and AKC.
My fellow blogger, the delightful Knobnots, asked what I really wanted to know but was too shy to ask- who was dressing Gina for the big show? (Answer: a flock of dresses was shipped over from Bloomingdales. How jealous were we?)
Then we were turned loose to enjoy the event! The extravaganza, I should say. It was a virtual carnival of dogapalooza:
- The AKC Eukanuba National Championship (ie the main event)
- The AKC National Obedience Invitational
- The AKC Agility Invitational
- The Eukanuba World Challenge– featuring dogs from 60 countries competing for the big title
- Eukanuba Breeder’s Stake
- Demonstrations from the dock dogs as well as the local K9 Narcotics division
- AKC Meet the Breed Booths
And I put many miles on my feet making sure I headed to each and every one.
I suppose I had always been somewhat under the assumption that dog shows were for the patrician nobility who liked to breed and show dogs and no one else, no plebians such as myself with my messy hair and coarse unbreedworthy dogs. I am pleased to say I really didn’t get that vibe at all.
Sure, the world of conformation is definitely in a stratosphere all its own, but that was very clearly only one part of the bigger event celebrating all dogs. The owner of some of the top ranked purebreds in the world just as proudly spoke of the mixed breed pup home on the couch that was rescued from an abusive neighbor. The owners and handlers were young and old, political bigwigs standing next to salt of the earth people from your hometown.
One of the things that most surprised me was the fact that the Agility and Obedience events were open to companion dogs, including mixed breeds, registered through AKC Canine Partners. “I must be really clueless,” I said, “because I had no idea that was allowed.”
Then I saw this letter and felt better knowing that this was a recent development, but what a development it is! Allowing mixed breed dogs to compete at the national level is such a huge step in bringing together people and dogs from all walks of life who all have the same passion: living life to the fullest with their pup. Kudos to the AKC for taking that major step to include everyone in this fun world.
I spent quite a bit of time watching the dock dogs, because they were obviously having such a blast. They got some crazy air! There were at least two rescue dogs competing too.
In case you haven’t noticed, I’ve been mildly obsessing over Boston terriers as of late. Can you blame me? This was their booth at Meet the Breed.
I was having serious retriever withdrawal of course, so I made my way over to the Golden booth for a little love. I should have known that there was no way a Golden was going to stay nicely back and hold still while I took a picture. If you get on the floor, you are getting loved on. Not that I’m complaining. 😀
It’s going to take a couple of days to work through all the things I saw. It was an incredible experience. You all should come with me next year- it’s going to be in Orlando. Road trip! :p
Next post: Tweeting live ringside at one of the biggest shows in the world. One word: AWESOME.