The 50th Anniversary Specialty Show
Of The Afghan Hound Club of California
"The View from the Center of the Ring"
By Dave Frei
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What more could a judge ask for? A beautiful show site, great weather, a wonderful entry, a spectacular kickoff event for a fabulous “Hound Weekend” -- the Afghan Hound Club of California’s 50th Annual Specialty Show had it all.
The site at Long Beach State is reminiscent of the old Santa Barbara days, and with the tenting, certainly plays a big part of making this a truly special show, with all the feel of a National Specialty. Looking around ringside, seeing all the familiar faces from around the country, and foreign fanciers, too, also made it seem a lot like a National. I’ve been seeing ads about this show and this weekend for more than a year, so the response -- in entries and spectators -- was no surprise.
Add in my perspective as a longtime member of the AHCC, the fact that my wife Sandy “grew up” in the club, that Sandy’s mom and stepfather, Gini and Bill Withington, were among the earliest members of the club, and I hope everyone can understand just how special this day and this assignment was for me.
I could go on and on, but let’s talk about the dogs, shall we?
As an active breeder exhibitor, I’ve traveled all over the country and I have to admit I have been concerned about the overall quality of the dogs that I’ve seen being exhibited. However, after seeing a strong entry in May at the AHC of Northern New Jersey (as a spectator) and judging this wonderful entry in Long Beach, I’m convinced that there are still a lot of good dogs out there. Very good dogs
The Winners Dog was Genesis-Ambelike Black Ice, an elegant, athletic black dog of proper size, a sound, wonderful mover, who came out of the very strong Open Class. A pretty, yet masculine head, a pleasing expression, a level topline and a positive attitude earned this young dog the purple ribbon over an impressive winners class.
Reserve went to the 12-18 dog, Fabelhaft Majic Dragon. This lovely black-masked red dog has a nice head and expression, a strong neck and topline, and tons of coat. He seems to be a little more together than dogs in this age group usually are. He got a good run for the RWD money from the Bred By winner, and the second place dogs in 12-18, BBE and Open all could have gotten a strong look from me on any other day, as well.
My Winners Bitch came from the Bred By Exhibitor class, the strongest class, top to bottom, of the day. I’ve always felt that the Bred By classes SHOULD be the strongest classes in a specialty, and I am glad that breeders enter and exhibit in that class.
Wynsyr Kalahari, a young, elegant cream bitch, captured the purple ribbon and the points in bitches. I’m one of those people who always say, “Oh, yeah, just what do you mean by ‘typey’?”, but if I was ever going to use the word, it fits her to a “T” (as in ... well, you know). This bitch never let up, moved with pride and attitude, head and tail up, fully in charge. Sure, I’d put a little more coat on her, but she didn’t need any coat to help her look right through me. She was square, elegant, sound and beautiful.
The Open Bitch class was full of nice entries, too, and the RWB came from this class -- Summerwind-Paladin Mistress of the Dark, a nicely balanced black bitch who demanded my attention. Here, as in dogs, any of the placements in the BBE class or the Open class could have been players on another day, too.
I was thrilled to have two such nice winners in the WD and WB, both of them light on their feet and effortless movers. I knew after judging Winners Bitch that it would be an interesting battle between the two of them for Best of Winners, and I knew that both of them had enough going for themselves to be factors for Best In Show.
But after the first look at the wonderful specials class, it was evident to me that there wouldn’t be enough ribbons to go around, even with Awards of Merit. The specials were virtually all beautifully presented, in nice condition and adroitly handled.
This was unlike other assignment I’ve had. After the first go-round, I really wasn’t dialed in on any dog or dogs as the ones that were the ones to beat. The dogs didn’t make it easy on me, as none of them took themselves out of it. It truly came down to the very end before I finally decided on my winners, allowing me to “judge on the day”, which is, of course, how it should be.
After playing with them for a while and making a series of cuts, I took a look at the seven dogs I had left in the ring. They were all good Afghans -- not identical (and who would want to have seven identical dogs left at the end?), but certainly similar in that they were all athletic and sound, good movers with regal attitudes, and of proper size. By now, I really did think I could point just about anywhere and be thrilled with the way it ended up.
Any of the five specials could have taken charge right here to win it. I worked them a little more and in the last go-round, one of them did step up, and indeed, he won it. The other dogs didn’t lose it, no one else let up, and I think that this helps to make it a very exceptional win for the SBIS dog
The dog that “rose to the top” to capture Best In Show was Ch. Casbar-Mezra Color Me Bad, a beautiful black-masked silver male. There was no question that this dog was a male, not because of his size, but because of his attitude. He was a beautiful representation of the breed: a nice eye and expression, a great body, nice neck, shoulders and topline, and good angles. He was a great mover, with an effortless, ground-covering side gait. He was dead sound, and in wonderful condition, rock-hard and ready to take on any snow leopards to be found.
Too many of our dogs today, especially the males, don’t have -- or don’t choose to show it to the judge -- this efficient, effortless movement. Instead, it seems, they spend too much time moving up and down, instead of “out and after it.” My winner needed no prompting, no handslaps to the body, no pulling of the tail, no tugging or snapping of the lead, no dragging behind the handler on an eight-foot show lead, no stringing up. His handler was virtually invisible, which is the greatest compliment a handler can receive -- that’s great presentation. I was happy to give the dog the win.
Best of Opposite Sex was Ch. Cobra Copy Cat, a very feminine and sound moving self-masked red bitch, with a beautiful head and expression. She pushed the winner right up to the end. Three of my Award of Merit winners came from the specials class: Ch. Arcana Jump’n’Jack Flash, a beautiful, strong, black-and-tan dog; Ch. Aatik’s Windermere Tiger Balm, a nicely balanced brindle in wonderful condition; and Ch. Pahlavi Intergalactica, a blue brindle with a great head, neck, shoulder and outline.
My Winners Dog earned himself the Best of Winners award, and I gave the Winners Bitch an Award of Merit for her efforts. I could have used a few more Awards of Merit to pass around.
Now, some general notes: I had more than a few dogs that I would consider fat. This breed is supposed to be a “lean, mean hunting machine.” It doesn’t take much weight to cover the hip bones and the vertebrae, and part of getting ready for the show ring needs to include diet as much as coat care. I don’t want a rack of bones, but cut back on those cookies before the big shows!
I think the necks and toplines, a sore point for me over the past years, are getting better. We still have too many straight fronts and high shoulders, and a few dogs that were out at the elbows. I had about three or four shy dogs, shy enough that I couldn’t examine them properly and that may have kept some otherwise good dogs out of the ribbons. And I had about three or four questionable bites.
And for the handlers: I think that the handling is getting even better; it’s evident that many of you work very hard on your presentation skills, which of course helps your dog’s chances (see earlier reference to the “invisible handler”). As a rule, the dogs were clean and well-groomed (nice that our show was the first of the weekend).
The club dinner was a fitting climax to it all, one of the best I’ve ever attended. And I would be remiss if I didn’t thank and congratulate Show Chairman Ray Stevens, President Janey Canfield, and Lou Guerrero for all their efforts to make this a special experience. Thanks also, to my ring stewards Ed Gilbert and Betty Richards, and to the club members who elected me for this assignment.
So, congratulations not just to the winners but to all of the exhibitors for bringing me such a wonderful entry on this most memorable day.
David Frei (Stormhill)
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