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Author Liz O'Connor (UK Renza Afghans)

Editors Note - Liz O'connor (Renza Afghan Hounds, UK) originally sent me a comprehensive report on her and Terry Thomas's visit to the USA in 1994. Click here for her full USA visit notes.

In re-reading Liz's great report on her USA visit I realized what a wonderful word picture she gave us of the 94 National Specialty, so I have cut and pasted a portion of her original report that is specific on the 94 National Specialty into this extract and focusing on the National Specialty 94

The first show on the agenda was the "big one" -The National- the Afghan Hound Club of America's Specialty Show being held at Days Inn Conference Centre & Hotel, Allentown, Pennsylvania. This was being held over 3 days, 5th-7th October, the schedule being:

First Day, Weds, 5th Oct. 7 am Lure Coursing - Judges Emmet Roche (Lure Feld) and Rita Figg/ Renee Franklin (Lure Course) 12 noon Obedience - Judge Patricia Scully 2.30pm Obedience Seminar 5 pm. Sweepstakes - Judge Norma Cozzoni

Second Day, Thurs. 6th Oct. - 8.30am. Dog Classes - Judge Richard Souza 3 pm Bitch Classes up to 12-18 months - Judge Georgie Guthrie - 6pm. Annual Meeting - Rescue Meeting - 8 pm Entertainment - "An Evening with Lois"

Third Day, Fri. 7th Oct. 9 am. Completion of Bitch Classes - 1 2.45pm Junior Showmanship - Judge Johannah Owen - Parade o~ Veterans - 1.30am Best O~ Breed Competition - Judge Georgie Guthrie Non-Regular Classes (Brood Bitch, Stud Dog, etc.) 7pm Cocktails - 8pm. Awards Banquet.

Ginny (MyWays Wascally Wabbit) was entered for Lure Coursing and during the morning (still bathing and grooming !) we eagerly awaited news of her result. Can you imagine the delight when David arrived home, she had not only won the maximum 40 points (they need 100 points total for the Lure Coursing title and Ginny is well on the way to hers), but she had also taken Best Opposite in the ASFA Trial ! David was hoping to enter her in the AKC Trial, but there is a limit to the amount of coursing they are allowed, and she had reached her limit for the day. She had run for her life and come home with the most beautiful hand cut lead crystal bowl (awarded to all winners at the National Show), numerous rosettes, certificates. etc.

It was decided we would travel in two cars, so David and Terry went off in the camper (EVERYONE has one !) taking with them four dogs (all crated) and most of the equipment - including the dryer. MaryAnn and I followed with all her stock, suitcases and Red (Ali's brother). Diva (Ali's Mum) was to be brought later as she was in full season, and best kept separate from the others!

Although David and MaryAnn only live a short distance from the venue, it was decided that staying at the hotel would be better, which was a good idea considering that both the camper and car were full to bursting.

MaryAnn had been appointed Booth Organiser, which meant a lot of preparation beforehand, but her headaches really began when we arrived as the show organisers had decided (in their wisdom) to rearrange all the booths, much to MaryAnn (and booth holders) annoyance. Fortunately, as is usually the case, everyone rallied together and sorted themselves out as best they could, and I must say the displays of everything Afghan were a wonderful sight.

Do you remember Marcia Van Woert's "splash" paintings on the Midland Club Table at Cruft's for a couple of years? Well Marcia was there, still with her splash paintings but now they can come in three separate parts, viewed individually or as a pair or as a trio, and her expertise has been extended into paintings with gold and silver filigree, gold to depict the sun in the desert or silver for the moon, shining onto an Afghan below - breathtaking stuff!!

There was Alice Blank (owner of the stunning blue Am. Ch. Pahlavi Smokin'n th' Boys Room) with the most beautiful vases. They are very large, but I think she'll be producing smaller versions (lighter and easily transportable) in time for the Congress and National in 1995.

There were a couple of booths with silk and I could not resist! There was Betty Stites with her fabulous hand painted shawls and waistcoats; and another from, I think, California, having silk jackets with hand painted appliqueed Afghans on the back, lamp shades, table cloths, head scarves - all there for people to spend their dollars and they did, in their hundreds. There were displays of original bronzes,designer snoods, matching hand made collars and leads,stationery, even kitchen accessories - all depicting Afghans. I was tempted into buying snoods a silk jacket and a hand painted silk camisole - and that's not counting all the goodies from MaryAnn which meant bringing home an extra suitcase! There was quite a selection on the AHCA sales table, "Oktoberfest" was the theme presented throughout the show, but I have to admit to being disappointed that there were no posters and T shirts this year. There were silk banners depicting Afghans in all colours, and these were auctioned at the Awards Banquet with all proceeds being donated to Afghan Rescue. What we did buy was the AHCA books of Pedigrees, something Terry has been after for some time to add to his already considerable database of pedigrees.

Unfortunately we were too late to see Obedience Judging, and it was a pity I had to miss the Judges Seminar, as I was keen to see how they set up theirs in comparison with ours. The catalogue was crammed full of adverts and would you believe there is a copy of the AKC Breed Standard in every catalogue (this applied to all the specialities we attended). The National had drawn an excellent entry of 466 from 346 dogs

Over the next few days it was a pleasure to meet up with so many other enthusiasts, those over from England were Simon Parsons (Dog World Editor), Pam and Stuart Mottershaw (off to stay with the famous Sutton's for a few days), and Mark Cocozza (spending time with Stanley's breeders and "family"). We also met up with some Brits who no longer live in England. Daphne Gie (having just judged an Afghan Specialty) was one (She looked really well, just shows what Australian sun can do for you!); Tricia Collins still with a hint of a British accent, despite having lived in California for many years.

Stephanie Hunt-Crowley was someone I wanted to meet - we have been very entertained by her stories in the AHR! - she is now resident in the USA having lived for many years in Canada. Viv and Pete Machen, now living in Canada, had their British bred Kharisar Elice entered, she looked pretty as a picture and not out of place in the American ring.

Finally late afternoon on the Wednesday, after the hectic days of preparation, we finally sat down ringside to watch Sweeps. Rudy and Ella were both entered (the same judging arrangements as described for LeHigh, but without any babies under 6 mths. of age). Everyone assembles in their class in number order - but that is not alphabetical order. Entries are taken by dog show organisations - they arrange EVERYTHING! - and in this case it was the well known Jim Rau Dog Shows Ltd, they allocate ring numbers on a receipt basis (and all entries are notified to exhibitors a week before the show, so you know exactly the timing, entry and programme for the show). (For the record entries are cheaper than the UK and entries close much later - usually 3 weeks before the date ot a show).

All exhibits enter the ring and are sent around the whole ring twice and assemble in the corner before assessment. Each dog is examined then sent in a triangle and then all around the ring to the end of the line, they can then relax until the judge is ready to make placements - and relaxing means they can move out of order, go out of the ring - we even saw one exhibitor leave the ring and put the dog back on its grooming table where his coat was blow-dried all over gain! Back in the ring, exhibits are short-listed, moved repeatedly and placed whilst on the move. Placements are 1 st to 4th only, and the gifts presented were breathtaking, not just rosettes, which were large and multicoloured, but lead crystal, mounted prints, bronzes, jewellery, etc. and in Sweeps only 35% of entry money is retained for expenses, the rest is divided as prize money for winners (Guaranteed!), 1 st =40%, 2nd = 30%, and so on. Rudy was third in his class which won enough to pay for a round ot drinks or two!

In the evening we went off to dinner at a local bar and were accompanied by Rosemary Sutton and Claudia Jakus. What a night! Rosemary and Claudia are larger than life and were great company.

Back again on the Thursday to see the dogs Classes, fortunately Paul Lepiane (Publisher of AHR) had saved us seats ringside (for Simon too) to watch the gorgeous Richard Souza (Coastwinds) in action. I found his ring procedure riveting, whether you liked his placings or not, it was obvious what he was looking for and this was reflected in his winners.

I was delighted after classes were complete to be introduced to not only Richard but also Peter Belmont, of Elmo fame. Peter has a unique view and although you may not necessarily agree with his philosophy, you have to admire his belief in the breed. How I would love to see him round the table with some British stalwarts presenting his view on the Afghan Hound!

During the interval we had the opportunity to stroll around the show. Outside Pure Pet had provided bathing facilities (this was forbidden in the hotel rooms); there were three or four grooming tables, plus everything you could want, including hot and cold water, hosepipes, shampoos, conditioners, etc. This was all FREE OF CHARGE! Back inside the grooming area took up half the hall. The carpeted floor had been covered with nonslip plastic, and electric points were provided via extension leads, all over the place - there were certainly plenty to go around. There were lots of dryers to be seen and almost all dogs are crated, which combine as grooming tables. I find it hard to understand why there should be such criticism of these crates, It is certainly safer for the dogs with so many people and equipment about - and there were no benches (which begs the question, if a bench is OK why not crate?)

Back to our ringside seats to watch the start of the Bitches Classes, up to Junior, which were judged by George Guthrie. The same format applied as before, with the remainder of the classes being judged the following day, plus BOB competition, also to be judged by Mrs Guthrie.

Around 6pm everyone disappeared off to the Annual Meeting, or, in our case, off to rooms to change for dinner. We went to a gorgeous Italian restaurant not far from the hotel, the only drawback was they were not licensed ~or alcohol (but you could take you own!) Afterwards we returned to the hotel for "An Evening with Lois" We never did discover who Lois was, but she certainly could sing, and everyone was joining in with the Karaoke!

The following morning we were back ringside to watch the final day s judging. This was the day I was waiting for because Best of Breed was to take place later in the day and I waited with anticipation to see the dog of my dreams - Taco, (this was only after the breakfast room was enlivened by a small fire at the buffet table - absolutely nothing to do with us at all, despite the rumours!)

We settled down again with Paul and Simon to watch completion of the Bitches Classes. As with Richard Souza, Georgie Guthrie moved them a lot and kept on shortlisting, before arriving at her 1st to 4th in each class. Whether you like Afghans in America or not, they move - they want to move - and they keep on moving. We saw hardly any that were lethargic and even fewer that would not be handled by the judges (which, of course, is not tolerated in American rings).

One thing I did note, despite all the suggestions that everyone in America rings race around at high Speed, (confirming, yet again, the incorrect assumptions which are all too willingly jumped upon here), this was not evident in the Classes, although the pace did quicken for a few exhibitors in the smaller available ring space for Best Of Breed.

The Parade of Veterans was squeezed in between Junior Showmanship and Best Of Breed, and what a turnout they had, with each of them deserving their moments of glory. A short resume of their lives was given, a la AHA style, and all were presented with beautiful medallions to commemorate their attendance. There was an official (professional) photographer for all three days of the show, and, as with every winner, photographs were taken of all of them individually, plus all the veterans together in a group, some 25 of them.

Roger Rechler, owner of the world-famous Grandeur kennels, can always be relied upon for putting the "Grand" into "Grandeur", and the last veteran to appear was handled by none other than Reigh Abram (together with her late husband Dewey, owners of the Dureigh kennels), who sedately entered the ring with Ch. Shahkira of Grandeur. Shahkira was a top winning daughter of Blu Shah, and she in turn is the mother of Ch. Shapphire, record breaking mother of the new record breaker Ch . Tryst (who, incidentally, won Best Opposite later in the day)!

We were delighted to have the opportunity to talk pedigrees with Reigh, and were enthralled listening to her reminiscing, with such obvious atfection, about her own and other dogs from earlier years (the Dureigh kennel was established in 1940). She has an envious recollection of the breed.

We were again thankful that Paul had very kindly reserved our front line seats, because the ringside was packed for the Best Of Breed competition . What a sight to behold as 72 "specials" entered the ring one by one to deafening applause from spectators. They were all lined up facing in towards the middle of the ring because there were too many to stack them all side by side!

The class was then split into dogs and bitches and judged in small batches, needless to say when not required in the ring, everyone went hotfoot back to the grooming area to get busy titivating dogs and handlers!

After years of waiting to see Taco (Am. Ch. Pahlavi Puttin On the Ritz), I didn t have to wait long today as he was the first of the males to be seen. I had deliberately kept away from Karen Wagner s grooming area because I wanted to see him in the ring in all his glory. When I saw him standing there I have to confess to shedding a tear or two, few dogs have stirred me so emotionally, but Taco chilled my spine (it was not an attack of the vapours as Paul suggested!).

He is magnificent and at an incredible 11 years (yes 11!), this was probably his last chance to take the record of National BIS wins (he equalled the record of 3 two years ago). The crowds were with him (he was obviously their choice!) and he rose to the occasion, sweeping around the ring, moving perfectly, to deafening applause. A truly outstanding dog.

Sadly, to the disappointment of many, he was not awarded BIS, and, with emotions stirred, there were a few tears. But we mustn't lessen the victory for the eventual winner, Am. Ch. Buena Vista Khabardar. As mentioned earlier, Tryst was BOS and Awards of Merit went to Taco, his daughter Am. Ch. Casbar Sugar-N-Spice, Am. Ch. Applause Majic Show, Am. Ch. Regency and Am. Ch. Qamari s Rainbow Rider.

The final classes of the show were then judged and I was thrilled to handle Ali s mother Am. Ch. MyWay You Gotta Have Heart in the Brood Bitch class, with MaryAnn handling Chance and David having Red. WE WON!! (Am I the first Brit to handle a winner at the National?!) Imagine my delight when David and MaryAnn gave me the beautiful lead crystal bowl that Diva had won (now you can see why we needed an extra suitcase!).

All that remained now was for me to meet Taco close up. He was still beautifully groomed and stood perfectly on his crate while I admired him. I was privileged that Karen allowed me to go over him and it confirmed in my mind why he has won so much - for me, the perfect dog.

The conclusion of the National was celebrated with the Awards Banquet, and host for the evening was none other than Dave Frei (with wife Sandy Withington-Frei, owners of the highly successful Stormhill kennel). We were delighted that Dave welcomed us in person before the evening began. The awards were not just for winning dogs, they also acknowledge the efforts of breed clubs with respect to rescue, obedience, education, etc. Later in the evening Michael Canalizo (Grandeur) compered a game show along the lines of TV s Family Fortunes. This was a hoot as amongst the team members was Rosemary Sutton and she and Michael kept the audience in stitches most of the night! After a celebratory nightcap in the bar (MaryAnn had done really well, selling most of her stock), we then crashed out, after a busy few days, only to start again the following day....

Liz O'Connor (Renza Afghan Hounds, UK) 1994
(extract) for Afghan Hound Times


Liz's Full USA Visit Report (12 pages)

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