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Texas Biscuits at Westminster!

Photo by Lisa Croft-Elliot

By Amy Fernandez

There’s always been something vaguely schizophrenic about Westminster and the split venue seems to have brought it to the forefront. It’s straddling two worlds trying to stabilize its brand message.

Is this a celebration of top winners or the ultimate showcase for the achievements of hobby breeders- the proverbial bedrock of our sport? This loyal group has always been the essential element keeping this venture afloat.  But after the demise of benched shows, they sort of became the silent majority.  Westminster’s role in that respect has become more crucial than ever.

From a policy standpoint, relocating to the Piers was designed to highlight their participation. Westminster has never been easy, but some feel this has actually made it even more difficult and complicated for that segment of the fancy.

Ask Karen-Brook Hodges about that. Since 1989 this Texas native has been breeding her Metak Samoyeds and basically epitomizing the sport’s concept of breeder/owner/handlers. “I made my first trip to Westminster 20 years ago and so much enjoyed New York and Westminster.” Based on that experience she also vowed never to bring a dog to Westminster or drive to New York.  “This year I found myself doing both,” she says.

“It should be about a 27 hour drive.  But with the traffic and rain all the way up it took about 32 hours.  Heck that’s almost a work week.” Why would a sensible person drive from Texas to New York in February? Here’s why.

Karen has made it a personal mission to promote a color that’s rarely an upfront agenda in the Samoyed ring. “Our standard reads, ‘Samoyeds should be pure white, white and biscuit, cream, or all biscuit.’” Early in its history, the Samoyed gene pool included a wide range of colors- and the original standard allowed every color.  Clearly, that’s changed. But, as Karen points out, “These colors are to be given equal consideration.” Despite encountering plenty of resistance from judges “From my perspective as a breeder, discarding a good dog because of its color is just not an option. The Samoyed is not just a show dog. First and foremost, it is a working dog.”

As she explains, this isn’t simply a matter of aesthetics. “The colored dogs normally carry a coarser coat and for this reason, the cream, biscuit and white, and biscuit remains in our standard.  Breeding only white to white causes the coat to become very soft and droopy”, which obviously compromises functionality.  “A correct, harsh outer coat will stand even when it has blown (shed) the undercoat.  This is also why our standard prioritizes coat quality and not the quantity.”

Exhibitors in plenty of breeds can relate to this situation. Karen’s pretty adamant about it. She says, “I have been Breeders Education Chair for the Samoyed Club of America for 11 years and taught obedience classes for over 25 years so you can see I am all about education no matter what the subject is.  If new judges actually see good examples of biscuit, biscuit and white, or cream it stays with them.  Hopefully, when one walks in their ring, if it’s the best dog, they will reward it.  The Samoyed Club of America has been educating judges about color for over 30 years.  Yes, it’s that important for our breed.”

It was important enough to drive 32 hours cross-country in February. Actually, she didn’t really have much choice. She says, “I have a lovely white and biscuit bitch, Ch. Metaks Miss Demeanor. Two years ago she was BOS at the Samoyed Club of America National Specialty and last year she was BOB. After that win, the support we received was overwhelming.  Messages were coming from everywhere, saying that her win had given them hope and energy to continue to breed and show…and it was my obligation to have her in New York for Westminster.”

That was the general consensus of the Samoyed world but Karen admits, “The logistics of the trip were quite overwhelming. How do we get to the Piers? Where do we stay? We planned to drive from the hotel to the Piers until someone mentioned the horror of parking. So which hotels had the show shuttle? Where to bathe a dog? How to get your equipment to the show and back?”  Regardless of how many times you’ve done it Westminster is a complicated and unpredictable venture. “I called and emailed many friends with lots of questions.  I think the comment that helped the most was, ‘It’s just another dog show!’  Although we know it’s not, those words put it all into perspective for me.”  All things considered, the drive was probably the easy part.

So how did it go? Karen says, “The grooming proved to be a challenge, especially when you have a breed that takes two hours to groom and everyone is grooming at the same time on tables that are 2 inches apart!  It was totally crazy. But everyone was kind and worked together.”  (She should’ve seen it before it moved to the Piers!)

A triumphant wrap-up to this story would be great.  Unfortunately, Karen and Miina walked- like 99 percent of the exhibitors at the show.  They still come back. Westminster isn’t just about winning.  “We were on a segment of Entertainment Tonight and Good Morning America with Lara Spencer.  This was a lot of fun. The live streaming was great,” she says. As far as promoting the biscuit Samoyed, it’s hard to beat PR opportunities like that.

Karen says, “Since I love education I enjoyed answering questions for kids and talking with people about our breed. The benched show was really unique.  Some of the exhibitors I knew and some I didn’t, but by the end of the day I had made some new friends and deepened other friendships. I was amazed at how people in NYC stopped to help us with directions.  Like any big city, everyone is in a rush.  We didn’t ask. They asked us, ‘Do you need help finding something?’ My friend and I were both surprised and we left with a good feeling about New York City. It was a great experience and now I can now take it off my bucket list!”

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Posted by on Feb 28 2018. Filed under Current Articles, Featured. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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  • December 2018