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Looking Back With Lee – Remembering The Top Dogs Of The Past

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From the archives of The Canine Chronicle, April, 2014

By Lee Canalizo

I may not be out in the trenches every week like I used to be, but I still know everything that is happening in our little world. Sorry, not going to chat about anything gossipy or titillating… that’s not what I care about. What brings a smile to my face is when I look at today’s top dogs vying for their little piece of history.

I think there is a larger percentage of the top dogs being shown now that have a closer relationship with their respective breeders and owners than in the recent past. And if they are not directly owned by/or with a breeder, the principle owner has achieved a firm position within the sport over the years.

It has to be noted that while a few of these high rollers are not in ownership with their breeder, they are under the guidance of professionals that have a long association with the breed. Sometimes that relationship has forged an understanding of the breed that comes as close as having their names on the actual registration papers. The days of major breeding kennels are long gone. Back in the day when a prominent enthusiast housed a kennel with 50 to 100 dogs, they would also have a kennel manager to oversee every aspect of that operation. That included the breeding decisions. It was more than part of the job description… they had a vested interest in the success of what was produced. Their winning depended on it. Those seasoned professionals also had the luxury of knowing the backgrounds of their stock and could always plan for future stars as the years went on. They also didn’t have to shop for a “sponsor” or “backer” in those days…there wasn’t a “Team So and So”… there was an association and assumption that came with the job. There was always a fierce sense of loyalty between those stockmen and their bosses.

I see red every time I hear about a handler who veers from their commitment to some of these generous patrons. But I’m not going into someone else’s business decisions because there will always be conflicting accounts of what really happened. However, when a (up-and-coming) handler with his first top dog hits a wall with an “owner” late in the last quarter of the show season, and makes the decision not to see the dog to the end of the year at the behest of the breeder and owner who leased the dog out, that decision did not sit well with the outside observers within the breed. Trust me, I heard very few of those sorts of situations back a few years… it wasn’t always just about money.

Of course, the sport benefited when an established patron was active. The ilk of a Mrs. Cheever Porter, Mrs. Jane Firestone or Mr. Sam Lawrence made great positive contributions to the breeds they had a close affinity toward. (Another article on them may be in the offing) They also had longstanding and often personal relationships with the handlers they chose to exhibit their dogs. To those naysayer’s that take issue with those who “campaign” a dog to these lofty levels, remember every one of those dogs has a great breeder involved in their success. If it weren’t for those clever breeders who knew what they were doing, some of these wonderful examples of the breed would never have shown the fancy much of the best that breed has to offer. When my son Michael had the Number One Dog of All Breeds, I would hear lots of bitching when he would pop up somewhere. It was another top breeder who chided those critics with this astute comment, “ be thankful he’s showing dogs of such correct type… imagine how much trouble we’d be in if they bred ugly, incorrect dogs!” He went on to mention that judges in all parts of the country were at least recognizing dogs in other areas that shared a desirable make and shape to that of some of the top winning dogs he exhibited. And there were many entry-level exhibitors across the nation that had a great thrill to do a “meet-and-greet” with the “Big Winner” in their neck of the woods!

Back to the current cast of stars… At least two of the highest-ranked dogs are breeder/owner/handled and/or owner/handled, two more are shown by professional handlers with an established relationship with the respective breeder. Most of the balance are being shown by professional handlers that have had great success in the same breed in previous years. All of which makes for opportunities to see breeds shown to perfection and within accordance of their breed standard(s). This is important because we know whenever a top dog is being shown, many will breed to him or buy from that line. This has an impact on a breed. When a breeder is so closely involved in the showing of a breed, it sets the bar a bit higher not only for those in direct competition in the ring but also with regard to presentation, conditioning and grooming. It shows those on the sidelines how the breed should be presented correctly. And many of those lining the rings for a glimpse of the great ones are judges, owners and future judges of these breeds. Those first impressions are lasting ones. I can name many dogs that at first sight left an indelible mark in my mind; and to this day I use them as a template when assessing another of that breed. As you can tell, there is more to these top dogs than just collecting awards, these dogs contributed to the breed and to the sport.

I will wager that a few of you got your first Bulldog after seeing “Fearnaught” or your first English Setter after being at a show where “Rock Falls Colonel” was first seen.

If you own either of those breeds and those names don’t ring a bell…you’re either much younger than me or need to google their names and see what all the excitement was about!

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Posted by on Jan 28 2022. Filed under Current Articles, Dog Show History, Featured, Remembering Our Past?. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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