Wednesday, November 23, 2011

To the Dogs

This was my first look at the big AKC "Meet the Breeds" dog show at the Javits Center last weekend. The floor was so thick with people, I couldn't see a single pooch.

What was more conspicuously on display than the dogs themselves was passion for dogs, starting with the throngs who paid the $15 admission, jammed the aisles of the show floor, and clustered three or four deep around the most popular breeds.

But naturally it was the owners and breeders who were really wearing their hearts on their sleeves. Many wore their enthusiasm all over their bodies. These folks are devoted, sometimes to a fault. The day this post went up the Times was fronting a story about how bulldog fanciers have bred the object of their affection into flat-faced asphyxiation. But they surely didn't mean any harm. At "Meet the Breeds," it was all in innocent fun.

The lady  at left was building excitement for Corgis, said to be the dog of choice at Windsor Castle and other places where Queen Elizabeth hangs her hat.

She was doing a carefully rehearsed princess wave when I snapped this, turning her wrist the way you do when you're putting in a lightbulb. If you have to put in your own lightbulbs.

Anglophiles had other choices. The man in charge of the English Foxhound booth dressed himself up for a cross-country hunt and reclined on some haystacks.

I always thought it was beagles they sicked on the foxes, but these dogs were tall and deep chested, with legs like tree trunks. I'm not surprised some people think that as sports go, fox hunting isn't very sporting.

Not all the breeds had this kind of parade float support, but plenty did. The Newfoundlanders had what may have been the most eye-catching, a bunch of breeders in bright yellow foul weather gear.  Their act was one of the biggest crowd pleasers.

But my favorite was the Samoyed booth, where I learned you can make clothing out of dog fur and still keep the dog.  Dog hair from some breeds spins up nicely into yarn. This is Peggy Gaffney, whose website is at

The piece she was working on was lovely, but it was a letdown to learn she was wearing a sweater made of ordinary lamb's wool.

"Samoyed is eight times warmer than regular wool," told me. "If I was wearing it now, I'd be sweating."

I didn't try very hard to fact check that claim, but Wikipedia says Samoyeds shed their warmest undercoats twice a year. No sheering; all you have to do is collect it and go to work on your wearable sweat lodge.

Man's best friend for sure.

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