A snowstorm, sleet and bitter cold couldn’t keep me away from this year’s Westminster Dog Show, my annual foray from Fort Lauderdale into NYC to meet and mingle with Portuguese Podengos and breeds new to me. Being on crutches didn’t help; I’d had a close encounter of the big dog kind three months earlier and fractured my knee. Not fun.
But none of that mattered, once I arrived at Saturday’s Meet the Breeds at Pier 92 on the West Side Highway. I was in Dogland! And, the breeds I discovered to share with you are very cool. All of them are rare breeds here in the United States, but some have been around a long time. Here are my faves, some Podengo Power and a taste of the big ring at the show.
From Turkey to Italy to Holland & More!
One of the older breeds from Turkey, the Kuvaz caught my eye for their soft, white fluff of a coat, which can be spun into sweaters, collars and shawls. You know me, and if interesting fashion doesn’t stop me in my tracks, nothing will. So, I struck up a conversation with Susan Data-Samtak, who with her husband, John, has had Kuvaz for 42 years. I learned the breed are like cousins of the Great Pyrenees, the Akbash in Turkey and the Maremma in Italy. Glow (Starhaven’s Radiant Glow), Savannah (Lady Savannah Double Ring) were representing in the booth. Glow is a retired Grand Champion 12 year old, who is now a therapy dog. Savannah is six.
The Lagotto Romagnolo:
An ancient breed from north central Italy, recently resurrected, the Lagotto is the older of the water dogs, dating way back to the Etruscan days. They are smart, friendly and a bit shy and were bred as water fowl retrievers. When they evolved onto land, they became truffle hunters because they have an extra great sense of scent for the tasty treats. Bugsy (L.K. Benedetto CGC) said hi as he was getting some r&r prior to competing in the big show.
This historic breed from Holland, which made its entrance in the 1800’s, was officially named as a breed in the 1940’s and, apparently, looks the same today as it did back then. There are only about 400 of them in the U.S. and Canada. I chatted with Page Van Amson of the Ameri-Can Stabyhoun Association, originally created by Lee Brewer. The Stabyhoun is cuddly, loyal (the word translates from the Dutch Frisian to English to mean “stand by me dog,”), smart and active, but does have “an off switch” and can be sensitive. I met Molly, a breeding female.
An ancient breed from Hungary, there are currently only 390 registered in the U.S. The Pumi was bred to herd cattle, sheep and pigs. They possess a hair, not fur, coat. Like many herding dogs, the Pumi need a lot of early socialization and a job to keep their minds and bodies active. They are smart and energetic. Pushkin was representing.
Wait…did someone say Podengos?
On Monday, I had to arrive early enough prior to the Podengos Best in Breed competition to hang with my Sophie’s tribe. I got to see old friends like Sandy Gillen, whose Teasel took 2nd in Best of Breed last year. This year, she was with Paisley, a gorgeous wire-haired girl. Margaret Boisture came with three dogs this year – David (GCH Tahtitaivaan), who last year was handled by her son, Jonathan Waterman, Cabrita (GCH Ch Cabrita da Quinta dos Saloio) and Lisbon (Ch Star Mountain Princess Lisbon).
Darry Frank was with Marco Polo (Broken Road Marco Polo of Prestige) again this year. And, I met new friends. Radical (GCHA Ch Radical de Viamonte) who took the Best in Breed honor, and the blonde and beautiful Belle (GCH Cin Shar’s Belle of the Ball) and her owner/breeder/handler, Mike Ohlinger. All of Mike’s Podengos are blonde and Belle, while coming up empty-pawed this year, was the #1 bitch in the breed in 2016. I reveled in the smooth coats and wire haired, all fun, perky Portuguese Podengo Pequenos our Sophie taught us to love, and we don’t get to see much of but once a year.
At one point, the day before Valentine’s Day, Cabrita and David got into it, smooching up a storm in their mom and handler’s arms, respectively. So cute!
The Hounds Came A’Hunting…
Monday night at Madison Square Garden, the air was filled with nervous excitement. Dogs, handlers, breeders and dog lovers packed the pavilion, prepping for their big moment or oogling the gorgeous dogs. I stopped by Radical’s spot to wish him luck before I headed to join the photographers where, each year I get the best shots of the dogs and, especially, the Best in Breed Podengo as they take the table to be evaluated by the judge.
While this wasn’t the Podengo’s year to win even Best in Group, it’s only been five years since they were entered into the AKC. And for me, it’s less about who wins than just being with the dogs. For us dog lovers, can you really have too many pups to pet? I don’t think so!
Have you ever experienced the Westminster Dog Show? Whether you’re someone who got your dog from a breeder, or someone who rescues, it’s an experience to behold!