Reflecting on Westminster

Westminster winner, Banana Joe the affenpinscher.

Banana Joe the affenpinscher took the Westminster cup last night, and I’ve been thinking about dog shows again.

As a child, I always loved watching Westminster on TV, mainly to parade my knowledge of all the obscure dog breeds (I was a pretentious little kid, primarily about dogs). My goal was to name the breed before the announcer did. But, in truth, I found dog shows pretty boring. Because, let’s face it: They are. Watching well-coiffed dogs trot in a circle for a few hours? Not exactly my idea of a good time.

But I remain peripherally interested in dog shows, if only because they tend to be a good indicator of how dog breeding practices are trending right now. (And because it is still at least fun to look at all the pretty dogs.)

In general, the trends disappoint me.

The United States has so far to go still in terms of prioritizing health over looks—but then again, health has never been the point of dog shows. Look at the X-ray of a winning Pekingese. That is not a healthy animal. Look at the back legs of this year’s German shepherd who took best of breed; they touch the ground, warping the spine and hips, and for no other reason than “that’s how they’re supposed to look.” It breaks my heart. The winning bulldog and winning pug have such an extremely squashed faces; they both look like they’re laboring to breathe just for the photo shoot. Don’t even get me started on the Neapolitan mastiff.

I like to dream of a world in which competing dogs have to pass a health and fitness test before they can be allowed to show for confirmation. Can the bulldog run the length of the ring without collapsing? Can the German shepherd pass a hip exam? The United Kingdom is moving toward such protocols, with great controversy, and the UKC is contemplating such tests itself. There’s a reason why the breeds that still have a working function—many of the scent hounds, for example—are healthy and look like they did in the 1800s. Accordingly, it makes sense that dogs that do not “need” to be healthy—toy breeds, brachycephalic breeds—have seen their breed standards fall to extremes to support the whims of human vanity.

My complaining about this, obviously, isn’t going to change anything. But I still like to dream of a better world for purebred dogs. Breeding animals like this, purely to suit our tastes, is nothing short of animal cruelty.

Pup links!

This little girl found her valentine. Source: LIFE Magazine.

Happy Valentine’s Day! Are you watching the conclusion of the Westminster Kennel Club show tonight? I’m going to watch it with my husband and his hilarious poetry colleagues from the university, who have an annual tradition of watching Westminster at a local sports bar. I am so excited. Could there be a more ironic combination of things? Poets + wings + cheap beer + dog show = I think not. Who’s your bet for the big win?

Dog show fun aside, here’s a few interesting links from around the Web:

Famous Artists Photographed with Their Dogs. Apparently, famous painters have a thing for dachshunds. Who knew? (Flavorwire)

5 Reasons to Adopt a Dog. These are the standard, excellent reasons, or at least, a great place to start in listing them. I like reminding myself of these reasons. I’m always surprised at how many people look sad or disappointed when I say I want to adopt an adult dog. “Don’t you want a puppy?” they plead. Next time, I’ll gently remind them of some of the elements on this list. (The Bark Blog)

NYC Dog Art Tour. A collection of canine artwork from around New York City. (Loving the Dog Art Today site redesign, too! So sleek!) (Dog Art Today)

Sharing the Love. Sweet-faced border collies and a dachshund with their Valentine’s message. (Raising Addie)

Pup links!

Lauren Bacall has a heart-to-heart with her cocker spaniel. Source: LIFE Magazine

Just a few dog-related links for you this week! Some thoughtful pieces, though.

America’s Pet Frenzy. An entertaining and informative infographic that presents a thoughtful look at how much we spend on our pets. The numbers are pretty insane. Americans spent $48.3 billion on pets last year! Most interesting to me: Only 15% of Americans get pets from shelters. If 100% did, they’d save $2.4 billion. (Frugal Dad)

Dogs & Frostbite: Everything You Need to Know. If you live in a very cold area, this is a great article about how to prevent and treat frostbite in your dogs. (The Hydrant)

Blogger’s Stakes, Or How I Blew My First Competition. Veterinarian Dr. V. participates as a handler in her first dog show. A fun and really enjoyable post. (Pawcurious)

Dog Painting. No, I totally want this book, too! It would be the best coffee table book. (Ulicam)

Pup links!

Kate Moss and a watchful border collie. Source: Via Camila Chaves

Dog-related links from around the Web this week…

Vintage Dog Show. A collection of photos from dog shows decades ago. The dogs look great; the people, not so much. (Miles to Style)

Herend Dogs. Rich, old dog ladies should fill their homes with these colorful figurines. (Miles to Style)

The never-ending dog show. And pictures. Lots of pictures. Great ones, too. These border collies look so joyful, whether in the backyard sprinkler or in the agility ring. (Hippie Dogs)

Maine: Island Life. I love these beautiful photographs of a peaceful family vacation with the dogs. I can’t wait to take my dog on vacation with me! (Big Bang Studio)

Italian Dogs. Poignant photographs of dogs met while on vacation in Italy. (Ulicam)

Building Your Dog’s Drive in Preparation for Obedience. Minette discusses how we can keep our dog’s play drive alert and active–and how it can be used for obedience training. (Dog Obedience Training Blog)

Which Would Work Better, a Dog or a Scanner? Personally, I’d much rather be searched by a dog than by a TSA agent! (Pet Connection)

Spaying the Neuter or No? Oh, my goodness. This is what I mean when I talk about people who shouldn’t get dogs… (You Suck at Craigslist)

A Dog Post. A funny comparison between the regal profile of a Rhodesian ridgeback and the sloppy face of a Basset hound (including a wonderful montage of Bassets running, which is always the funniest thing I see all day). (Confessions of a Pioneer Woman)

Not Your Stick. A helpful photographic explanation of how the game “Not Your Stick” is played. (Raised by Wolves)

Self-Gratification. A hilarious montage of one German shepherd’s delight in a big orange bucket. (Raising K9)

Dog v. Goon Squad. Dogs reading and lounging around with Jennifer Egan’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, A Visit from the Goon Squad, which I coincidentally loved. (Big Bang Studio)