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.

Girls and dogs

I was TERRIFIED of dogs when I was a little girl. I remember when the fear began, and I think I’ve recounted it before. My father adores dogs, like I do now. When I was about 6, we were living in a tiny apartment, waiting for our new house to be built. A doberman (my father’s favorite breed) and a rough collie lived in the complex, and Dad liked to take us outside, just to watch the dogs play. One evening, I was completely knocked over and trampled by the dogs (who were just having a case of the zoomies, and not paying attention). I thought they were out to kill me, and I was extremely scared of dogs from then on.

But in a few years, some magical, inherent dog-loving switch turned on–I don’t even know what it was–and I became OBSESSED with dogs, kind of like I am now. I started memorizing dog breeds when I was 8 or 9. I gave complicated advice to the neighbors about what kind of dog they should get, based on their lifestyles. I started a dog-walking business, just to have an excuse to spend time with dogs, since my parents were reluctant to get us one of our own.

And yet I didn’t get a dog of my own until Emma, when I was about 14. I had to wait a long time for her, and I feel like I had to wait even longer for Pyrrha, but I still love to see little girls with dogs. It warms my heart.

All that to say, here are just some cute photos of girls and the dogs they love, culled from my Pinterest board, Woman’s Best Friend.

Source: Les Zigouis.
Tanis Guinness (of the beer fortune) and her pekingese, Ta Wang, at a New York dog show in 1912.
A farm girl and her collie.
Bluetick coonhound and friend. Photo: Flickr user texturejunky.
Young Elizabeth Taylor and a pair of poodles.
Young Queen Elizabeth and her corgi, Dookie.
A little girl and her puppy. Source: LIFE Magazine.
Kisses! Source: LIFE Magazine.
Kristina and Lola the lab. Photo: Stepan Obruckhov.
“1924. Our Billy and me.”
Girl and her patient pup.
Afghan hound love.
Source: Seeberger Brothers.
Photo: Flickr user m.orti.

Did you love a dog when you were a young thing?

Pup links!

A weathered shepherd and his rough collie. Source: LIFE Magazine archives.

Dog-related links from around the Web this past week:

Life Without a Dog Is No Life for Me. Kristine reflects on the various sacrifices she’s made, welcoming Shiva into her life, and concludes that they were all more than worth it. An encouraging and insightful post for the currently dog-less, like myself. (Rescued Insanity)

April Is Adopt-a-Greyhound Month. Bunny the greyhound gives a very convincing case as to why adopted greyhounds make wonderful companions. I’m finding myself increasingly convinced! (Maybe greyhoundafterthis first dog?) (Tales and Tails)

UKC Leads the Way in the U.S. with Breed Standard Revisions. The United Kennel Club is revising some of its standards for breeds with more apparent health problems, including the basset hound, the German shepherd, and the pekingese. It’s a start! (Pedigree Dogs Exposed)

The Trouble with Puddles. Veterinarian Shea Cox gives some helpful advice about how to prevent your dog from contracting diarrhea. One easy way? Don’t let them drink out of stagnant pools of water, especially at the dog park. (The Bark blog)

Say Kibble! 10 Tips for the Perfect Pet Portrait. Wonderful pet photographer Kira DeDecker gives some practical tips about how to perfectly capture your pooch on camera. (Pawesome)

Dogs. Just a nice collection of vintage dog photographs and other canine-centric artwork. (Gems)

Warby Barker Turns the Four-Legged into the Four-Eyed. Warby Parker, my favorite source for eyeglasses (I’m wearing their Webb pair right now), released its new line of glasses for dogs, Warby Barker, aka a great April Fool’s joke. (Pawesome)

Hey, Look, a Water Noodle. The caption is just… too much. Goofy Boston terriers frolicking in a summer lawn. (Animals Talking in All Caps)

Not so much breed love

dachshund
This is Katie, my Denver landlord's anxious dachshund. Source: Me

As I’m thinking about the dogs that I’d love to have one day, I’m also making a mental list of the dogs I know I wouldn’t enjoy living with. As Stanley Coren points out in his book Why We Love the Dogs We Do, not every human personality is suited to every breed personality. There does seem to be a innate, temperamental reason why some people keep buying golden retrievers or Boston terriers or akitas again and again.

I don’t make this list to say that certain breeds are bad or unlovable, but rather that my personality is not especially keen on their personalities–and I just don’t think we’d live well together.

Yorkshire terrier ♥
A Yorkshire terrier. I add them noting an exception, my friend Emily's giant Yorkie, Oscar, who is precious. Source: Flickr, click photo to see user page.

That said, here is a list of the breeds I’m fairly certain I have no interest in ever owning…

  • Dachshunds.
  • All terriers. Yes, all.
  • Almost all toy breeds (Exceptions: papillon, pomeranian, Cavalier King Charles spaniel).
  • All brachycephalic breeds (pugs, bulldogs, pekingese, etc.).
  • All scent hounds.
  • Dalmatians.
  • Chows.
  • Labs. I KNOW. So un-American! I just don’t love labs. There it is.

What about you? Any breeds you’re pretty sure you don’t want?