Tuesday, February 13, 2007

History! Pagentry! Stupid little barrettes!

The ranch dogs can't figure out my fascination with the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, and I'm not sure I can either. There are a lot of things to dislike about it. While rescue groups struggle to find homes even for purebred dogs, some folks are breeding litter after litter hoping for a puppy whose muzzle is just a little wider or narrower or longer, a puppy who will define the ideal of a breed whose original purpose is something like "monk's foot warmer" or "badger slayer" or "sled hauler"—all noble tasks to be sure, but rare roles for dogs in America today. Dog shows are elitist, snobbish places where the people who succeed believe in ugly puppies. Ugly puppies? Seriously.

To be fair, it takes a lot of dedication—and money—to get a dog to Westminster. The people there are at the top of the sport. They are passionate about breed histories, pedigrees, and bizarre grooming rituals. Generally, Westminster dogs are not field champions or workers. At its root, Westminster is a canine beauty contest. At least Miss America is expected to have some kind of talent or skill. The dog who wins Best of Show at Westminster just looks more like its breed than other dogs look like their breeds. It sometimes feels like the orangiest orange winning over a very appley apple.

So, why do I watch? My best guess is that as a mutt lover, it's kinda like flipping through our dogs' family albums. Our current mongrel pack represents well over a dozen breeds, packed into five furry bodies.

In the Terrier Group, I see where one dog might get his brindle coat. With the Working Group, I notice the familiar bounce of ears that suggest one of our dogs is part Boxer or perhaps flying nun. I can watch a dozen Chihuahuas and Chow Chows. I can thank God I don't have a Chinese Crested. I suppose it's voyeurism, but it's also curiousity.

That's the deal with shelter dogs. We'll never know where our dogs came from, what their lives were like before they joined our pack. We can't be 100% sure of their parentage. We didn't see them as puppies, and they'll never have puppies of their own. But if they did, there is no way, no way, any of those puppies would be ugly.

1 comment:

arnold said...

I just can't watch Westminster anymore... not since seeing the classic "Best In Show." Something tells me the cast of dysfunctional crazies was not too far off the mark.

My shelter pup