Newsletter 3
The Power of Dog Books
Jan. 14, 2010

Hi Everyone,

Hope you and your dogs are all well. Winter has set in here in the Atlanta area. The sky is gray and bleak and the trees have lost all their leaves. I tell myself that it's the time of year to appreciate their sculptural qualities, but it just isn't the same. A few blooms remain on the rugged antique roses in my backyard garden. The occasional pine, the azaleas, a huge holly growing by the library window and my palms are the only things that provide a green respite.

Palms, in Atlanta? You betcha. (Warning: This is one of my little diversions so feel free to skip it if you want to get to the doggy stuff which follows.) I raise a number of palms to provide me with memories of my childhood and early adult years in Florida. I was delighted to discover that there are a number of species that survive sub-zero weather. Alas, I can't have the huge royal palms that grew in front of my childhood home, but one does have to make compromises in life. Sometime I'll have to tell you about what I have named: The Great Palm Rustling Caper and how Cocoa helped us carry it all off. There's a law here in Georgia that prevents individuals from removing endangered plants from their natural habitat. But, there is nothing to prohibit developers from coming in and bulldozing these plants into oblivion. With the help of another Florida refugee, we began a year long odyssey to save a stand of reedle palms which don't normally grow this far north.

Okay, back to dogs and books. While listing all the dog books on ebay, I have been transported back to the very first days of my collection. Do you remember how you felt when you got your first registered dog and wanted to know everything? When I embark on something new, for me, it's akin to falling in love. It's the same kind of passion, just without the sex. There's the same heady excitement, the desire to know everything, the delight as each new discovery is unveiled and the warm glow of satisfaction from being accepted and appreciated.

I had been in dogs for less than a year when I discovered the power of dog books and magazines. They say that "knowledge is power" and I can attest that it's true. I'll have to backtrack for a minute. (Warning. Warning: Another diversion approaching.)

I never intended to get involved in dogs. We had always had mutts when I was growing up. One Sunday, shortly after Harve and I were married, while out shopping, I found myself in one of those pet shops in a mall and I stood transfixed by the amazing variety of breeds. I was particularly taken by the Weimaraners. It was something about the combination of the sleek gray coats and the blue eyes that intrigued me.

The very next day, Harve happened to spot a framed photo of a Weimaraner on the desk of a co-worker. He told him about our mall encounter with the breed. "I have a litter of puppies," the man said. "Why don't you come over and have dinner with us." Harve had only been on the job a week, the guy was his boss and, besides, it was a nice demonstration of Southern hospitality. Later, I realized how sneaky it really was. That man knew that the puppies were irresistible and he'd make a quick sale. And, so he did. One little female plopped her butt down in my lap and that was all she wrote. I couldn't leave without her.

Klunker, our new puppy (yes, I realize what an undignified name it was, but that's another story), grew quickly and soon she was hauling us down the street when we took her on walks. It was clearly time for obedience school. We signed her up for classes and she did quite well. At the conclusion of every class, they had a graduation, which included an obedience fun match with everything from novice to utility. I was amazed and, when Klunker placed 2nd in Novice A, I was hooked. I wanted to know everything about this new world of dogs.

With the urging of Klunker's breeder we joined the local Weimaraner club. The truth be told, I felt totally out of place. The people were friendly and gracious, but they spoke a language that was foreign to me. The dog world, it seemed, had its own jargon and shorthand and I had no idea what they were talking about. How did a dog become a champion, what the heck was angulation and why weren't people offended by the word bitch? If there's one thing I hate, it's feeling confused and out of it. The very next day I headed to my local library and checked out a stack of dog books. I devoured these and went back for more. I sent in subscriptions for the AKC Gazette, Dog World and, I think, Popular Dogs.

Fast forward a few months. It's January, 1972. Klunker is nine months old now. She got her CD when she was just six months old and we're now training her for her CDX. After a couple of conformation fun matches, I've realized she isn't going to become a champion. I'm saving my money for a show puppy, trying to learn all I can and concentrating on developing the ability to spot superior dogs.

I'm sitting ringside for the judging of the groups and Best in Show at the Greater Miami Dog Club, the last show on the Florida circuit. These were the days before the gas crises, when the AKC had strict rules prohibiting the clustering of dog shows. The Florida shows launched the dog show year and they were strung like pearls on a necklace from the Panhandle to Miami. (There are many more Florida clubs these days, of course.) With the exception of California, they were the only game extant for the rest of the dog showing country. All the best dogs, both veterans and up-and-comers, were sent on the Florida circuit. Those with rarer breeds knew their best chance for that elusive major would be in the Sunshine State. From the midwest to the northeast to Texas, the best of the best came to Florida in January. All those top-winning dogs that graced the magazines were right here before me in the flesh. Ditto for the winningest handlers in the country and the best judges.

The crowd had thinned by the time the groups were judged. My head ping-ponged between the catalog in my lap and the dogs being ushered into the ring. The seats next to me and behind me began to fill with people massaging their sore feet and hailing new arrivals. I took a look around and my jaw dropped momentarily. Holey-moley. I was in the very epicenter of a group of top handlers and judges who had already completed their breed assignments! We're talking ground zero here of the day's dog show hall of fame. There were several top handlers with multiple Best in Show winners out in their motor homes. This just didn't happen to be their day. Among those present was a woman who had judged Best in Show at last year's Westminster and authored several of the books on my shelves at home. She would go on to win a lifetime achievement award from the AKC. The heavily waxed and curled mustache identified another man as one of the dog world's legends. He, too, had judged Best in Show at Westminster. Another judge was a woman who had just retired from the professional handler ranks and launched her judging career. Did she dream, at that point, that one day she too would be judging Best in Show at Westminster? Yea, probably. In fact, there were two more people in attendance that day who would go on to achieve that honor.

I grabbed Harvey and dug my fingers into his arm. He's always my anchor when my emotions are threatening to take me over a cliff. I'm sure I blathered something indeciferable at him while I tried to clear my head. I wanted to gush like a teenager in love, heaping praise on these folks, bombarding them with questions and asking the professional handlers how much they charged. Instantly I knew, though, that this would just brand me a rookie. How many times, I wondered, do you get chances like this? What's the likelihood that you'll ever find yourself among what could only be called dogdom's elite? There had to be something I could do rather than just sit idly by like a lump.

It was those dog books and magazines that came to my rescue. The toy group was entering the ring and it included a stunning Poodle. Now, I knew beans about Poodles, but the dog did remind me of a photo I'd seen in a recent dog magazine. It was an obituary for a Miami couple who had raised the breed and it talked about their delight, ten years earlier, when their dog had won at the Greater Miami show.

"Sort of reminds you of Ch. so-and-so," I casually commented and the assembled group agreed. "Who was it that owned that dog?" one of them asked and there I was, ready with the answer. From then on, they all assumed that I'd been around dogs for years. It was that easy. For the next hour-and-a-half, I was included in their conversation. I even worked in questions about dogs they had handled or judged. I heard great stories and gossip, including the speculation that a current top Best in Show winner being campaigned had had his bite improved by his dentist owner. A couple of the handlers talked about outstanding prospects they had seen and offered to buy. I would see them, in the next few years, in the winner's circle in dog magazines. When we were all nice and chummy, I happened to notice that a few of the local dog folk wandered by and looked at me in amazement. How the heck, they surely wondered, had I been welcomed into this group? When next we met, they no longer treated me like an outsider.

Now, don't get me wrong: on plenty of occasions, I put my foot in my mouth. There were even days when I crammed both of those suckers in. And, in later years, when I met these judges and handlers, they didn't know me from Adam. But, for one glorious late afternoon in January, I reaped the rewards that came from reading all those dog books and magazines.

Well, it's now the New Year. Soon, it will be Superbowl Sunday which is what always signals to me that we really have started a new year. I will drag out the old cast iron pot and make a big batch of gumbo using a simple recipe that's been handed down in the family for generations.

I hope one of your New Year's resolutions is to expand your doggy library. I'm excited because I've almost finished listing all the duplicates in our ebay store. I have probably less than 50 books until I'm finished. This morning, I flung open the French doors that lead to my library and stood gazing at all the shelves. (Okay, truth be told, I had to gaze through a jungle of tropical plants. It's winter, the library has lovely large windows, and orchids, palms, African violets and an assortment of other heat loving plants take up residence in the library in winter.) I was both excited and a bit overwhelmed. So many books to list. How long will it take? Do I start with the boxes stacked in the corner or plunge right into the breed shelves starting with A?

Most people who see these newsletters received them via our ebay store. I hope you appreciate that I've tried to make each of these newsletters unique, instead of the usual ebay sales promos. In return, I'd like you to do me a favor. If you could include the
link on any of your favorite doggy sites or forums, I'd really appreciate it. They tell me that's one of the best ways to move your website up in google searches. We'd also appreciate it if you could provide a link to our ebay store;


Best to all,

Cathy, Harvey & Cocoa