Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Title Chasing? Okay, you can call it that I guess.

(no photoshopping was done to this photo. It's the actual lighting outside the Long Beach Convention Center at night )

I knew Darby Crash was special from the very start, but I never imagined he'd take something that had been so difficult and not a lot of fun for me and turn it inside out and upside down. Showing in conformation had never been fun until, it was just work and nerves, until I met Darby. The first show he and I went to was about a week after Georgianna gave him to me, he had just turned 6 months and was barely trained to stack.

He got a 3 point major that weekend, the judge said it was his exceptional movement. That was the first of many times I would hear that from a judge. When he was 14 months old, we took a chance and drove to 1,400 miles to Ft. Worth Texas for the Greyhound Club of America's Southern Specialty. I was told not to expect much, the competition would be big, perhaps a little out of our league. He finished his Championship at that Specialty, I guess we weren't so far out of our league after all.

You can't go to Texas and not stop at the Cadillac Ranch!!! 

And you can't go to the Cadillac Ranch without tagging something
Now what?  He finished his Championship. We'd had our first really awesome road trip. It was a little disappointing; showing was getting to be fun, and Darby was still maturing and getting nicer and nicer looking by the month. H and several other folks asked if I was going to 'special' him, the answer was a no brainer, of course we were.
Yay for more standing around and looking pretty. Such a challenge....not.

What is "Specialing a dog?" you ask? Good question.
She forgot to mention toys and treats and chewies and new beds and collars and leashes...I don't work for free.

Besides being expensive (entry fees, traveling costs, time off work, etc), time consuming and often times highly political, Specialing a dog is continuing to show in conformation past getting a dog's Champion of Record title. You no longer show in regular classes, just in Best of Breed and Group competition, competing against mostly other Champions. You do it to accumulate breed points to have the dog ranked in their breed by the number of it's own breed it's defeated. Many people who decide to special a dog hire well known professional handlers and will send a dog to large shows with that handler and heavily campaign the dog with advertisements in breed magazines (that judges read). And for what? To garner a placement in the top 20 dogs in the country and secure invitations to exclusive shows: the Eukanuba Invitational, Westminster and on the International level, Crufts. Basically, to gain top recognition within the breed. Our goal was slightly less lofty; I wanted him in the top 20. I wanted an invite to the Eukanuba as this is the last year it would be held here in California (it's moving to Florida henceforth). In addition, the AKC had created a new title for Champions of Record this year; Grand Champion; and I knew he could do that. And what's more? I knew he could do that with ME; no professional handlers, no big advertising, no selectively showing only to judges we were certain would place him. You know, we'd do it the hard way!
Pleeehhhh, this is what we think about Dog Show Politics and doing things the Hard Way.
Here's how it works:

  • In conformation competition a hound is awarded points towards his or her 'Championship' title by winning in what are called 'Regular Classes'. Points are awarded based on how many other dogs are defeated in the class. Points are classified as minor points (1-2 points each win) or major points (3-5 points each win). A hound is 'Finished' when they reach 15 points total, with at least 2 'majors' under 2 different judges. The minimum age to start competing is 6 months old, all dogs start out with 0 points, of course.
  • For a 'Grand Championship' title, finished Champions of Record compete at the Specials level (Best of Breed competition only) and are awarded Grand Championship points by winning Best of Breed, Best of Opposite Sex or by being awarded 'Select Dog' or 'Select Bitch' points by the judge at each show. Each Champion of Records starts with 0 Grand Champion points and gains the title after being awarded 25 points with at least 3 majors under 3 different judges. Calculating these points requires a degree in higher math, and I firmly believe the formulas invented to decide how to calculate the points was invented by some bored idiot savant.
  • If you're so inclined, here's a link on how to calculate the points for GCh.
So we began anew in April, showing in Best of Breed, owner handled always. We didn't show excessively; one or two shows a month, sometimes more, sometimes less. In the the process, we worked our way up the standings. By the time invitations for the Eukanuba came out, we were #15 in the top 25. We were IN!
Stand-Stay in practice! We went for conformation AND our final Rally Novice leg.

We went to the Eukanuba Invitational in Long Beach, California in December. 
Darby turned 2 years old this show! Happy Birthday Darby Crash.
If you can't have fun, don't do it. We enjoy each others company immensely!

Darby showed very well, got to see Donna and Georgianna (who came to cheer him on!) and although we didn't place, we got to hang out with a lot of really neat people and hunker down in the 'Meet the Breed' booth when we weren't showing. We earned our final Rally Novice leg, and got Select points (one point shy of our Grand Championship!) More important, we introduced ourselves to everyone.
Hanging out with Tess at the Cocktail Party

Darby is very sociable and will "go say hello" to anyone and everyone. Everywhere we go, every road trip, Darby Crash meets people. More important than competing or winning or any of that blah blah blah is meeting and making new friends wherever we go (whether it's the local Home Depot or a trip to the East Coast). This huge show, the Eukanuba, was no exception. The show will be aired on ABC this Sunday, January 23rd. Keep your eye out for Darby Crash, he was schmoozing with EVERYONE, cameramen included and may show up in the 'Meet the Breed' interviews. Sort of a "Where's Waldo" to get you to watch the dog show! Except this is "Where's Darby Crash?" We had a really good time, although I can say I won't be traveling to Florida to do it again!

Darby in Blues (again, no photoshop here, this is the actual lighting.

In our last planned long show weekend, we traveled to Palm Springs to show at the Inland Empire/Palm Springs Kennel Club hound special. We got our last needed Select point and two Rally Advanced legs!
Our little Darby Crash is now GCh Ch Aragon Aroi Silver Lining, working on his rally titles. As of October, 2010 there were only 6 Grand Champion Greyhounds in the country (none with any obedience or coursing accomplishments, by the way), Darby is now amongst them! Stick a fork in us, we are DONE. And you won't find us talking about titles much more. Alphabet soup before and after a dog's name has never really been that important to me (in fact, fanatically and meticulously listing title abbreviations after a dogs name irritates the hell out of me. So few people REALLY know or care what all those letters mean. It's pretty silly, actually). This was a challenge, the grand champion thing, it doesn't really mean that much aside from the fact that we did it based on the dog's merits alone. I'm a nobody, judges don't know me from Jack. Yet we placed over professional handlers and top dogs. I haven't seriously campaigned Darby, he's won on his merits in the ring, not a magazine. THIS is what means something to me. And his obedience accomplishments. Obedience is practical. We use that everyday. Yes, we work hard to pass the tests that earn the titles, but the person it means the most to is me, not anyone else. We'll blog about that later. For now? We plan on taking some well deserved time away from conformation so the baby boy can grow up a little. He finished his Grand Championship less than a year from starting it at the tender age of only 2 years, with 4 majors under 12 judges. Now we let him grow up. We'll work on our obedience; finish rally legs and start regular obedience competition. In addition to fetching a lot of sticks

So many sticks, so little time.

Digging a bunch of gophers
when you stick your tongue out the side of your mouth, it means you're really concentrating hard!

Another one bites the dust!

and mastering control over his ears
Oh geez, not the ears!!!!

They give him special stalking powers.

I think his Merlin is showing.

Merlin, Darby's dad, on the right. As if you couldn't tell. Oh boy, we're in for the ears, I think.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Cardboard is Not Alone

Add Christmas tree ornaments to Darby Crash's Top 10 Destroy List. He doesn't really have a top 10, mostly just cardboard. Seeing as he plucked an identical Glitter Bird Tree Ornament clean of feathers, glitter, eyes and beak last year we will add it to his list. Since he has to wait an entire year to establish his tree ornament pattern I'm just going to go ahead and give him the benefit of the doubt. RIP little glitter bird.
Oh, and how do I know it was Darby??? Glitter-Lips, AGAIN.