Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Eukanuba World Challenge

Hi everyone - Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and here's hoping for a great 2011 for everyone. Thanks to the holidays I've been a bit absent on my blogging, but I need to get the World Challenge information up so you have a chance to digest it before the 23rd of January, when it will be broadcast on ABC.

If the Eukanuba National Championship is like the Stanley Cup of dog shows, the Eukanuba World Challenge is like the Olympics of dog shows. And to prove that point, the procession of the worlds dogs into the arena for the first judging was just as opulent. Every dog, who is a champion and selected by their country to represent the best of their best, was escorted into the ring by a handler, sometimes an owner, and by someone carrying their nations flag.

Entering the ring during the opening ceremonies, the eventual winner of the Eukanuba World Challenge
"AKC Ch, Grand Ch Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Uruguay, Mexican, Peru Int. Latino American Ch Alex de Akido San"

First, a little background.

The World Challenge is an event sponsored by the
American Kennel Club, the Fédération Cynologique Internationale (also known as the World Canine Organisation) and Eukanuba. Champion dogs from 50 countries were invited to the event for the chance to win the World Challenge trophy and $10,000.00. Judging is done a bit differently than the National Championship. The dogs invited were selected by their countries or international regions (in the case of some smaller European countries) as the best of the best. Those winners were divided into four groups (not Hound groups or Working groups as in the National Championship, but 4 groups of dogs without regard to region or breed of dog). Each group was adjudicated by judges considered to be the best in the world, and each judge will select 3 out of each group to participate in the finals. In the finals, one of the 12 will be selected to be the World Challenge winner.

The experience was particularly electrifying, watching these dogs and owners from all over the world walking into the ring. Each hoping to represent their countries as the best of the best - very much like the Olympics.

Eukanuba World Challenge Opening Ceremonies.

A happy St. Bernard participating in the World Challenge

An awesome Siberian Husky

-judging actually took place earlier in the day, with the judge responsible for each group secretly selecting 3 winners from their individual group. Only after each group is gathered into the main arena do the judges publicly select the top 3. One judge actually mentioned that he hadn't completely made up his mind until he saw the dogs re-stacked (displayed) that evening, which says something about how spectacular each animal really is.

Three winners selected to move on to the finals

On day two the 12 finalists were brought into the ring again. One - the Doberman from Argentina - would be selected and chosen the best of the world.

Next up - Best In Show.

Thursday, December 9, 2010


This is a continuation of my photo-blog of the AKC/Eukanuba National Championships

After learning that we will be blogging in full view of an international television audience (especially during the Eukanuba World Challenge), it was time for me to find a suit coat. I brought shirts and ties, but only a casual jacket - really not proper attire for the cameras. So it was off to the Casual Male XL for a proper jacket, then back to the hotel to rest up for a bit before heading back to the Hyatt for a pre-show cocktail party, then off to Long Beach Arena for the first night of the show.

Fronted by beauty - Left to right, Jenifer, Jennifer, Me, Dr. V and Bev holding "Flat Tyler".

Pink was the color of the night of course, and they had a wide selection of appetizers and wine spritzers. Definitely helped calm the nerves before heading out to the arena under the lights. Well, it calmed Jen's nerves - I'm used to being under the spotlight since I've played music on TV and on stage for over 40 years.

For those of you not familiar with dog shows, here's a quick primer on how dogs work their way through the event. First, each breed or variety must win their class. The class judging was held in the convention center earlier in the day.

Hank and Lorie being judged in the Smooth Collie event. The eventual winner is just to her right - a beautiful smooth collie named GCH CH Bit O Heavens Sorceress.

The winner of the Best Of Breed or Variety makes their way to their "Group". There are 7 groups:

* Sporting (examples - Pointers, Retrievers, Setters, Spaniels)
* Hound (examples - Afghans, Beagles, Greyhounds, Whippets)
* Working (examples - Akitgas, Shepherds, Mastiffs, Huskies)
* Terrier (examples - Bulls, Foxes, Scottish, Welsh)
* Toy (examples - Chihuahuas, Italian Greyhounds, Pekingese, Pugs)
* Non-Sporting (examples - Bichon Frise, Dalmatian, Poodle, Tibetan Spaniel)
* Herding (examples - Australian Shepherd, Belgian Sheepdog, Collie, German Shepherd Dog)

One representative from each group will be chosen to move to "Best Of Show", and one lucky dog (no pun intended) will win the show.

For each group the dogs and handlers are issued into the ring, then around to the back where they wait their turn to be judged. Another person is permitted just outside the back of the ring with combs, grooming supplies and other items so the dogs can be prepared for their turn with the judge.

When the next dog is called forward, a line of light appears on the carpet where the dog is to be lined up (staging for TV), and the judging begins. For smaller dogs, a table is available so the judge can stand while examining the animal.

GCH CH Bit O Heavens Sorceress preparing to be judged in group as the judge watches the prior dogs gate around the ring.

The judge will inspect the dog to see if it meets the breed standard.

The judge then sends the dog down the arena and back to watch how the dog moves.

Upon returning to the judge, the animal is to "free stack" correctly so the judge can render a final evaluation before sending the dog around the arena.

After all of the dogs are judged, they are then stacked again so the judge can make a final decision on 1st through 4th.

Next up - The Eukanuba World Challenge

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

A Picture-Blog Of Our Eukanuba Experience

Now that Jen and I have had a chance to get home and debrief ourselves, perhaps I can give you a better view of the incredible and awesome experience we had at the AKC / Eukanuba National Championship in Long Beach, California on December 4th and 5th. It will also give me a chance to publicly thank our hosts for the wonderful access we enjoyed while there.

For those of you who are new to the "dog show hobby world" (to borrow a phrase from a lawsuit to get back two of Jen's dogs taken from the kennel in 2009), you need to know what the AKC / Eukanuba National Championship is. According to my research, the AKC / Eukanuba National Championship is THE American Kennel Club's major show. It is not sponsored by a local kennel club - unlike the "National Dog Show" (hosted by the Philadelphia Kennel Club and Purina) or the "Westminster" (hosted by the Westminster Kennel Club in New York). While the National Dog Show and Westminster are indeed very prestigious shows and many champions and grand champion dogs attend these events, a dog must be invited to the Eukanuba, making it - in my opinion - the "Stanley Cup Finals" of dog shows.

(If this information is not correct, I would appreciate a redirect and I will post the correction)

In other words, the AKC / Eukanuba is a BIG DEAL! :)

So what follows is a rather long picture-blog of our adventure at the 2010 AKC / Eukanuba National Championship and the Eukanuba World Challenge:

Entrance to the Long Beach Arena

Blogger round table discussion with our incredible hosts Jason, Jenifer, and AKC Assistant Vice-President Gina DiNardo, who will also be a commentator during the broadcast of the event (scheduled for January 23rd on ABC).

Not pictured (as my pics were terrible) was the round table discussion with high level members of the AKC, P&G Pet Products / Eukanuba, and two distinguished members of the Fédération Cynologique Internationale. Most of this discussion centered around the Eukanuba World Challenge, which was also held at this event.

We were then escorted into the Arena where the televised event was to take place. Judging of Best Of Breed or Variety (the winners of Best Of Breed or Variety would represent that breed or variety in their "Group", such as the Hound group, Toy group, Working group, etc.) took place in the convention center earlier in the day. This picture is where group winners would have their picture taken.

This is the entrance to the ring, where all of the dogs, handlers and judges would enter and exit.

While looking over the winners circle and the 2nd through 4th areas, we were shown our seats - in front of the large AKC logo, on risers, 10 feet from the edge of the ring. Incredible!!!

The blogger tour group. Left to right: Jason from P&G/Eukanuba, Jenifer from P&G/Eukanuba, the blogger known as "Knobnotes", blogger Dr. V, Bev from P&G/Eukanuba, and Jennifer.

This is the view from our seats the night of the show - how AWESOME!

Bloggers at work.

This was an incredible opportunity afforded to us from the folks at Eukanuba, and I want to publicly thank Jason, Jenifer and Bev, as well as all of the other wonderful people who were responsible for this. Your hospitality was warm and welcoming. When Jennifer was invited to blog for this event, we never dreamed it would be like this. Thank you so very much for everything. :)

Next up - SHOWTIME!!!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Rock Star Treatment In The Dog World - Part 2

Sunday was Hank's day, and the real reason why Jen and I came to Long Beach - to take Mildred Corner's dream as far as we could, just as Mildred would have done herself if she would have been here with us. As many of you know, Mildred's life was cut tragically short by small cell lung cancer. It was Jen's and Lorie Barns (Mildred's close friend and handler of many of her championship Collies) desire to continue her work, especially with the two puppies she wanted to keep and show from the first litter of her own breeding stock. Lorie worked very hard over the last year and a half with both Hank (AKC registered as "GrCH, CH 5 C's Dreams Come True"), and Ivy (AKC registered as "CH 5'C's Precious Memories").

Lorie and her family showed up with Hank a bit before 8 and her and Jen worked to get Hank ready for the Best Of Variety show - the first contest to pick the best of this breeds variety - in his case, the Smooth Collie. There will be pictures posted later on Jen's facebook page, as well as the Mid Michigan Collies facebook page. There wasn't much to do - just some simple combing, a fluff of the hair around the neck area, and out to ring 9 we all went.

Hank - rated as number 17 in the nation at the end of qualifying - went up against 7 other smooth Collies (there were supposed to be a total of 10 - two contestants were no-shows), including a stunning Blue Merle female who was taking Best Of Variety in the two shows prior to Eukanuba. Hank and Lorie did very well, but it was very evident that the female was the better animal today, and she advanced to the Best Of Group contest. Hank, Lorie and Jen took some photos, including a couple while Jen held a picture of Mildred - at no time did ay of us lose focus as to why we were here, and while it would have been nice to win or even be noticed, the mission that started so many months ago was now complete. And as we have been reminded, Hank is a very young dog. He will continue to grow and fill out, and there is always the opportunity that he will obtain enough points to return next year. We are all proud of Hank, Lorie and everyone who helped them get to this wondrous event, and I would personally like to thank Lorie for her hard work and sacrifice.

So after a few tears and many hugs, it was time to decompress from the "show" portion of our trip. It was now our chance to enjoy the rest of the events there. There was a "Dock Dogs" demonstration event (where dogs jump off of a dock into a pool of water), where both amateur and professional dogs and handlers showed off this very fun sport. We also visited the agility rings, where dogs of all sizes competed in what I think is a very cool sport - running, jumping, climbing, tunneling, all very much like a steeplechase but with the dogs handler simply pointing the way towards the next obstacle. We also visited the obedience ring, and watched a young lady and her black lab perform a stunning display of obedience work.

One very cool section of this event was a "Meet The Breeds" section, where over 100 breeds of dogs are displayed and available to people to pet and ask questions of owners and officianados alike. We got to touch - and be kissed by - many different breeds of dogs. Jen and I were attracted to the bigger breeds though, as we simply like bigger animals.

After a while though, we were exhausted. The stress of the weekend and the awesome opportunity to blog just feet away from the contestants was a bit draining, so while we had the chance we took a couple hours to rest back at our hotel before heading to the main arena for the balance of the group contests, the winner of the Eukanuba World Challenge, and finally the Best In Show - the top dog of the entire event.

There is so much more to tell, and both Jen and I will tonight and into the coming week.

Stay tuned. :)

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Rock Star Treatment In The Dog World

When Jennifer asked Lorie Barns to take Hank and Ivy and "finish" them (AKA get their championship titles), none of us had ever dreamed we would be competing in a national championship dog show. Yet here we are, sitting 10 feet away from the ring, full press passes and being entertained by the sponsor, Eukanuba.

While traveling from our hotel to a cocktail party held at the Hyatt (which is next to Long Beach Arena), Jen commented, "I never in my life expected this..."

So what is "this" you ask? Nothing less than full press access to the entire Eukanuba National Championship as well as the Eukanuba World Challenge, an event where over 50 nations top dogs compete for a world championship title.

So how did we get here? That my friends is a long story, and I will do my best to condense yet still bring forth the breadth of the enormity of what is occurring.

Those of you who know Jen and myself know that Jennifer lost her mother to complications from small cell lung cancer about a year and a half ago. Her mother - Mildred Corner - was a breeder of Championship Rough and Smooth Coat Collies, and at the time of her passing had whelped her first litter of puppies from her own breeding stock. When Mildred passed, Jennifer became the owner of these dogs, and the responsibility of who to keep and who to sell off as pets rested on her shoulders. Luckily, she did get some guidance from her mother before the end came, and chose to keep both a male and female smooth - both of them Blue Merles. Ivy's official AKC name became "5 C's Precious Memories", and Hank's official name became "5 C's Dreams Come True."

Long time friend of Mildred - Lorie Barnes - was asked if she would be willing to "finish" Hank and Ivy. "Finishing" means to show them at various specialty and all breed shows and acquire the necessary points and victories to be considered "Champions". In the case of Hank, he championed by June of this year. And yet while all of this was going on, Hank was acquiring something called "Grand Champion" points - points given by winning a "Best Of Variety", "Best In Show", or at the judges discretion. Hank acquired enough Grand Champion points by September to qualify for the Eukanuba National Championship, and at the end of the qualification period, became 17th in the nation.

Jen received Hank's invitation in the mail, and immediately we began to figure out how we could possibly get Hank to this show. It would be the ultimate way to remember Mildred and all that she had done for her dogs. So with the help of some generous sponsors, Jen and Lorie accepted the invitation.

All of this alone can only be described as amazing, astonishing, a true miracle and a wondrous tribute to Mildred. But then Jennifer - while blogging about Hank's success and our intention to attend the Eukanuba National Championship - received a message through her blog from a representative of Eukanuba in Cincinnati (Eukanuba is a brand owned by Proctor and Gamble, located in Mason, Ohio). She saw Jen's mention of Hank's success and our intention to attend Eukanuba, and asked if Jen would like to also blog about the event while she was here.

Well, this has turned out to be an outstanding opportunity for both of us. Not only did we have dinner Friday night with representatives of Eukanuba and other 2 other bloggers, but we were given press passes to the two day event, attendance of a round table discussion with representatives from the Eukanuba World Challenge (the true "Olympics" of the dog world), then a sit down with a high level AKC representative who will also be a commentator on the national broadcast (to be shown on ABC in late January). Then we were given a behind the scenes tour of the arena where the show is to be televised. We were able to walk the floor where the dogs will be judged, were given inside information on some of the special things to be done during the shows (few of which I can mention here, but soon), and then we were shown our seats. Not just any seats, but a small stage to the right of the arena with a perfect view of the ring.

Jen and I cannot believe our good fortune, but we have not lost sight of the reason we are here. Sunday morning at 8:30 AM, Hank shows in his Class - he is one of 10 smooth Collies competing in this show. Over the year, Hank has beaten all of them at one come or another, and based on the fact that many Blue Merles are being picked as best of variety, we think he has a good chance of moving on to the group show in the main ring.

What a wonderful experience for us. Please say a prayer that Hank does well. :)

Going To The Dogs

So Hank (officially known as "GCh, CH, 5 C's Dreams Come True"), my wife's smooth coat collie, has been entered in and is competing in the Eukanuba National Championship Dog Show in Long Beach, California this weekend. It's a culmination of a dream come true for Jen's late mother, Mildred Corner, and a journey that Jen wished to complete in her mother's memory. Being the loving and supportive spouse I would like to think I am, I wanted to help in any way possible. And while there's nothing that I can really do here other than just "be here", perhaps the moral and tactical support I'm offering will be well received.

Thursday December 2nd we boarded an Airbus A320 at Greater Cincinnati International and headed west 1900 miles to Los Angeles, then via a "shared van" to the Holiday Inn Long Beach Downtown hotel. The flight was wonderfully smooth (it was nice for someone who doesn't mind flying, but HATES not being at the controls), and we actually arrived slightly ahead of schedule.

This is my third trip to California. The first was in 1974 when I was a "Showtime" guest on the New Mickey Mouse Club. My mother (God rest her soul) flew with my sick father (having suffered 1 heart attack and 1 stroke of the 3 each that would end up taking his life) and myself, played travel agent and business manager, and we even toured Disneyland and Knott's Berry Farm while we were here. I also remember traveling to San Diego to see an old schoolmate of hers while we were in the area.

Trip number 2 to LA for me was 1994, just 1 week after the infamous Northridge Earthquake. I flew out here by myself to investigate what it would take for me to make music with some people who wanted to "hit it big." I flew back to Cincinnati a week later understanding that this life simply wasn't for me. LA and Hollywood has a way of chewing people up and spitting out their raw carcass into the trash, and after some revisiting in my mind I've come to understand that I made the right decision.

Every day a person is offered learning opportunities, and this one was no exception for me. I have learned that life is full of choices, not compromises. At the end of the day, you choose your path and you live your life experiencing the joys and sorrows that come along. Many people lament about not having done "X" or "Y" while not realizing that choosing the other option would have meant not experiencing many things that they have already enjoyed. That's not a compromise - everything you do is an expression of your life choices, and will direct your path on your life. It's like being at the controls of that airplane. ;)

My choices have lead me here, with my wonderful wife, experiencing the Eukanuba National Championship Dog Show not as a simple spectator or having stumbled upon the show on TV while channel surfing like I used to many years ago. Instead, this is a true behind the scenes experience of everything - the preparation, the hard work, the emotional impact that something like this can have on a person's life, especially for my wife who has picked up the flag and completing the dream of her mother (to learn more about this, please see my wife's blog post at

So while I think back upon my life thus far, recollecting upon my past and the choices I made to get me here today, I have realized that I have chosen wisely. I can't imagine not having done the things I have done and experiencing the things I have experienced. It is part of the human condition to struggle and work through problems, but I'm not focused on the hardships. Today I get to bask in the glow of what my life has become, and the wonderful people with whom I have the blessing to share it, and to assist my wonderful wife as she lives out a dream - a special dream that could have only come about by the choices we have all made thus far.

Lastly, a quick "best wishes and good luck" to Hank, his handler and co-owner Lorie Barnes, and my wife Jennifer as they enjoy the experience of this big time show.