Dirt, Dogs and Dutenhofen
Aktualisiert: 4. Okt 2020
Having spent my formative years growing up in the Midwest, first NorthEast Ohio and later Chicago, the advent of Autumn and October signaled only one thing... FOOTBALL! Whether playing the sport in friends' backyards, or in grade school and highschool, or obsessing as a fan at the college and professional level, there was a reverence for the crisp air, the crunchy leaves and the high sun on a cold clear day as the drama played out at any given arena. That feeling and those days were all but extinguished over the last twenty years as I plotted new courses and new interests under the eternal Summer sun of Miami, Florida. Sure, I had infinite opportunities to become a superfan of my law school alma mater, The University of Miami. As well, I could have delighted in watching my Cleveland Browns underperform the exceedingly low expectations placed upon them at the beginning of the season. I could have even become at least a tepid fan of the Miami Dolphins where nearly every home game is under majestical, if sometimes sultry, weather. The point is, football, like so many things, was more about the feeling, in particular the association with my favorite season in the Midwest, Fall.
With that throat-clearing, I have successfully transitioned back to the Midwest Autumn of my childhood, even if it happens to be on a different continent. There is little to distinguish the weather of Central Germany from Cleveland, Ohio or from Chicago, Illinois. But instead of rekindling my love of football (or even the sport of fußball in Germany), obligations increasingly dictate the attendance of dog shows on the weekends. And complaints I have none.
Last weekend, Kathrin and I made our shortest drive to date for a dog show, an approximate 50 KM drive northeast of us, to the village of Dutenhofen. Of the extant wizard villages in the Harry Potter series, I did confirm that Dutenhofen was not among them. The dog show was a two day event (Saturday-Sunday) and we were registered for each day. For obvious reasons, most dog shows throughout Europe have been canceled this year. The larger shows are always indoors and attract thousands upon thousands of people. Even the smaller shows present challenges in adhering to the Covid 19 safety protocols. Fortunately, the DCNH club show was organized as an outdoor event on an outdoor field and include a number of added protections (e.g., only the owner of the dog and one guest could attend, no persons/ dogs admitted until one hour before they were to present, and a number of other reasonable safety precautions).
The fact that we were competing and hanging out in a muddy field, on a cold Autumn day, under leaden skies, that strangely resembled the setting of a battle scene from the movie Braveheart... was all very exhilarating to me. The outdoor arena just seems the better setting for a dog show, under any circumstance, notwithstanding the fact it may be a less controlled atmosphere in some ways. Given that the Shikoku breed is incredibly rare, Rumi's competitors at any given show in Europe are fairly predictable. Last weekend there were indeed the usual suspects, as well as some new faces. Given that my wife and I are relative neophytes when it comes to showing dogs in competition, every show becomes a great learning experience... whether through our own observations, the advice of the judges or from friendly competitors sharing some tricks of the trade.
In brief, Rumi received the highest marks awarded on each of her two days of competition. She did not outdo her competitors on this occasion, however. The good news is that her fatal flaw is neither fatal nor a flaw of any sense, at least not genetically. Rather, she has recently decided to exercise her strong will and declare that any inspection of her mouth and teeth by a complete stranger is strictly verboten. She does this not in an aggressive manner, but in an evasive maneuver that highlights she is as pliable as a snake when recoiling. As they say, there is no such thing as bad dogs, only bad masters, and we need to work on making Rumi as openminded in the ring as she is out of it.
Two highlights of this dog show were related but independent. First, OshiKun, the male Shikoku who took top honors in our competition moved forward to compete in the Best in Show ("BIS") competition. While there is nothing so remarkable about this feat, what is remarkable is that he won BIS on Saturday and was honored as second in BIS on Sunday. In my case, and I think for many experienced dog show veterans as well, it was a first to see the Shikoku breed win BIS. Given the incredibly small population of the breed in Europe, and elsewhere, the well-intentioned and erudite judges simply have little direct experience with Shikokus. As such, it is not uncommon that the judges never give the breed a second look in the BIS competition. So a breakthrough of sorts last weekend.
The Second highlight relates to the owners of the BIS winning Shikoku. We were immediately made aware of the festive owners the BIS Shikoku and their entourage within seconds of finding a plot of grass to place our hardware store folding chairs and settle in for the afternoon. To be clear, there was a degree of envy as we gazed in their direction. It was not that their Shikoku was so magnificent (which he really was and is), rather it was their pimp'n SWAG! The contrast between our outdoor set up and theirs could not be more stark. Whereas we had two folding chairs, a single umbrella and some pretzels to make it through the afternoon... our neighbors had installed a miniature version of the Palace of Versailles to shelter them from any condition. It also appeared that their palatial tent had been catered by Nobu, as they casually snacked on fresh sushi served on an Akita table while enjoying a wide array of adult beverages. The highlight in this case, is that we quickly learned that one of their Shikokus was a half sister to Rumi and that they too had a good relationship with our breeding friends in Italy. The owners in question here are from central Poland and could not have been more open and upbeat. The foundation of a continued friendly relationship with them as we grow and learn more about breeding Shkokus was firmly cemented and we've remained in touch.