20 February 2011

o, dog of my dreams...

8:00 A.M., Tuesday, 15 February. Grand Champion Officer N A Gentleman is in Ring 4 competing with three other Komondorok for the coveted title Best in Breed at the 135th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show at Madison Square Garden.  8:00 A.M., Tuesday, 15 February.  I am still in the Bay State preparing to leave for my dream date with the dogs in New York.  Just a few hours later, in the madhouse that is the benching area, I see him, the noble winner, the aforementioned Officer, looking like a wilted spider chrysanthemum in his metal cage.  I move toward him and speak to his owner/handler.  "This is my favorite breed", I gush, beaming with reverence.  My favorite breed?  No, for me, this is the Ferrari 612 Scaglietti of dogs, the Frank Gehry Guggenheim Bilbao of dogs, the Mozart Symphony No. 25 in G minor of dogs.  "My favorite breed" doesn't quite cover it. 

It is difficult, mentions Officer's human companion, for a dog like the Komondor to endure the trials of the benching area with its eye stinging fluorescent lighting, its Saharan temperature, its inescapable hurly-burly.   All around him, other dogs, admirably composed given the atmosphere, are being pruned and primped, shampooed and sprayed.  The Komondor is not a particularly social creature, he does not need constant attention like the Golden Retriever.  He is a Working Dog and his work is as Guardian, always on the qui vive.  This snake pit is taxing his senses.  Suddenly, my moment with Officer is cut short.  He has given the signal; his bladder has reached critical mass, it's time to go.

Komondorok, is plural, as in four Komondorok competed this morning, three get to go home; one Komondor has to sit here for the rest of the day and put up with this hullabaloo.  It is a Hungarian breed, thought to have been bred first by the Cumans, a Turkish speaking people who lived near the Yellow River.  Forced westward by the Mongols, the Cumans fled to the borders of Hungary where they settled in the 13th century.  The Komondor is a livestock guardian, a strong-willed, independent thinker with a distinctive coat that looks as though it's been extruded through a spaetzle-maker.  As puppies, Komondorok look like miniature polar bears and grow to resemble flokati rugs.  Then, after one year, the coat begins to form its feltlike cords, helped along by human hands to avoid painful matting.  Though not slaves for affection, they seem to adore their people.  One German breeder whose website I visited has a short video of the dogs romping, sleeping, and lovingly mauling a small child.   A caution: Cave Canem.  These are not overgrown household pets.  They require the respect and attention of a responsible human who understands the specific needs of the breed.  I hope, someday, that will be me, with the means to give my Hungarian protector everything it needs short of a sheep filled alpine hillside overlooking the Danube.

Officer N A Gentleman returns and I get one last glimpse of him before I leave the benching area.  A few dogs daringly practice baying.  Their wolf tune needs some work and a little more confidence but it's nice to hear that some of these beasties still know that underneath the meticulously mangaged frippery, at heart they're all dog. 

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