Never Underestimate the Power of A Toy Dog
Posted on 04/24/2006 in Ringside Conversations.
Richard G. (Rick) Beauchamp
There are few dyed-in-the-wool dog fanciers unable to appreciate a well made dog of any of the *Toy breeds. Personally speaking I see the Toy breeds as the epitome of type. After all, for what reason, other than beauty, were most of them created? Their beauty is to them what hunting ability is to the Gun Dogs, and what soundness is to the Herding breeds. None of the Toys were bred to hunt, or to retrieve, or to serve as attack dogs. No, in this case, “just another pretty face” is exactly what a Toy breed should be. Admittedly, their beauty may be entirely in the mind of the beholder, but never-the-less, beautiful they are.
Most people are inclined to associate me with: the Gun Dog breeds (if they knew my Cockers or Irish Setters); the Guardian Dog breeds (if they knew my Boxers or Dobes); or even Terriers (if they knew any of my Bull Terriers), but in all truth, I’ve probably had just as much experience judging the Toy breeds as any (and I am also known for my Bichons and Poodles).
You see, in many countries the Bichon Frise is included among the Toy breeds. Thus, because Bichons are what most people blame me for, when I’ve judged abroad invariably I’ve been asked to judge Bichons and, “the rest of Toy group.”
That, and having worked closely with some of our greatest winning Toys in my former profession as magazine publisher, has given me an excellent perspective of those breeds around the world. I’ve developed a great appreciation for the good ones.
There have been a good number of really outstanding Toys since I became involved with show dogs, lo those many years ago. I only wish I had known more in the beginning to really appreciate some of the dogs I saw many times in my early years.
The great winning Peke, CH Chik T’sun of Caversham, handled by the incomparable Clara Alford, was one of the earliest, and I do remember being terribly impressed by him. He seemed to be everywhere in the late ‘50s and never, ever, looked anything but terrific each time I saw him. He was gorgeous headed, short coupled and of a lovely size. He obviously made an impact on me, even knowing as little as I did, because it is very hard for me to like the big or long backed ones today, regardless of how good their heads might be.
My introduction to Brussels Griffons was Miriam Breed’s CH Barmere’s Mighty Man. He was shown on both the East and West coasts way back in the 1960s, but is one that could walk into the ring today and knock the competition’s socks off!
My good friend Ron Fabis brought his and Tom O’Neal’s English Toy Spaniel, CH Dreamridge Dear Charles, with him when he came out for Santa Barbara dog show and the two were house guests for a week. The extroverted little black and tan fellow made me think about the breed for the first time. “If only they could all be like him. . .,” I thought!
Those of us who lived in the Midwest in the 1950s and ‘60s saw the gifted Wynn Suck practically every weekend. Wynn’s specialty was St. Bernards and, would you believe, Maltese!? He was top competition for years with one or another of the Pendleton’s winning Brittigan Maltese - Dark Eyes and Sweet William among them. It presents a problem when one starts thinking Maltese. The parade of great ones seems never ending from the first shows I’ve attended on though today, there’s always been a good one out and winning.
From the first moment I saw Robert Hauslohner’s Pug, CH Dhandy’s Favorite Woodchuck, I couldn’t help but know they’d go far. I had no idea at the time it would mean Best In Show at Westminster K.C., the only Pug ever to do so.
You just could not beat the Midwest’s Wildweir twins, Mrs. L.S. Gordon and Janet Bennett, and their incredible Yorkies. There were so many big winners it’s hard to recall them all, but their English import, CH Star Twilight of Clu-Mor and Ch. Wildweir Fair N’ Square, were standouts.
They were all show dogs of great record, but getting to know a few of these Toy dogs personally made me realize what an important part they hold in the minds and hearts of those who own them. I’ve lived with dogs of many breeds but never a Toy. As I got to know them on a one-to-one basis, I can see why they are so cherished by their owners.
There certainly have been a great number of Pugs I’ve admired through the years, not the least of which, as I’ve mentioned, the dog that won Westminster. There was another Pug, however, who holds a very special place on my list of the great ones. He had never been to a dog show - he has a very important job that didn’t allow time for such trivial pursuits.
His name was “Pugsley” and he belonged to my sister’s young son, Steven Van Kerckhove. Steven was a passenger in his friend’s car when they were involved in a tragic accident that nearly cost the boys their lives. As it was, Steven survived, but with a severe spinal cord injury that left him entirely wheelchair bound. A terrible occurrence in anyone’s life but doubly so when the victim is just a teenager.
Steven and Pugsley had been inseparable before the accident, and the dog was all but inconsolable during the many months his master was far away at the Craig Institute for Rehabilitation in Denver, Colorado.
Pugsley sat at the window of his home waiting, occasionally whining, in despair over the seemingly endless absence of his pal. Months went by and at long last his buddy returned. Steven was unable to do the things they had done together in past. No more hikes around the neighborhood. No more romps in the park. All these changes did affect Pugsley. If anything, he became even more devoted to his young master, seldom leaving his side. When Steven was able to return to school in his motorized wheelchair, Pugsley kept watch from the foot of their bed. As the clock neared that time when Steven would return, the dog was ecstatic. Each day’s return was as though his master had been gone for weeks instead of hours.
They were a devoted pair - Pugsley as Steven’s best buddy, and Steven as Pugsley’s lord and master. Pugsley shared life with Steven for many years, in fact until Steven met the girl of his dreams and married. It was only then that Pugsley, at a very advanced age felt confident that his buddy was in good enough hands so that he could go on to wherever it is that our canine companions go in the end.
Dogs are so regularly referred to as man’s best friend we are apt to forget what and how much those three words really mean.
When we opened the crate at the airport, the little tri color Cavalier King Charles Spaniel that emerged was everything we had hoped for. She had finished her championship easily in Australia and the fact that she was “on the small end of the scale” was exactly what we were looking for.
Nonnie seemed a bit bewildered by her long journey from “down under” but acclimated quickly, and she quietly settled in. She never made any commotion or presented problems of any kind. That is, until she spied the ducks! Ten Muscovy ducks she could see quacking and yakking their heads off as they waddled back and forth in the yard.
When Nonnie would return home from the shows she made a beeline to the window and watched! Then they’d come quacking around the corner of the house. Nonnie didn’t utter a sound. She just sat and looked. It was almost as if the ducks knew they were frustrating the little dog on the other side of the window, so they would hang out where Nonnie couldn’t help but see them and double their racket. It was winter then, but after many months the weather turned warm enough so that doors could be left open. There were just screen doors keeping out the summers swarming insect population.
As the summer months passed, the ducks got noisier and bolder as they realized no amount of teasing would put them in danger from the dog on the other side of the screen door. One afternoon little Nonnie had as much as she could take. She found the tiniest tear in the screen, grabbed at it with her teeth and in seconds made a hole big enough to wiggle her way through.
The ducks seemed immobilized in surprise. That thing that had remained safely on the other side of the screen door was now on their side! No matter, however, she was half their size, certainly nothing to fear. That is until the biggest, loudest of the gaggle realized the 14-pound tri colored tornado had a firm grip on his tail end and was doing her utmost to head off in the opposite direction. The loud one let out honks and yells that set the other members of his group off and running. Flapping his wings with all his might, Mr. Duck took off with a major portion of his tail feathers remaining in Nonnie’s mouth.
The screen was repaired and the loud one’s tail feathers grew back - just in time to have Nonnie plow through the new screen and extract another mouthful of feathers. That was that, Nonnie was shipped off to reform school to mend her naughty ways. She was “with child” anyway, so it seemed like the proper thing to do.
There were no ducks there - only wild rabbits - and the rabbits were foolhardy enough to venture into Nonnie’s yard once too often. Now, Nonnie is a convicted murderess. Paroled of course, but on probation and constantly under surveillance. Her defense attorney had offered a plea for clemency stating Nonnie was the victim of poor upbringing. No one ever told her she was a lap dog.
The judge found her guilty any way!
Cho Cho San the Shutzhund
My aunt wanted a dog. Her husband had passed away and she was living alone in her home up in the Hollywood Hills section of Los Angeles. “I need some protection - just in case,” she said.
I suggested a Doberman Pinscher or German Shepherd. Either of which could afford her all the protection she might ever have needed.
She decided on a Pekingese. She called the little Peke, Cho Cho San. I called her a nuisance. “How is that going to protect you?” I asked incredulously. I thought you wanted a dog to protect you from burglars or something?”
“She’ll protect me. She loves me. Don’t you Cho Cho San?”
At least a couple of years went by without any mishaps at my aunt’s. Cho Cho San wasn’t called upon to perform any feats of daring do. All for the best is all I could think. What could she do to help anyone unless sniffing and snorting around the place was going to become useful in some why.
And then late on a summer’s evening, the pair came home from a leisurely walk to find the front door open a crack. It had been securely locked when they had left. My aunt pushed the door open and Cho Cho San went dashing headlong into the house. There was barking, there was the sound of furniture being upended and vases crashing to the floor. The commotion proceeded through to the back of the house where a door opened to a staircase that led down the hill to the street below.
Brave soul that she was, Auntie arrived at the back door just in time to see Cho Cho San grab hold of the intruder’s pant leg as his foot attempted to find the first stair down. Cho Cho San’s intervention made him lose his balance, and the two went tumbling down the stairs. When they got to the bottom, Cho Cho San shook herself and looked up dazedly at my aunt. The burglar was knocked unconscious.
Auntie dialed 911, and the Hollywood Police Department was there in minutes to cart off the misguided soul that felt he could take advantage of the little old lady and her even littler dog. The next call was to me. I don’t have to tell you what Auntie said.
None of the Toys were bred to hunt, or to retrieve, or to serve as attack dogs. No, in this case, “just another pretty face” is exactly what a Toy breed need be.
Or is it?
* The breeds that are commonly referred to as “Toy” breeds are, for the most part, included in the UKC Companion Dog Group.
The information contained in Mr. Beauchamp’s “Solving the Mystery of Breed Type” series that appeared in BLOODLINES can be found in his book, Solving the Mystery of Breed Type, published by Doral Publishing, Inc.