Russia Article

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ST. PETERSBURG, RUSSIA, IN APRIL 2008 By Sharon Sakson Our plane swooped into a St. Petersburg airport that had been artistically designed of cool glass and steel, and full of shops selling Russian made purses right next to Vuitton, Gucci, and Dior ones. It wasn’t the same St. Petersburg as the one I saw five years ago. The dog show then had small entries. This weekend, there are 3500 dogs and 20 judges. Max Magder1 and I judged our first Russian show in 1994, as it was still transitioning from the Soviet era. Everyone’s apartment was crowded because there wasn’t enough housing. The cars were mainly low power Russian built Ladas. The people wore drab clothing. There was no dog food! But people took good care of their dogs. Every kitchen we visited had a pot on the back burner full of tidbits for the dog. But the conformation quality of the dogs was poor. Now, in 2008 –the pendulum has certainly swung! There seem to be twenty construction cranes on every block, with apartment buildings and shopping malls cropping up everywhere. Every model of car in the world zips through the streets, Ford Edge SUVs, Mercedes C-Class sedans, Jeep Eagles, Town & Country minivans. The women are gorgeous! They were probably always gorgeous, but now they are much better dressed, and their make up is flawless. Dog food – every different brand in the world, and available right at the show from various vendors. How much do you want? Five pounds? Ten? Forty? Vendors – in 1994, 1998, and 2005, the three times we judged there, there were one or two vendors. Our venues were school auditoriums and one old and drafty sports stadium. This time we were surprised to find ourselves in a state of the art exhibition hall, very new, booked with conventions every week. Very expensive to lease for the show, but Julia Lobova, the show chair, charmed three big companies into sponsoring it. On the second level, about a hundred vendors set up their booths. There were extravagantly fashioned collars and leads for Russian show dogs, raincoats in every color, and lots of dogs walking around in them. But the very best surprise of all, the one that had us grinning from ear to ear, was the quality of the dogs. Many of the original Whippets in St. Petersburg were from my Parisfield line and Max Magder’s Lorricbrook, imported by Julia and her husband, Vadim Reztcov. It’s rewarding to supply new breeders with good foundation stock, especially when they breed them well and maintain the quality, as Julia and Vadim had. I judged the Whippet National Specialty, and was thrilled with my BOB bitch, who very much resembled my exported Ch. Paris Anahita Plenty of Money. She won many Bests in Show here during the
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Because of a disagreement between the Canadian Kennel Club and the FCI, Canadian judges cannot officiate at FCI shows. Max had to cancel.

Russia Article

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1990s. Almost the entire show catalog is in Cyrillic, but my BOB winner’s name is in English, so I can tell you she is Russian Champion Anahita Arva’s Zarita Zolotaya, sired by American & Russian Champion Andauer’s Best Laid Plans, her dam Paris Anahita Moonlit Night. She turned out to be a double granddaughter of Plenty on the dam’s side, which made me proud. Only 40 Whippets in the national specialty; it’s not a popular breed here. Two splendid Salukis, visiting from Finland, and then, 50 Rhodesian Ridgebacks. These were quality Ridgebacks, right from the Baby classes. My BOB was a male from the Junior class. My entire entry, except for one male, I marked as “excellent”.2 Here’s what startled me; every single ridge was clearly defined, tapering and perfectly symmetrical, AND started immediately behind the shoulders and continued to a point between the hips. Judges of Rhodesian Ridgebacks will recognize how rare such a long, perfectly constructed ridge is. My American entries of Ridgebacks have always contained specimens with short ridges, reaching well short of their hips. American entries sometimes have slight deviations in the crowns, which are supposed to be absolutely symmetrical. American breeders look on these as acceptable small faults, while apparently Russian breeders find them major problems. After judging, I tried to have a conversation with some breeders, which is always difficult because of the language barrier. When I complimented all those long, perfect ridges, the breeders looked perplexed. “They say no one would bring a dog to a show without a perfect ridge,” my translator interpreted. It was just unthinkable; they wondered why I asked. I had to confess the often short ridges I’d seen in my own country. On to Basenjis. I was surprised when they told me the entry was 36. There had been very few during my last visit. But to see so many sound Basenjis makes a Hound judge’s day. Most fit the standard well. They had the usual Basenji faults; back not short enough, appearing a bit long rather than the desired high on leg look. I would say the most common fault was tail not really tightly curled. American breeders send dogs with good tails into the ring. The wrinkles in the Basenji forehead are characteristic of the breed so I always want to see them. No problem. Lovely expressions. My BOB bitch moved like a dream. Every Dachshund Club of America member who voted against separating miniature Dachshunds from standard Dachshunds has to take the next plane to St. Petersburg to see how productive separating the sizes has been. The big cheese in DCA used to say that if you separate the sizes, it would be bad for the miniatures because they will start to look like toys instead of hounds. I believed that because I didn’t know any better. I would like to say, You were wrong! The miniatures and mediums were stronger than the standards, as far as looking like real, hunting hounds who could work a field all day. I thought they were a bit higher on leg than in the States, but they were also kept thinner than we keep ours, so that enhanced the appearance of having more leg under them. (They reminded me of what my first mentor in the breed, Kay Ladd, told me: “You wouldn’t accept an overweight, out of condition dog in your breed. Don’t do it in mine.”)
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In FCI judging, you have to assign one of four designations: excellent, very good, good, and insufficient. Only those marked “excellent” can stay in the ring and be judged in the class.

Russia Article
The Russian Dachshunds had less breastbone and chest (the longhairs had almost none) but they had keels that extended WAY beyond the front legs. Never saw such long keels. The quality overall was excellent. The temperaments were GREAT! All the doxies were wagging their tails and trying to kiss me. They had a record entry: 189 Dachshunds. There were more colors than you see in an American Dachshund ring; chocolates and dapples were numerous. My BOB medium was a dapple bitch from the Junior class, smooth and elegant yet strong and muscular. She floated around the ring. I loved this bitch so

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much I wanted to take her home. A teenage girl was showing her. The girl was very serious and trying very hard at every moment to show the dog. When I gave her the best Junior rosette, I picked up her dog and hugged it and told her that the judge gets to keep the Best Junior dog. When this was translated to her, she looked absolutely shocked! I thought she was going to cry! She said this was her first dog and she couldn't part with it. She told the interpreter that if she breeds and gets another one she will give it to me but she couldn’t give me this one. I handed it back and tried to reassure her I was joking. The problem is that you never know exactly what the translators are saying. The poor girl walked out of the ring shaking. (Helpful note to other judges working overseas: Do not use a subtle sense of humor. It doesn’t translate.) In FCI judging, your first job is a critique of each specimen before you judge the class, so Saturday I ended up judging around 230 dogs from 10 am to 10 pm. I should have collapsed from exhaustion, but the excitement of all these beautiful dogs kept my adrenaline going. My Best in Group among Dachshunds was a standard longhair that you just could not deny. The owner was from Finland and told me the dog won at the World Show and had six Best in Shows. I found out later he has American parents who were imported to Finland. After Best in Show on the second day, judges were showered with gifts. One in particular is my favorite; a dog collar completely made of rhinestones that looks like a Tiffany creation. My dogs are taking turns wearing it. *****