North Dakota has no dog in this fight
GRAND FORKS - Does Alex, a 7-month-old greyhound from Grand Forks, have a future at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show? Is he North Dakota's great grey hope? Or, to be more accurate, North Dakota's great blue hope? "That's why I got him," said ...
GRAND FORKS - Does Alex, a 7-month-old greyhound from Grand Forks, have a future at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show?
Is he North Dakota's great grey hope? Or, to be more accurate, North Dakota's great blue hope?
"That's why I got him," said Shelley Olson, president of the Grand Forks Kennel Club, who believes her puppy could have a shot at the canine world's biggest crown in two or three years. "He's still a little young, but I'll start showing him this year."
Dedicated dog lovers' eyes were trained on Madison Square Garden in New York this week for the Westminster show, where judges annually name the very best representatives of their breeds and groups - the best hounds, the top herders, the most exemplary terriers and sporting dogs.
And on Tuesday night, a 5-year-old Scottish deerhound named Hickory Wind won Best in Show, the first of her breed to win top honors at Westminster.
But here's the thing: About 2,500 AKC champions from the United States and 13 other countries entered to compete for Best in Show this year. Forty-nine states had pooches in the running.
The only state without an entry? North Dakota.
But Olson said we shouldn't feel deflated.
"We've had dogs there before," she said, and dogs shown by members of the Grand Forks club have placed at the big show.
In fact, her mother, Catherine Brey-Marler, showed a stylish bloodhound named Pooh Bear that won its breed at the Westminster show in 1973. And her young dachshund, Train, last year became the first puppy to accumulate enough points to be declared a grand champion.
"It was kind of an important thing for the dogs of North Dakota," Brey-Marler said. "For the dachshunds, anyway."
Brey-Marler bred and showed bloodhounds for 39 years, so her daughter "grew up with show dogs." And Olson's daughter, Jaime Rutherford, has continued the family tradition, showing pointers.
About Alex, the greyhound puppy: "colt" might more accurately describe the sleek, sprawling and frisky 70-pound animal, likely to grow even taller and add another 10 pounds or so.
Greyhounds come in a variety of official colorings, including blue, red, brindle, black and white, black and brown, and fawn, and combinations of those.
Alex, a blue brindle, has a promising pedigree. His mother is a North Carolina hound who has won national awards and is ranked the top greyhound in America according to a point system.
"And his sire is the top greyhound in Italy," Olson said.
Despite those international credentials, Alex was more interested in climbing on a photographer Wednesday than sitting for a portrait.
"The attitude you want in a show dog is what he has," Olson said, struggling to restrain Alex (who was especially keen to play, she said, because he's just recovered from a broken toe and hasn't been let loose for a while).
"It's easier to bring them down than to work them up," she said. "And when you take them into the show ring, you want the dog to be, 'Look at me!' You don't want a dog that just slinks around.
"It's called a dog show, after all."
Chuck Haga writes for the Grand Forks Herald, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.