Sun, 02/27/2022 - 10:15pm

Heaven or Hell?

When you have an obsessive hobby like ours, it's a very thin line ...

There is no doubt in my mind that there are many of us whose minds to a large extent focus on “things” related to what for some of us is a hobby, for others a profession: Anything involving Dogs and Dog Shows, from breeding and showing to, ultimately …


It is so comfortable and easy to mix with fellow enthusiasts, and we are all, I suppose, lucky to have made friends and friendships across “breed lines” and international borders – in other words, all over the world. Who for hours and days can discuss nothing but Dogs!

I remember many years ago a flight from London to an Italian show in the company of a few other judges. One of them was the very special Percy Whittaker sitting alongside another fellow judge who, upon arrival in Genoa, told me that every time the flight attendant walked past Percy he pulled her arm, showing her a photo of a dog he had put up somewhere in the world, followed by a story! She was obviously not the least bit interested, but very polite, and tried to rush past him whenever he seemed to look in the opposite direction.

Not always successful …

Poor Percy obviously took it for granted that the entire world shared the interest in what dominated his own world and mind: Dogs and Dog Shows. Sadly, not true!

As far as I can remember, Percy for decades managed a famous Chow kennel – and I think his world was all about dogs. And I was once told that the only papers read by some genuine enthusiasts were Dog World and Our Dogs. None of the dailies!

Both papers had a huge influence in the British World of Pedigree Dogs. And actually due to ongoing amusing dialogues between two very interesting and charismatic terrier people – Les Atkinson representing and writing in Our Dogs and Joe Cartledge for Dog World – a lot of people, not only terrier people, subscribed to both!

By the way, the aforementioned flight-attendant incident always reminds me of a golf outing in the U.K. where my wife happened to be seated next to my friend Colin, who for two hours in detail described the complications involved with importing veneer from Sweden to the U.K. …

That was his life – and he thought it was something the world would be interested to hear about. For some reason upon his death a couple of years ago he was still single …

But this experience had the devastating effect: My wife never attended another event with this group.

I think we all have a tendency to use our own life and interests as a reference to what we believe other people like and are interested in – but from my own experience I know that the number of “regular” human beings who have the slightest interest in what happens in Our Special Sphere is very close to zero!

If lucky, you can get their attention for a second when you mention Crufts or Westminster – and in the olden days in the U.K., Kennel Club membership (which before the increase in number of members and ruled by “The Old Boys” was considered very prestigious) – but that is as much response as you can expect.

So fully aware of all this, one of Sweden’s most famous all-rounders, Mrs. Marianne Furst-Danielsson, at a dinner party following our local shows came up with this seemingly brilliant idea: A Retirement Home for Dog Show Judges!

Marianne’s life had been dominated by dogs and horses. She was especially proud of the fact that a very young Sylvia Hammarström had been one of her proteges from an early age.

Marianne bred English Cockers for years, but her famous prefix Jidjis was later on associated more with Greyhounds. I had the pleasure of handling one of her American Standard Schnauzers, but her real passion was for German Shepherds. And horses, supporting her daughter’s interest in show jumpers.

I am sure she judged in the U.S. multiple times, but was for decades one of the most sought after Scandinavian judges, pretty much on par with The Flying Finns!

Anyway, present at this particular dinner party was also the very special Joe Braddon. He occasionally called to ask if he could stay the week when he judged successive weeks in Scandinavia! Which was something we all looked forward to. (Even if we were fully aware of the fact that the desire to spend time with us was “money driven,” as he then could charge two airfares from the U.K.!)

Joe initially thought this retirement-home idea was excellent, but only if he could move his home Barley Leys Farm with him. Marianne and Joe had been friends for a lifetime – and I think she imported a Cocker from him first in the early ’50s!

As the conversation went on, inspired and helped by a few bottles of red wine, we all agreed the idea was outstanding!

But then the focus went to the selection process: Who of all these in particular Scandinavian judges could we really stomach to mix with on a daily basis?

We would of course send a special invitation to a few people from overseas – and this was where the discussion heated up! Joe had a few names he definitely wanted nearby, but Marianne couldn’t stand a couple of them. And the names Marianne suggested were to a large extent opposed by Joe. So the overseas list ended up quite short …

Then we moved on to Scandinavia – or rather the Nordic countries, as Finland was included.

All agreed to include the Flying Finns (Hans Lehtinen, Rainer Vuorinen and Kari Järvinen), plus only a couple of other Finnish names.

Denmark ended up with a single qualifier (might as well add that his name was Ole Staunskjär), and Norway a couple of possible candidates, but no names attracted full support.

But Sweden had, I think, six names that all agreed with. Two of them (women) mainly because they hated each other and would provide a lot of non-stop entertainment. And one of them had sufficient money to fund the building project!

As the conversation went on, attention was drawn to the negative sides of some of the candidates – and little by little it was finally decided that the only group of people who would be able to happily see each other every day were already present at that very table …

So, the final conclusion: Probably not a good idea after all!

Which in so many ways was and is a shame: Several of the people included in the selection process, qualifying or not, would have loved to have people to share memories and highlights with – which for any “outsider” would seem like a bunch of nonsense.

And I know for sure that some when “aged out” lost their attractiveness, and were left to very lonely and supposedly boring final years of their lives!

Whatever we like to think, we are definitely a group unto ourselves …

Until next time …



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