What, Oh, What, Will It Take to Educate?
The impetus for this article came from a brief Facebook Messenger exchange I recently had with the well-known breeder-judge Deirdre Petrie, whom I’ve not had the pleasure of meeting in person, but hope to in the near future. Her comment had to do with a young, highly patterned Afghan puppy. It was unsolicited and it is with her permission I reproduce the conversation beginning, oddly, with an apology:
Dierdre, the magazine guidelines prefer that photos of dogs/bitches that are currently being shown not be used in articles. While the logic of this is, I suppose, reasonable, it would seem in my never-to-be humble opinion, in this case the policy might be bent a little — the 12-month-old puppy referred to in your comment would not be identified, is not well known, has not been nor will be campaigned. He stands clearly, however, as a stark value lesson on the Afghan standard and the subject of this article.
That said, I defer to policy and substitute in his place a 1938 photo of the Afghan bitch Begum, the first Afghan to be shown at Westminster in 1934, whose coat pattern is eerily identical to the pup you will not have the benefit of seeing here. In a way the image of Begum is a bit prophetic. In the light of the young dog whose photo she replaces, Begum is proof that what is old is also new. (An aside: Anyone who follows breed-related postings on Facebook can probably surmise who the puppy in question is.)
The exchange went like this:
Dierdre: I shared this photo last night out to dinner with a group of fellow judges. No one at the table had ever seen a patterned Afghan so this photo was perfect.
Me: Just curious, Dierdre, what were the judge’s reactions to the photo?
Dierdre: Surprised ~ none had ever seen a patterned Afghan & didn’t know they even came in such a pattern, followed by “is it correct.”
There was a short pause in the exchange during which time I picked my jaw up off the floor while processing what I’d heard. None had ever seen a patterned Afghan! Didn’t know they even came in such a pattern! “IS IT CORRECT?”!!!! Really!?
I collected myself. We continued:
Me: Were these judges licensed to do the breed? Or working towards judging Afghans?
Dierdre: I believe both.
The conversation evolved in this direction:
Dierdre: I wonder if patterned dogs are included in the parent-club judges education? It’s been a very long time since I attended a breed seminar so not sure.
Me: Yes, they are. But clearly, this is not enough. It’s once a year and reaches too few. This year I sat in on the parent-club judges education seminar in Oct. Only a handful attended. A highly patterned Afghan, also a young, twelve-month-old puppy, was part of the presentation. The seminar leader, James Donahue, a well-known breeder/exhibitor/judge, made a point of emphasizing the correctness of patterning to the group. Still, the looks I saw on some of the faces, subtle though they were, added to a gut instinct, telling me that many were still not buying it. I hoped I was wrong. (To myself: What, oh what, will it take to educate?”)
Dierdre: That is great! Maybe some visuals of various patterns stressing all are acceptable in an article would be helpful.
So, with Diedre’s suggestion in mind, knowing that all patterning is, in fact, acceptable, and in some cases preferable on a properly conformed dog/bitch, I will offer a number of examples of that very CORRECT breed characteristic, taking special pains to use dogs/bitches that proved themselves in and/or out of the ring.
Keep in mind that patterning occurs in most all lines to some degree or other, even though there are breeders who won’t show patterned dogs if they come up with them. On the one hand, I can’t blame them. They are to date at a distinct disadvantage in the ring. Some even think, if you can believe it, that patterning is a “coat problem.” And some judges in their own way reinforce the notion making comments like, “Bring him/her back to me when he/she is in coat.” Or, “Nice dog. Too bad about the coat.” And so on.
But for as long as I have been in dogs, there have been patterning and proponents of patterning. Early breeders from whom I learned so much — Babbie Tongren, Kay Finch, Sunny Shay, Lois Boardman, Reigh Abrams and others — routinely spoke to the beauty of patterning, harkening as it does to the Eastern origins and the exotic peculiarity of the breed. It’s essential that this characteristic be not only accepted and, if worthy, included in the ribbons, but encouraged and perpetuated, might I add, with vigor and enthusiasm.
It’s unimaginable to me that judges who are already licensed to judge Afghans would have the reaction that Deirdre’s dinner group had. How can judges and/or prospective judges be so in the dark about a primal, basic breed characteristic? Granted, while there are not a huge number of patterned dogs at any one time at any one show to observe and learn from, a cursory study of breed history, which should be required for anyone judging or wanting to judge Afghans, offers many examples.
Here are a few, starting with early imports and continuing through the decades to the present. Many of these can be found in today’s pedigrees. Similar examples could be found throughout Europe and Scandinavia during this same time period. In England, to a lesser extent.
Int. and Am. Ch. Badshah of Ainsdart, sire of BIS Ch. Rudiki of Prides Hill. Early English import to U.S.
Tanyah Sahib of Cy Ann, BIS AHCA, 1940.
Marion Florsheim with Ch. Rana of Chaman of Royal Irish, 1943.
Ch. Blue Boy of Grandeur, 1940s. Sire of Westminster BIS Ch. Shirkhan of Grandeur.
Ch. Taejon of Crown Crest, top-winning Hound and BIS AHCA, 1954.
SBIS Ch. Coastwind Peony, 1970s.
A class dog I gave the breed to from the classes over 14 specials, 1980s.
A five-point major win at Santa Barbara K.C. finished the heavily patterned bitch in the above photo after she had gone RWB at the 2013 National under Lee Canalizo, who, when awarding the ribbon, stopped, took the microphone in hand, turned to the audience and said, “This is what an Afghan is supposed to look like. It’s rare. We see it too seldom.” Lee knows. Listen to her.
It should be pointed out that these photos are of patterned dogs in “full” coat. That is, they are adults. The coats have had time to grow into whatever “drape” they end up with. Puppies (like the one you’ve not seen) will grow into some variation of what appears in the other pictures, their coats looking a lot like his in one way or another when they were his age — extreme in pattern. It was, I presume, this extreme appearance that the members of Dierdre’s dinner party were taken aback by. And it is precisely for that reason that photo, and all these others, offer a good lesson.
It’s clear that judges (and breeders, and exhibitors) have been influenced over the years by the preponderance of heavily coated Afghans being shown and sometimes widely campaigned. It is, I suppose, natural. They stand out. They’re flashy. They’re glamorous. You like what you see. You want what you see. And, to be fair, many are and have been, very deserving. But the problem here is in all the flurry of big coats and high visibility, a prejudice AGAINST patterning has snuck in the back door of perception and is an undue negative influence that weighs heavily in judging (and breeding) decisions when it shouldn’t. This needs to change. How? I’m not entirely sure. But happily, there is a small “halleluiah” here. I sense a staunch, growing cadre of judges who “get it.” To them I say, “Hooray. Keep doin’ what you’re doin’.” We need you.
Here’s the fact, folks: Patterning is an integral part of the breed – always has been, always will be. Judges who can’t accept this should not be judging Afghans. Period. To penalize a patterned dog/bitch on that point alone is not only incorrect judging, it’s bad judging. It does the breed and the experienced breeders who work hard to preserve such a characteristic (and who, by the way, support their, the judges, entries) a disservice. If judges who already judge Afghans, or those who want to judge Afghans, don’t “get it” – don’t “get” patterning in this breed – they need to go back to school. They’ve missed an important part of the lesson.