Thursday, May 31, 2012

Mango Momma Doggie Book Review

Our doggie pal, Bolo, got some bad news about his liver. He's holding his own, but could use some good thoughts. You can visit him here.

Today's book review is Show Dog by Josh Dean.

I loved this book. The writing is excellent and it was impossible not to get caught up in both the human and doggie drama of the show world.

I want to say up front that the author mentioned that MOST of the dogs and handlers you will encounter at a show are owner / handlers who only go to a handful of shows a year locally and stop once their dog earns his or her championship.

But Jack, the main character in the book, was destined for the highly competitive world of big dog shows. The book has lots of behind the scenes information. Some of it is good. Some of it is bad. Any competitive endeavor will have its share of nut jobs with more money than sense whose only goal is winning. Yes, even agility, obedience, canine freestyle, you name it. But as with those sports, most of the participants are in it for fun and because they love doing stuff with the canine pals.

I am fortunate to live in an area where on any given weekend there is usually one show or another within driving distance. I've purchased four dogs from breeders and become a much better judge of dogs (and breeders) over the years. I avoid big business breeders who arrive with crate after crate of dogs. The dogs from Dexter's kennel really stood out for me. They all seemed so happy! They clearly loved being in the ring (and the fact that her dogs also compete in retrieving helped convince me that they were good, well rounded animals). Little Dexter was available as pet quality due to an overbite. I have never regretted my decision to get him. He's a wonderful, well tempered chap.

Mango is actually show quality, but with two other show quality males in his litter, his breeder agreed to sell him as a pet. When one of Mango's brothers died suddenly from an aggressive infection I decided to try showing Mango.

We both loved handling class. I liked the thrill of the pretend show where all our dogs were put through their paces and everybody received a round of applause during the final run around the ring. Mango loved handling school because, well, there were hot bitches there. Oh baby!

I showed Mango exactly once. He placed second out of two, his only competition being his brother Floyd (who later went on to compete at Westminster and sire several litters). Mango's breeder offered to have her handler show Mango, but I insisted I wanted to do it myself. Oh man! As you can see in this video (where Floyd has a professional handler) I was a total spaz and Mango did not show well (but you will notice that I was so convinced of his magnificence that I thought I had won and had to be shooed back by the judge).

Mango was ten months old. Watch it here if you cannot view the embedded version.

Sorry about the bad video. It was made with a disposable camera.

 The next time I brought Mango to a show he refused to go into the building (let alone the ring). His breeder offered to be on hand for a third try to help out, but I was done. Why? Same reason I never pursued obedience with Angus (although he did very well in his one and only competition). I hate waiting around. Agility, obedience, freestyle, breed, whatever, dog shows are all about waiting and waiting and waiting. Ugh. Just not my thing.

But back to the book. In between the details of Jack's show career, the author discusses the history of dog shows, how judges judge, what handlers do, some breed histories, and some rather graphic discussions of how breeding works (even an interview with the lady running the frozen semen van who collects samples discreetly behind a curtain). There is also a short history of the evolution of dogs from wild creatures into distinct breeds.

While I'm no fan of perpetuating breeds so deformed that they cannot mate or give birth naturally and I abhor docking, cropping, and other alterations in the name of conformation, I am a fan of dog shows and responsible breeding. The good breeders that I have met are not in it for money, but for the love of the animal. They get every possible genetic test done on their breeding animals in an effort to eliminate devastating conditions. They only place their dogs in good homes, are always ready to take back a dog (no questions asked) and stay in touch with owners.

Two big thumbs up.

Mango Momma

P.S. Some notes about the various breeders I have dealt with. Angus was our first dog and a purebred Airedale. The only comment about his breeder is that we lucked out. We didn't know anything at all about breeders but he was a fine dog.

With Raja we learned a lot. Primarily that showing at Westminster is no guarantee that you are dealing with a good breeder. Raja was not sound of mind or body and her breeder was very dismissive of Raja's various maladies. In retrospect, my antenna should have gone up when the majority of her dogs had both sires and dams from her kennel (I was later to hear through ringside gossip that this was because many mastiff breeders did not want their dogs involved with her bloodlines).
Mango was a surprise purchase as we had already been interviewing Rottweiler breeders. But we met his breeder at a show, along with her wonderful dogs. She took us back to her RV to meet Floyd and when we heard there was one just like him available, well.... Even still we visited and vetted the owner of the breeding bitch but seeing little Mango stuck in a water bucket really sealed the deal.

I was even more cautious when it came time to get Dexter. I not only asked for references from the breeder (who uses our vet for her breeding and delivery) but I asked around at dog school. Turns out his breeder is quite well known and several dog people who have seen Dex have commented "Oh, that is one of Peggy's dogs! I can tell by his head! You are so lucky to have him." I am indeed. Here is a link to her web site (Mango's breeder seems to have let her web site go dormant, but you can see it here. I still see her kennel name pop up a lot in the dog show world, but haven't run into her in person at a show in several years).

We have had a handful of unsuccessful adoptions over the years. The most tragic was a little six year old Airedale gal who started out a bit bossy but over a period of months became increasingly aggressive towards both my husband and Mango to the point where my husband could not even shift position without her going after him and Mango was afraid to be in the same room with her. For us, the resident dog always comes first.

Our only successful adoption was our little basset / spaniel mix, Pi. Angus adored her from day one and they were the best of friends. She was one of a kind for sure and I miss her every day.


H and Flo said...

This is a great post - I totally agree with what you say about breeders. It's hard for us where we are because we are so geographically isolated so all our research has had to be done online but I found a great breeder and Flo is a good reflection of that. The breeder has been all the way up here to visit Flo and we've been over to WA too (nearly 4 hours on a plane). I am pleased to say that we have another puppy on the way from the same breeder (same mother, in fact). But shhhhh. Don't tell Flo.

Niamh said...

Thanks for the book review Mango Momma. Sounds like a fun read. All the waiting around at dog shows is a pain. Barbara tried me in conformation too. I loved the gaiting but thought that stacking was dumb and boring so refused to do it.

Your friends,
Niamh & Ambrose


Great post! Thank you!
You sure do a sterling job of book reviews.... great insight. Many thanks!

Molly, Taffy, Monty and Winnie said...

WE think we may try and find a copy of this book. It sounds most interesting.

Molly, Taffy, Monty and Winnie

Mr. Pip said...

Well, I always knew Mango was a star! This is really interesting. I don't know much about dog shows or show dogs other than I like to watch them on TV. I might just pick this book up.

Pip's assistant

From Pip: Just read your comment and think you would look smashing in a bee costume. Heck, you wouldn't even need to fly. You could pollinate standing up!

Lassiter Chase and Benjamin said...

Loved the video so much!!!! Loved how (I guess it was Master) said you got second place -- but there were only 2 dogs in the ring. I do give you credit Mango Momma for going thru with handling Mango yourself instead of letting a professional handle him. Kudos to both of you. I think you both did excellent in the ring!

♥♥♥ The OP Pack ♥♥♥ said...

So sorry to hear about Bolo, we will visit him.

Thanks for the book review. Thunder, Ciara, and Lightning were all considered to be show quality but Mom feels very lucky to have been able to get them as pets. Well, the verdict on Lightning is still not totally in - he has some work to do to convince the Momster. He IS a different sort.

Mango, we had no idea you had been in the show ring. IMpressive performance. You will always be a star to us.

Woos - Phantom, Thunder, Ciara, and Lightning

Mimi and CC Cabana said...

I've never been to a dog show, only watched a few minutes of Westminster on TV, just to see who the winner is. Dog shows mystify me, so I think I'd like to read the book, just to understand it more. It's great that Mango got to experience the dog show world, and even greater that when he didn't want to continue, you didn't make him.

Jake of Florida said...

We appreciated the review and also the additional information about Mango and Dex as well as Angus and Raja and Pi.

So so much to learn about our dog world.

Wirey woofs,

Jake and Just Harry

harrispen said...

Thanks for the book review. I might check this one out next time I need a good read.

For anyone not familiar with dog shows they should watch the movie "Best in Show". As hilarious as this is it really is a glimpse of what dog shows really are like.


Corbin said...

I always thought I could be a show dog... but then again, there's that bit about having my nards, which I don't, and being pure bred, which I'm not. However, if there was ever a show for handsome doggie mutts, I'm all over it! We like to watch them on TV, but other than what we read on My Two Newfs, we don't know much about show life! Maybe we'll pick up this book...
PS, you'd like my blog today.

SissySees said...

Love your review, but as a former Junior Handler with some success (thanks to a beautiful lab who could have shown herself even better than with me as a handicap), I enjoyed your remarks about showing, waiting and breeders even more.

Fiona, as typed by Dr. Liz said...

Mango EVER fit in a water bucket? I mean, not one of Paul Bunyan's water buckets, but normal people water buckets? Wow. *ahem* Seriously, it sounds like an interesting book. One of the things I hate about car racing (and ski racing...) is the interminable waiting around for 60 seconds of excitement (and it's worse with ski racing because you are freezing your ass off while waiting...). I was quite lucky with Fi (and Abby) - our standard poodle had just been diagnosed with cancer, and TaiChi was already ancient, so I asked a friend who bred goldendoodles (but wasn't going to have any puppies for quite some time) and she gave me the name of Fi's breeder. I was a little nervous, as the couple seemed like the typical 'backyard breeder' but when she gave me all the genetic test info on Mom and Dad, invited me to talk to other people who had gotten dogs from them, explained her socialization process, and assured me that we could bring back the dog (this was Fi) at any time, we got Fi. Given that she was the first puppy I had ever purchased, I think I was lucky to get some good advice from my vet and my breeder friend. Of course, now when Abby's being a pain, we keep telling her that we can give her back AT ANY TIME - which means NOW. (Needless to say, we won't, but it's nice to know we've always got that option! *grin*)

-Dr. Liz, who really should be working, but the current research proposal I'm working on seems to read "blah, blah, blah, drug-something, blah, blah, test, blah, try not to kill our subjects, blah, blah...". It's probably a hangover from all that SQL the last several days! ;-)

The Army of Four said...

Ha roo! We've bee trying to get caught up with everyone and just read through your posts that we missed. We especially liked your baby pix!!! Dang, Mango, you've always been one good-looking dude! I think Mom squeed at some of those!
Play bows,

Mitch and Molly said...

We loved you and your momma in the show ring, Mango! This book sounds like a very worthwhile read!

Love ya lots,
Mitch and Molly

KB said...

I loved reading about how you've found your dogs over the years, and your increasing scrutiny of breeders. I have followed the same trajectory. Our first dogs were randomly really good dogs. Then, we learned our lesson with a dog who had hip and elbow dysplasia. Now, we are very very picky...

I can imagine Mango stuck in a water bucket! Very funny.

scotsmad said...

Well done Mango--both trying the ring and then deciding it wasn't for him! SHE's always looking for something interesting to read so will check it out.

We are not show worthy scotties...too many faults, but we have the scottie temperament and that's what counts in our books.

XXXOOO Daisy, Bella & Roxy

STELLA and RORY from Down Under said...

Howdy Mango Momma, great post today. The book sounds interesting, especially as I don't get to see any dog shows. We have had dogs from breeders and backyard breeders and (gasp) our Kara was from a petstore. Sorry but we saw her, were after a dog for the kids, and the rest is history. She was the best natured dog we have ever had.
We bought our Brucey sight unseen (would never, ever do this again) and you know his history so after that we were extremely alert to meeting the dog parents, owners/breeders etc.

We loved seeing Mango in the ring (and yourself too). We especially loved your comment at the end about having fun. That sums it up really. We just want to have fun with our pets, well I do for sure. Take care. No worries, and love, Carol

Oskar said...

It sounds like a great book & it also sounds like you've done your homework when it comes to your doggies. Pretty smart, Manog Momma.

Nubbin wiggles,

Lorenza said...

Thanks for the pawesome review!
Sure it is important to know about good breeders, right?
Kisses and hugs

Faith Shen said...

My moms loves to read books about dogs show and dog training, and I'm sure this books is really fun to read. thanks for sharing Mango Momma :)

Dog Shock Collar | Puppy & Human Bond

Dory and the Mama said...

Awesome and informative post Mango Mama...thanks!!

Dory Mama

garthriley said...

Excellent post! I am the product of a wonderful responsible breeder (I call her "grandma") who loves the breed and breeds only quality labs with great dispositions and every possible health clearance. I was supposed to be a show dog myself, but I turned out to be too short, which is how I ended up with mom and dad. Mom met my grandma at a dog show and was very impressed with her dogs and started talking to her, and grandma was so nice and helpful, so mom kept in touch and checked grandma's website from time to time, and then one day I was posted on grandma's website, and mom and dad came to meet me, and it was love at first site! Mom and dad had to complete an extensive application and grandma had to approve them -- and mom and dad thought that was great. Good breeders care deeply about their dogs and want to make sure they have awesome homes. Mom and dad stay in touch with grandma, and she enjoys hearing about all my activities and adventures!

rottrover said...

Mango, we loved when you yawned when Floyd started to show!!

The video just needed Fred Willard and some color commentary, "How do they get them SO big???"

Great post, MM!

-Bart and Ruby

jen said...

I am so jealous that you got to review this book! Awesome!

I couldn't agree more with what you said about breeding and showing, as I am sure you know!

Tom, Tama-Chan, Sei-Chan, Bibi-Chan, Gen-Chan, Vidock said...

We are really sad about Bolo. He's one of the best.

Sad Woofs,

Sue said...

Thank you, thank you. It's so nice to hear someone say something good about breeders. There are some really good breeders and they take a lot of grief because of the bad ones. Believe me, if you do all the right things there's no money to be made in breeding.

Mango and Fudge should compare stories about acting up in the show ring. It would be pretty funny. Maybe we should write a book together.

Marjie said...

Breeder issues can be really tricky. I got lucky with our first mastiff (from NC), and we got the second from the same breeder. She bred good dogs, but by the time we got here, it just seemed silly to drive 700 miles to get a puppy. So we found someone here, 200 miles away. Now there's another guy only about 20 miles away; we've seen his dogs and bloodline, and they look solid. So when (or if) we decide we are ready for another mastiff, we know where to look.

Adopt-a-dogs are tricky, but did I ever tell you about Max? He was a huge white lab. Hubby found him sitting in a mud puddle in the middle of a busy street, stopped and opened the car door, and the dog hopped in. He wandered, but he was a friendly and lovable chap indeed. We had him for 13 years. We also took in an adult dachsund from an employee's MIL who was moving to a retirement home that wouldn't take the dog. Poor dog didn't like kids much, but she was very tolerant. She was 9 when we got her, and lived another 5 years.