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Friday, February 17, 2006

Meet the Humane Society of Greater Miami and Adopt-a-Pet's new executive director

She's Emily Marquez, who's been in marketing and development for more than 15 years. Her nonprofit experience includes Camillus House, the Alpha-1 Foundation, and the American Red Cross. I met her when she was working at Parrot Jungle.

Emily holds a Master of Arts degree in public relations from the University of Miami and a certificate in brand marketing from Procter & Gamble of Venezuela, where she was born. She's been in Miami for more than 25 years.

She and her husband, Doug, and son Mathew, share their Doral home with beagles Boomer and Lady, Quaker Parrot "614," an albino gecko named Gizmo, and a Goldie the goldfish.

"I am thrilled to be here at the Humane Society of Greater Miami and Adopt-A-Pet," says Emily. "I have always been such an animal lover and am looking forward to devoting my passion and years of experience to help the animals of Greater Miami."

Tip from reader for de-stinking your skunky dog

Let your friend know that "AtmosKlear" (sold at most Target stores) works great at eliminating odors. The Herald ran an article a couple of months back about a dog who would dig up dead cichlids from his human's pond and roll around on them. AtmosKlear is what finally got the smell out!

Jubilation in Bull Terrier Nation

Rufus, the Colored Bull Terrier that won Best in Show at Westminster, is now a canine superstar, and his victory has thrilled and electrified breed fanciers everywhere. Here's a digest of some e-mail messages from Ed Mclean of Fort Pierce, who directed me to, the Bull Terrier Club website, where you can learn all about the breed and see lots of pictures.

Note especially the ''buyer beware'' section, which cautions against buying from non-AKC breeders ("BTCA Rescue Support is reporting an alarming number of young Bull Terriers given up by their owners due to severe health and temperament problems. These dogs, who have not been properly socialized, are being imported from outside the U.S. with no regard to recommended health testing for the sire and dam (parents). They are being sold in excess of $2000.00 each and are not AKC registered. These owners have little recourse to recover their purchase price and these dogs are not eligible for showing or breeding a registered litter.'')

Ed tells me he's very involved in Bull Terrier rescue.

"BTs are high energy dogs that can be very destructive, and don't always listen so well if untrained. Right now we have four or five here in South Florida that we're working in feverishly to find new homes for. And today, after Rufus's win, we've had 6 inquires about dogs we have in our rescue system, so maybe that's a really good thing!''

He says that "the Bull Terrier Nation is ECSTATIC over Rufus’ win on Tuesday night! We’re a very small breed and although we compete against each other – when it comes to the Group or Best In Show – WE ARE ONE! This win couldn’t happen for any two better people than Tom and Barb Bishop. They’re the “regular” folks of the dog show world and not the strangeniks that were so accurately depicted in the movie “Best In Show.”

"This win wasn’t only for the Bull Terrier Nation – it was for all the “bully breeds:” American Staffordshire Terriers, Staffordshire Terriers and Miniature Bull Terriers included. We’ve always felt it was the cute little “fuzzies” that received the most attention and for years the “bully breeds” never stood a chance. In fact, most of us didn’t even stick around to show our breed winners in the Group ring because we really never felt we had an honest chance.

"Things started to change a year or two before Rufus burst onto the scene. A fabulous, flashy red/white bitch – Ch. Highview’s Gold Dust – started to get Group recognition and placements at the bigger shows and then Rufus came in and really got the ball rolling for our breed. Thanks to Rufus, more and more of the “bully breeds” are now receiving Group recognitions and placements on almost a regular basis.

''Anyhow, thanks for the fabulous coverage for The Miami Herald – one of my very favorite newspapers. Keep up the great work!''

Thanks, Ed, for the info and kudos.

Dog still gone (and this doesn't look good)

An update on the missing whippet from the New York Times:

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Dog Gone

One of the Westminster dogs disappeared from a baggage-handling area on the way home. Here's the Times story about it:

Pet pix

Check this site for great pet pix by a critter-crazy Miami photographer/writer, Wendy Doscher-Smith:


Here's a dispatch from my friend Podie, who lives near Tucson. Her big mutts, Elsie and Otis, had a close encounter with a skunk. (If you're ever in Tucson, definitely visit her store, Explorations: fantastic Far and Middle Eastern antiques).

Last night the dogs and I walked up Cow Hill to check out the sunset. I arrived just in time to see Elsie running in circles and rubbing her face on the ground and Otis thrashing some furred creature. I quickly saw that it was a skunk. He was shaking it and thumping it on the ground.

I screamed at him and he dropped it whereupon it discharged both barrels right in his face. Then Otis began to sneeze and cough and sputter and rub his face on the ground. Both
dogs totally wrecked. Poor shaken skunk retreated into burrow, which looks a lot
like a pack rat’s nest right on the summit of Cow Hill, now renamed Skunk Hill.

Wow, did those dogs stink. I used a half gallon of tomato juice on Otis, who really got the worst of it. I borrowed another half gallon of V8 from neighbors and did Elsie. I told both dogs
they were stupid stupid stupid. They were slinking around looking stupid.

Then I filled buckets with warm water and shampooed them really well, but they still stink. They both went to bed very early. Just another evening at Golder Ranch, but a far cry
from Westminster.

Skunk Thumper #10
Apache Reservation Dog #12
and their handler

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Humane Society events

There are a couple of fun Humane Society of Greater Miami and Adopt-a-Pet events coming up - my favorite is the Canine Brunch on April 2. Get details on their website:
A reader e-mailed me about a South Florida dog at Westminster I didn't write about, as well as some Palm Beach County dogs. A note about e-mail: I'm happy to get and answer it, but why not just click on "comment'' at the end of each post here on the blog?

Great coverage of Westminster. I enjoyed your articles. I show
Italian Greyhounds and found your article to be very accurate. Just wanted to
let you know that there are more S. Fl dogs that did well on the first day
besides the Bulldog.

In Italian Greyhounds, Barbara Angelino of Wellington, just outside of Palm Beach received Best of Opposite Sex with her Horizon's Lil Bandit of Bo Bett. This dog has been owner handled his whole career by Barbara and this is a great accomplishment.

Another Italian Greyhound has a co-owner from Hialeah, Cheryl Velasco. She received an Award of Merit yesterday--Everafter A Rose Is A Rose.

Another S Fl Italian Greyhound is from Loxahatchee--Grazias Secret Play- Whisper, but did not receive anything.

This is all so exciting for me because these are
people and dogs I know who are my friends and who I show against (or
with) ...and sometimes beat.

Once again, great
coverage. Hope to see another article tomorrow.

New York Times article Dogs Like Us (a cautionary tale about purebreds)

As much fun as the show is, there's sometimes a dark side to creating the "perfect'' dog. Take a look at this.

See More Photos

In case you missed the links below, be sure to check out the rest of the photos that Jose Iglesias shot at Westminster. They're great. After you click through to my story, click More Photos. Day 1/Day 2

The Underdog Wins! (and an interview with his owners)

When Rufus the "colored'' bull terrier won Best in Show last night at Madison Square Garden, the wild cheering from the stands could have rivalled any last-second-win euphoria at a Knicks game.

Rufus - Ch. Rocky Top's Sundance Kid - was clearly one of the underdogs, along with the Scottish deer hound, the Rottweiler, and the pug, though the sheer silliness of pugs - and I mean that in the most amused way - clearly won over much of the crowd.

But it really seemed like a dead heat among the Golden retriever, the Old English sheepdog and the Dalmatian. Every time one of those three trotted around the show ring, fans screamed loud enough to shake Walt Frazier's, Willis Reed's and Bill Bradley's jerseys in the rafters.

"Pick the Golden!'' they shrieked. "Pick the pug!''

But judge James G. Reynolds of Ottowa, Canada, had his own ideas, and when he saw Rufus, who's nearly 6, he saw perfection.

The moment of maximum suspense in the Best in Show finale came when the judge lined up the six dogs that had won Best of Group for one final time (after several trips around the ring and a thorough going-over from teeth to tail). The Garden was hushed. He looked up and down the line of dogs then stepped to the judging table and wrote something down.

Stewards then came forward with three silver trophies. Reynolds picked up the winner's purple and gold ribbon. They walked slowly to the line of dogs. Nobody breathed. Reynolds took a couple of steps toward Rufus and the whole place erupted in screaming and applause.

In the stands, Rufus's owner, Tom Bishop of Holmdel, N.J., literally fell over himself, overcome with emotion. He's a big, beefy guy and was crying like a baby.

A couple of minutes later, I ran into Nancy Isakson from Fort Lauderdale, the owner of Cali, the Bests of Opposite Sex bulldog. She thought Rufus was a great pick.

"That dog was like so on, it was amazing!'' she told me. "He totally deserved it. Look at him wagging his tail out there; he's just so happy! He showed like a million bucks. He was perfect. Begging for it.''

A churning scrum of photographers had surrounded Rufus and his handler, Kathryn Kirk, by then, like it was Oscar night on the red carpet. Rufus had a huge grin on his long, flat face and wasn't at all rattled by the pandemonium around him.

"That's our dog! Tom Bishop sobbed, as friends threw themslves into his arms.

Tom is a 50-year-old chemical-plant maintenace superintendent: "I'm a blue-collar worker and Rufus is a blue-collar dog," he told me.

His wife, Barbara, 55, is a stay-at-home grandma (two sons, four grandkids, four bull terriers), who's been showing dogs since the 1970s, Komondoroks (which look like enornous mops) and Lhasa apsos (which look like plush toys).

"When they passed on, I said I wanted a man's dogs, and I love bull terriers. We've been in bull terriers since '84, and this is our first real show dog.''

This was Rufus's fifth time at Westminster, Tom said, and had won his group on Monday.

Tom was "ecstatic. Over the moon. I didn't think anything could get better than that with the competition that was there. Today is the candle...It's like having Lance Armstrong for your son.''

Then he strated crying again.

Rufus - who was due on Martha Stewart's tv show Wednesday, along with all three morning shows - now retires to a life of leisure, though he'll go to shows as a spectator.

"He sleeps on our bed," said Tom.

Barbara calls Rufus, who weighs 75 pounds, a "couch potato. He lays around. Then when he feels like playing, he'll grab something and run around. He does what we call the hucklebuck: he'll get a burst of energy and run around. It's like, 'You will play NOW!''

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Don't Touch The Dog!

You see a beautiful dog, you want to touch, right? Well, that's a really bad idea at Westminster if that dog is headed from the grooming area to the floor and its handler is, shall we say, the snippy type.

Zap! he pulls out a water bottle and sprays me in the face! I was so stunned by this aquatic assault that I don't even remember what kind of dog it was, but competitive pressure seems to bring out the worst in certain people.

Though not in dogs, apparently. Day 2 of the show is winding down, and I've yet to witness any unsportsman-like conduct among the canines. In fact a lot of them act like real dogs offstage, leaping on and pawing at their owners, begging for treats, and behaving naughtily in the hotel.

Fort Lauderdale vet, Dr. Suzy Sarna, told me her collie, Lacey, munched on one of the shoes she planned to wear tonight to the Best in Group/Best in Show judging.

"When my husband and I got together four years ago, she ate both of our cellphones,'' Suzy said, which made me feel a lot better about my mutts and their bad habits.

Even in the ring, these impeccably-mannered creatures sometimes goof off. During the Weimaraner judging this afternoon, one contestant rolled on his back, feet in the air, and wiggled around on the grass-green carpet like an upside down bug, drawing amused chuckles from the crowd.

(The handlers are a special breed as well, a great many of them sturdily-built women in sensible shoes and dowdy suits with short jackets and knee-length skirts that must come from a special dowdy-suit store reserved for dog handlers, because I can't remember seeing anything so unflattering since the golden age of polyester in the 1970s).

The South Florida contingent took no Best of Breeds at Westminster, but two Broward dogs - Sonny, a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever from Davie, and Cali, the bulldog from Fort Lauderdale - took the next best thing in their breeds: Best of Opposite Sex. That's given to the dog of the opposite gender from the Best of Breed winner.

I must admit that it's been difficult to maintain my reporterly objectivity when it comes to Sonny and his little sister, Sizzle. I'd never met Tollers before "interviewing'' these two last week, at their owner Alyson Casper's house, on an acre-and-a-half spread that's a little slice of dog heaven.

They are so incredibly sweet, frisky and alert, with cute little pink noses and silky coats, that any dog fanatic worthy of the label just has to be smitten.

Sunday, when New York got its record snowfall, Jose, the photographer, and I met Alyson, her son, Gavin, 12, and her boyfriend, architect Mark Fine, at their swanky hotel on Madison Avenue, then tromped through the snow to Central Park.

The Tollers bounded through the drifts like rabbits. They're smallish, about 40 pounds, so at times all we could see was their brandy-colored heads. Then we headed for the duck pond, and at the sight of actual ducks, they went absolutely nuts.

Tollers have make a high-pitched yelping sound called a ''Toller scream,'' and if you didn't know it was an expression of excitement and joy, you'd think someone was pulling their toenails out.

If he hadn't been on a leash, Sonny would have been over the fence and into the pond in a second. Sizzle tried to tunnel under the fence. The ducks
seemed blessedly unaware.

That night, we attended one of the premier pre-show dog parties: Iris Love's soiree at the Tavern on the Green. The landmark restaurant, right in Central Park, is a sprawling complex of banquet rooms adorned with spectacular crystal chandeliers and jewel-like stained-glass murals. The courtyards looked like Currier & Ives wonderlands under the fresh snow.

Iris Love, a world-class dachshund breeder and archeologist, has been giving this party for decades, always themed for some country she's interested in. Her dogs are costumed for the event in the native garb of that country.

Last year, it was Mexico.The dachshunds wore little sombreros and
serapes made from tea towels, said Diane Poranski, who's been decorating for the party for years. In real life, she's an air freight agent at Kennedy International Airport.

This year the theme was China. Iris Love told me she went around the villages in a remote area of China buying little silkoutfits for babies, never hinting that they'd be worn by dachshunds.

"I had to shorten the sleeves for their short legs,'' Diane confided.

In years past, she's done Vikings, complete with little horned helmets, and a Cleopatra theme. Instead of an asp on Iris Love's headdress, there was a dachshund head. She even figured out how to spell "dachshund'' in hieroglyphics.

"You can find anything on the Internet,'' she said.

The party greeter was a dog name Diomedes, a great champion of infinite patience and poise. He sat the entire night on a table greeting guests, wearing a Chinese baby outfit complete with a beanie on his pointy little head,gazing balefully at the goings-on.

Occasionally, someone rewarded him with a chunk of roast beef from the

Iris Love goes all out for this party, so there was a platter of chopped liver molded like a dachshund, and bone-shaped gingerbread cookies.

Susan Watts, a guest from Pennsylvania, was wearing a Chinese "Year of the Dog'' sweater, embroidered with Chinese zodiac symbols and dachshunds.

I asked her husband, Randy, what he did for a living.

"Vice president of Nathan's Famous," he said, which of course cracked me up. Of COURSE they'd have wiener dogs for pets!

By Monday morning when the show started, the dogs and people were all business. The backstage area is a frenzy of grooming activity, with hundreds of grooming tables crammed end to end. The dogs stay up there for hours, being primped, combed, fluffed and sprayed.

The Shi Tzus show-ring styling is a shy-high top knot that gets teased and tweaked with a rat-tailed comb, like something out of John Waters' movie, Hairspray.

The poodles' ears and head fluffs stay wrapped in bits of cloth until the last minute. They lounged atop their tables with their chins on pillows like the dog divas they are, awaiting their close-ups.

Between the hair dryers, the barking, and the chatter of several thousand fans snaking between the tables, it's an absolute madhouse.

So is the benching area, were all dogs showing on a particular day must spend the whole day. Each one gets a small, low cubicle along a row of its breed. Mostly, the dogs hang out in their crates, getting bathroom breaks from time to time in a sawdust pit.

Many of them will be gone by tonight, when Best in Show will be announced. It's at 11 p.m., and I'll try to stay awake long enough to report it live.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

This date is a dog

So, who hasn’t had a Saturday night blind date that turned out to be a dog? I had one – hundreds, actually – last night, and it was love at first sight. Because these dogs are the most gorgeous canines on the planet, the Brad Pitts and Angelina Jolies of dogdom.

We met at the Hotel Pennsylvania, right across from Madison Square Garden, where the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show begins tomorrow. The Pennsylvania is a big, busy place, usually packed with tourists, airline crews, conventioneers, and business travelers. One week a year, it’s packed with dogs competing in the show.

Here's my report from The Miami Herald, with a lot more photos.

Picture this: A vast lobby with terrazzo floors, so crowded with dogs, people, and baggage trolleys stacked with dog cages that a toy poodle can barely squeeze through, much less a Saint Bernard or a bull mastiff.

It’s presided over by Jerry Grymek, in a dark suit, wearing a “Doggie Concierge’’ lapel pin.

“I’m here to greet the guests, and clean up the spills in Aisle 2,’’ he quipped. “I’m in charge of poochlic relations.” (If you ask me, puplic relations would have been a better line, but he’s the PR maven, so what do I know?)

Contestants had been arriving all day, just ahead of a huge storm that’s threatening to bury New York in 16 inches of snow by this evening. Near hurricane-force gusts up to 50 miles per hour are whipping the snow in all directions. I’m looking out at a balcony railing where it’s piled up six inches already, and it’s only 10:15 in the morning.

Herald photographer Jose Iglesias met me at the hotel. He’s as canine-obsessed as I am, the proud daddy of two Labs, Max and Lulu, and a Jack Russell terrier named, I’m honored to say, Ellie (because her photo turned up in a story I did last year about Miami-Dade Animal Services. Jose took one look and raced to the shelter to claim her).

First thing, Jose spots a Jack Russell: Tom (Ch. Edison’s TNT Aftershock), boinging up and down like a Jack Russell-in-the-box, as they do, and he’s down on the floor shooting from dog level. Turns out Tom’s owners are from Sarasota: Cathy Dahlberg and her daughter, Kelli, 14, who’ll be handling him in the ring. Her friends in eighth grade “don’t understand this,’’ she told me, meaning the dog-show thing.

From then on, it seemed like every other person we met was from Florida, probably not surprising since only seven other states send more dogs to the Westminster, California and New York being the top two.

We spotted Raiden, the magnificent Akita from Coconut Grove who was featured in my story yesterday in the Herald. His owner, lawyer Michael Arias, had just arrived at the hotel with his son Mikey, 2, and Giuseppe Renzulli, Raiden’s handler (who was busier handling a rambunctious Mikey than the impeccably-behaved Raiden). Michael’s wife, Michelle Beauchamp, was staying with relatives.

And there, just inches away, stood Thomas Woden of Key Largo, with Cadi, his adorable Havanese: a silky, gray-and-white little mop of a thing.

“She slept under the seat the whole way,” said Thomas, who’ll be competing against 13 Havanese bitches and 18 males.

Want to buy a champion Havanese puppy? It’ll set you back about $2,000. That’s about $500 a pound (and you thought sirloin was expensive?)

Others from Florida: Melissa Bausman, of North Port, with her Bull Mastiff, Savvy: Ch. Bo-Beck’s Linmor Just Peachy, and Kelly Mt. All American, aka Walker, an American Foxhound from Rockledge – Best of Breed last year – and Virago, a Borzoi from Alachua.

Virago, whose mom won Best of Breed in 2001, got hurt last month in a collision with a downed tree, so owner Chris Neale arranged for a therapeutic massage in the hotel’s basement. Yes, dog massage. Masseuse Debbi Zimmerman gives them, along with aromatherapy. She swears by a lavendar-based spray called Chill Out, for calming the nerves. Virago, zoned out on a fleecy pad, hardly seemed to need it.

A woman named Judy Davis has, for the past eight years, run a dog spa in the basement. It evolved from an indoor latrine into a spa/mall/gym/art gallery/canine snack bar, with bathing and grooming stations, treadmills in various sizes, and a plastic-lined pen filled with wood shaving: His and Hers dog bathrooms. The men’s room thoughtfully features poles wrapped in plastic for your leg-lifting pleasure.

“We go through 125 (8 cubic feet) bales of shavings in five days,” Davis told me. “There’s no more dogs peeing and pooping on the streets of New York. When you have 2,000 dogs, that’s a lot.’’

The most hilarious sight of the evening was Tucker, the national champion pug, looking – dare I say, pugnacious? – as he worked out on a treadmill, with all the focus and determination of a prizefighter. His handler, Esteban Farias, 33, from Argentina, turned out to be from Miami! He’s a 10-time Westminster veteran who has shown boxers, mastiffs, Dobermans, and working dogs. He said that Tucker – Ch. Frodun’s Friar Tuck – is co-owned by two people from Panama and a woman from Memphis.

Tucker is the top dog in America, according to Esteban, based on points earned in all-breed, toy, and pug categories in various shows. He exercises for 30 minutes a day to stay in top shape, and after 10 minutes on the treadmill, showed no signs of flagging.

We ran into yet another South Floridian in the basement: Omar Pitaluga, of Originals By Omar, a Kendall jewelry store. He specializes in hand-crafted gold animal jewelry (got $3,000 for a sapphine-and-diamond-encrusted “blue ribbon brooch?)

And who was kibitzing with him? Nancy Isakson of Fort Lauderdale, with Cali, her #1 bulldog, resplendent in a rhinestone collar and leash with a rhinestone-encrusted collar clip. We featured Cali’s spectacularly wrinkled countenance on the Herald front page yesterday.

Now I’m pretty nuts about my dogs, and dogs in general, but Nancy is simply over the top. There she was in a suede jacket with Cali painted on the back. On one lapel: a marcasite bulldog pin, on the other a pin reading: “Still young in dog years.’’ And around her neck: one of Omar’s hefty gold bulldog pendants.

We didn’t see Cliff Simones of the Redland, with his miniature dachshund Valerie, but no doubt will tonight, at socialite Iris Love’s party at Tavern on the Green – she of the 42 champion dachshunds, many of which will be dressed as Chinese empresses. Stay tuned for what promises to be an amusing (if not surreal) event.