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Congress 2000
The Australian Experience
by Paul Britza, 4th World Congress Chairman

( Our thanks to Paul Britza for his permission to publish his congress report)

The Planning

Almost 4 years after commencing the planning phases for the 4th World Congress for Afghan Hounds, the event we have all been waiting for has come to a very successful conclusion.

Some of our planning highlights were:

* The original announcement at the 2nd World Congress in San Diego in November 1985 that Sydney would host the 4th World Congress in the year 2000
* The forming of our first organising committee during 1996, comprising some 25 to 30 Afghan Hound Club of NSW members
* The securing of Penrith Panthers Resort facilities and subsequent announcement to the world at the 3rd World Congress in Denmark in 1997
* The formation of a much smaller organising committee (8 to 10 members) which has largely been the body of people that has seen the organisation through to its conclusion
* The official 4th World Congress launch dinner in October 1997 and early release of some congress products
* The establishment and continual updating of our official internet web-site and release of the official survey to determine what the world wants included in the congress program
* Announcement of the tentative congress program to club members in July 1999 and following that, to the rest of the world.

Lead Up Events

Welcome Cocktail Party
On Wednesday evening 12th April the first of the events, the Congress/National Welcome Cocktail Party was staged. Afghan Hound Fanciers from all over the world gathered in Panthers Pavilion to be officially welcomed to:

* The National Specialty Show by Patricia Egan, Club President and National Show Secretary, and
* The 4th World Congress for Afghan Hounds by Paul Britza, Organising Committee Chairman

Many old acquaintances were renewed and new ones formed. National Specialty Show & Presentation Dinner

On Thursday and Friday 13th and 14th April the National Afghan Hound Specialty Show and presentation dinner was held.

4th World Congress for Afghan Hounds

On Saturday and Sunday 15th and 16th April the 4th World Congress for Afghan Hounds was held in the Panthers Pavilion. Almost 200 breed fanciers from all Australian States and 20 different countries gathered for this event. As well as Australia, countries represented were:

* Belgium - Hosts for the 5th World Congress
* Switzerland
* Sweden
* Denmark
* Norway
* Finland
* Germany
* Holland
* England
* Scotland
* Ireland
* South Africa
* Zimbabwe
* United States of America
* Canada
* Kazakstan
* New Zealand
* Japan
* Malaysia

The Congress Day 1

The day commenced very early for some of the key organisers so that last minute equipment needs and program modifications could be planned.

Welcome and Introduction to Day 1
At just after 9.00 am on Saturday 15th April the 4th World Congress was officially opened by the MC for the two days (the Congress Chairman, Paul Britza) and delegates from all countries were welcomed individually. The long suffering and hard working organising committee members were publicly acknowledged and thanked. Some minor program modifications had to be made and were announced to all delegates. This was caused by a session cancellation and the delegates desire to attend all sessions instead of missing out on some of the concurrent ones.

Into the New Millennium
Opening addresses were made by Patricia Egan (Ascent Afghans, Australia and President of the Afghan Hound Club of NSW) and Lynnette Schelling-Watson, Shaltaarah Kennels, Australia). Both presented their views on how afghans originally began in Australia, and in the latter case in the world. Some of the latter presentation included how the Afghan originated from the wolf and other canine species, including the Australian Dingo. A highlight of this presentation, particularly to our overseas visitors, was the presence of a 10 month old Dingo puppy. The final session on this topic was a panel presentation from an international panel reviewing the breed in their respective countries from William Hansen (NZ), Sue Rhodes (UK) and Gill Ullom (USA).

Performance Afghan Hounds
Julie Messersmith (USA) introduced the video presentation showing Afghan hounds in obedience, agility and lure coursing. The video presentation was shown throughout the lunch break on both days and most people were enthralled, particularly the Australians as we have little or no performance trained afghan hounds in Australia.

Movement Seminar
Some parts of this were originally scheduled to run as concurrent sessions but due to a large proportion of delegates wishing to attend this and other sessions, all movement sessions on day 1 were made single sessions in the main pavilion.

The first session of the movement seminar before lunch was presented by Barb Bornstein and Dennis Eschbach (both of the USA). These presentations were informative and concentrated on various aspects of Afghan movement.

Movement - the Elusive Characteristic was the next session of the movement seminar straight after lunch. Duane Butherus (USA) presentation was titled "Spring, Bounce and Elasticity - a Quantative Analysis of Afghan Hound Movement". Duane presented graphical aspects of movement related to spring, bounce and elasticity.

Following Duane's session Paul Hewitt (Australia) presented a session titled "How Fast is Too Fast". This session reviewed the theoretical aspects of correct profile movement. Paul used some graphical presentation including video of trotting horses to put his ideas across.

The final session on movement for day 1 was a panel discussion chaired by Dennis Eschbach which included Helen Furber (Australia), Barb Bornstein (USA), Lynda Race (UK) and Age Gjetnes (Norway).

PAL/Ozdog Competition & Dinner
Many congress delegates attended this competition and dinner at which a good time was had by all. Especially the overseas delegate that won the Calcutta (auction of various competing dogs - winner takes the cash) and a tidy sum to help offset costs.

The Congress Day 2
The day also commenced very early for some to once again make some last minute modifications.

Introduction to Day 2
At 9.00 am on Sunday 16th April, day 2 of the 4th World Congress was opened by the MC (the Congress Chairman, Paul Britza). Once again some minor program modifications had to be made and were announced to all delegates - caused by a session cancellation and delegates desire to attend all sessions.

One concurrent session was still required in the program and choice had to be made between:
The World Breed Extension Workshop, or Technology and the Better Afghan

Temperament and Dog Behaviour
This most interesting session was presented by Dr. Robert Holmes who is a veterinarian of 30 years experience and has a Ph.D. in animal behaviour. Dr Holmes presentation was titled "Temperament and Dog Behaviour - Genetic or Learned". Judging by comments from delegates everyone was totally engrossed in this presentation with many suggesting they would now be able to better understand some of their more problem dogs.

Raising Optimum Show Ring Candidates
Once again a most interesting topic presented by Craig Murray who is an internationally certified specialist dog trainer. Craig has involvement with Police dog and other specialist dog training.

Even though may questions were taken from the floor at the completion of each session, both Robert and Craig were very sought after at the morning tea break with many additional questions from delegates.

The World Scene
This session presented by Espen Engh of Norway had all afghan hound breeders and fanciers fascinated. The session was titled "The Eastern Tazi, Khalag & Taigan, the lost Cousins of the Afghan Hound" and looked at the standards and pictures of some of these rare dogs. Are they a separate breed or just an ancient strain of our breed??

Does Coat Hide the Dog
The introduction to this session was one of the most spectacular visual presentations I have seen. Julie and Emmett Roche put together a series of afghan slides (some 140 or so I think) that were flashed on the big screen in a fully darkened pavilion to the music of Give me a Head with Hair, Book of Days by Enya and What a Wonderful World by Louis Armstrong. After everyone wiped away the tears Barb Bornstein and Julie Roche provided a visual demonstration on how various coat patterns and preparations can really change the look of the dog. Fascinating to all.

Judge's Training - A World Comparison
A panel from various parts of the world presented on how their judges are trained. The panel consisted of:

* Barbara Skilton (Australia)
* Peter Machen (Canada)
* Mary Pascoe (UK)
* Espen Engh (Norway)

Concurrent Session - World Breed Extension Workshop
Some 8 or 10 exhibits voted on as "the people's choice" at the National Specialty were returned for this session. The session was held in the National Specialty Show ring just outside the pavilion. It was co-ordinated by Paul Hewitt with a panel reviewing individual aspects of the breed including:

* Lynda Race, UK reviewing the afghan head
* William Hansen, NZ reviewing coat and coat texture
* Sue Rhodes, UK reviewing the afghan silhouette
* Dennis Eschbach, USA reviewing movement
* Barb Bornstein, USA, reviewing breed characteristics

Concurrent Session - Technology and the Better Afghan
The first part of this session was titled Colour Genetics in the Afghan Hound. Adrian Elsworth (NZ) presented the technicalities of colour genetics and was backed up by Gary Synck (USA) with some examples.

The second session was presented by local veterinarian Dr Robert Zammit who is a well known personality and makes regular television appearances in Australia. He is chairman of the hereditary diseases committee for the Royal NSW Canine Council and presented a most interesting session on hereditary diseases and artificial insemination techniques.

Plenery Session
The first part of this was the World Breed Standard Extension Workshop Findings introduced by Paul Hewitt (Australia) and the various panel members listed above presented their findings.

The second part was presented by Pamela Bennett on the formation of an International Confederation of Afghan Hound Fanciers (ICAHF) which could determine "world" matters related to the Afghan Hound, in particular hosts for future World Congresses. A motion was moved and accepted that Pamela set up an internet web-site and be the founding secretary for ICAHF.

A presentation was made by Audrie Van Steelant-Benoit of Belgium announcing the dates and details as hosts of the 5th World Congress.

A final 30 minute session was devoted to questions from the floor to any of the presenters over the 2 days or of anyone else. Many questions were put forward. Delegates seemed particularly concerned about the hosts for the 6th World Congress as it had not yet been decided. Delegates from South Africa then volunteered to host the 6th World Congress in Johannesburg. Their proposal was enthusiastically accepted by all delegates present so they now become official hosts for this event.

Paul Britza as MC and Congress Chairman once again thanked all countries individually for their enthusiastic support over the last 2 days and announced (with tongue in cheek for the benefit of the South Africans) that the onerous task of organising a congress was not that bad after all. The congress organising committee members present were called to the front of the room and thanked for their effort. Standing ovations for committee and chairman were received from all delegates.

The Congress Finale - The Aussie Bush Barbecue
No international conference in Australia would be complete without sampling some typical Aussie hospitality. Some 200 people (congress delegates and/or other afghan fanciers) gathered in the "bush themed" pavilion to un-wind from 2 days of talk and have a bit of good Aussie fun.

The Aussie Bush Band "Bush Fire" provided an incredible evening of entertainment. From the organised chaos (bush dancing that is) to the telling of some good Aussie yarns - some explanation of Aussie humor was required for many of our overseas visitors. Some other highlights of the evening were:

William Hansen being given the first opportunity of the night to pucker up and play the didgeridoo. He was followed by a number of other overseas visitors.

The calling up to the stage of Barb Bornstein (after earlier requesting the band to perform Waltzing Matilda). Barb was seated on stage on a bale of hay next to one of the wagon wheels, had her trousers tied at the ankles with red ribbon (to keep the snakes and cockroaches out), had a swag placed over her shoulder, had a swaggy hat complete with cork insect repellant placed on her head, and was handed a billie to boil her tea. The band then sang Waltzing Matilda to Barb and a madly delerious audience.

The South African contingent getting up on stage and singing a traditional Zulu song and then challenging any other group to do the same. The NZ contingent then gave us a rendition of a traditional Maori love song (not the Haka which is a war song).

The night proved to be perfect - perhaps "the" social event of the congress - those who were not on early flights the next day stayed late to enjoy the night to the fullest.

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