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3rd World Afghan Congress Report #4
Rene Fairlie (UK)
June 19th and 20th saw 216 breed devotees foregathered at the prestigious Marienlyst hotel, Elsinore, within a short walk of Hamlet' s Castle for this third event. We numbered several from each of the Scandinavian countries, Germany, U.S.A., Australia, England, Scotland and Ireland, but Italy, France, Estonia, Latvia, Greece and Israel were all represented. Twenty four countries in all, so truly an international gathering.
Opening at 2pm on Day 1, Ulf Jorgansen of Boxadon fame took the Chair to give us all a warm welcomel, The programme for the two days had a wide spectrum of expert speakers and first to be introduced was Uwe Fischer of Germany, president of the FCI judges panel. His plea to give one's hounds a natural, happy life through lure coursing etc in spite of their now being purely show animals had my hearty approval. Birgitha Runmarker, for Sweden, told us their club had 430 members with around 150 puppies registered p.a. whereas Helena Lannoner for Finland gave 66 members and 100 reg. p.a. with frequent top entries at shows. Ulf told us that 30 years ago Denmark had one Sighthound club, their A.H.C. was founded in '72 and now has 200 or so members with about 50 reg. p.a.
We moved on to a Panel Discussion, Birgitha Runmarker, Paul Lepiane, USA, and Espen Engh of Norway taking part. They touched on natural and artificial Afghans. So says my notes - but can't think where the latter comes into it! Greece raised a point about temperaments and then we went on to Dr. Jens Jacobsen of Denmark on the requirements for Optimum Diet and Nutrition, chiefly in praise of the ideal balance of the different Eukanuba products.
Came a comic delight next with legal eagles (?) David Frei and Mark Cocozza, impressively wigged and gowned to prosecute and defend two cases. No.1 - I'he World Needs More Pets. David pursued the theme, calling several witnesses, while Mark opposed, saying that Stud Dog owners were quite right not to accept any and every bitch to their dogs. We the jury found for Mark by a large majority and David's case was lost. Case No.2 concerned a certain Mr.X accused of taping puppies' tails to improve rings. More witnesses called and general talk here re ethics, health risks, faking, trimming etc. On a show of hands few would admit to trimming, even fewer to tail taping. Mr.X was found guilty for his sins.
Serious stuff again, the Panel resumed on the thorny subject of the education of judges and their skills in general. Uwe Fischer's comments were most pertinent.
Really good judges have an eye for a dog and it cannot be taught if not already there. Only around 20% of judges have this . There followed many views from the floor on methods of learning, priorities of total balance, skeletal and muscular needs, heads, coats and so on. We could have gone on for hours, but Espen Engh summed up nicely by pointing out the advantages of World Congresses, enjoyed by few breeds, where our knowledge could be pooled. This brought close of official play for the first day. The evening was devoted to a sumptuous Buffet Dinner and Dance to follow and Nutritional Needs were more than met, believe me. Lovely to chat, too, to so many worldwide buffs before eventual bed.
Day 2. Ulf opened proceedings after our ample breakfast session. A wonder we could stay awake for the day's work. Sue Virgo of the Yorkshire AHC was first on the rostrum to report on the first Congess which was their brainchild, in particular Hazel Arris, Sue Metcalfe, herself and husband Mike. It brought in 150 delegates from 19 countries including Mrs.Yasimoto from Japan. They had started the Visitors Book, which she thanked David Frei and Ulf for carrying on and making the whole theme grow with San Diego and now Copenhagen. David recalled San Diego with its attendance of 500 from 23 countries. He mentioned the liberal sponorship of Pedigree, praised the greater co-operation in a shrinking world and finally said he still had souvenirs to sell It was a thrill for us all to see and hear again the video "Afghan Joy" made by Chris Terrell and George Bell.
Next on our agenda, the matter of One World Standard, addressed by Birgitha Runmarker. At present the FCI, KC and Australia are the same with America slightly different. A committee to look into it was mooted but not deemed feasible. She put on screen photos of Mrs.Amps' early imports and compared them with current British and American stock showing trends to date.
We broke off here for coffee and were all shepherded outside for group photos and video shots (for posterity?) luckily between showers. Thus refreshed, back to hear our own Susan Rhodes with the query "Who are we breeding for'?" Fashion? Judges? The Breed Standard? Should we be going back to Zardin? To back her views we saw films of the late Eileen Snelling' s famous Khorrossan champions of the 40s and 50s, tops in their time, but that in later years, still in the same bloodlines she failed to breed any further big winners. Was this all a change in fashion? A much appreciated talk with lots to think about. Upon which note we knocked off again for another first class buffet lunch. The inner man, or should I say person was more than taken care of.
When reconvened for the final afternoon, first to speak was Roberto Posa of Italy, his subject general trends in the breed, such as hedonism, extroversion, grooming, style and presentation and the greater attention to details of discipline in the ring. He covered past over angulation and extension of hind quarters, then a focus on heads for more elegance, the lessening of the round, light eye problem and called for all to abhor exaggeration. Technically he saw computer link ups as a big help in the sharing of mutual knowledge.
We were given quite a different opinion by the veteran Swedish breeder, Christine Jernberg asking "What has happened to our Aristocratic Afghans?". She spoke in Swedish through an interpreter which perforce didn't allow we Brits to follow her full gist, unfortunately. She now saw so many faults in construction and deplored the loss of arrogance of ten years ago. Altogether the challenge had led to her ceasing any more breeding. Wish we could have understood her better as her words brought a standing ovation from those who did.
Something different now caused very polarised opinions when Lotte Jorgansen and Kirsten Nielsen gave a Trimming, Grooming and Handling Demo. What a lovely model they had with their black bitch who stood so patiently for them. Her saddle, sides of head and neck, then tail, were all completely smoothed to enhance her houndy lines and this found favour with all bar we Brits. Zita Fogarty spoke up for us, asking what about the clause in the standard that says the coat should be allowed to develop naturally"? Through all the arguments I had the impression of a real division of thought and felt most everyone regarded our side as pretty old hat and many of our hounds likewise. My own view is it can all go too far, creating a race of show puppets rather than the original Afghans of their native land. Look what America did to the English Cocker - now there are two different breeds altogether.
It was good to switch to the able expert, Wendye Slatyer explaining detais of A.I. In Australia she bred the first litter sired by an English dog in '76. So many renowned Calahorra Chs. go to prove her expertise as a breeder and here she was most lucid in going through the technical points, pros, cons, costs and liabilities plus import permits etc. It's all no easy option.
Over to Dr. Dennis Echstrach of America, a Chiropractitioner, who treats animals as well as humans. With his clear diagrams he pointed out skeletal, spinal and muscular trouble spots which were treatable. Faulty movement could often be corrected by spinal manipulation and painful ailments relieved. Most interesting. Next the Dutch speaker, Gerard Jipping spoke on "What is the Correct Type?" We learned that currently in Holland around 60 puppies are bred p.a. as compared with 100 in the 70s.Some years ago Hans Jungeling and Mme. Pauptit with the Oranje Manege Afghans held sway but now they had a mixture of Dutch, German and French bloodlines etc. with the aim of one atandard type.
We were coming to the close of the afternoon as Pauline Hewitt of Australia took up the theme that everything changes in time, even Afghans, which is part of natural evolution. The main thing is to have a good relationship with your dogs, give them freedom, space and encouragement. She thanked her many fellow breeders for all their friendship and support and ended "'The dogs are great, there should be more of them" Donna Boucek, USA, stood in for Sandy Frei and exhorted us all to attend many functions, read dog literature, LISTEN and think about what we hear. Select a mentor for guidance. Develop ideas on the unique individuality of Afghans.
Look for balance - more is needed. As for presentation, you can't always have the best dog in the show but you CAN have the best conditioned one. Never forget honesty and integrity or close your mind to other opinions.
This was all great advice from Donna and gave us ideal targets to carry away with us as Ulf, on behalf of the Danish Club, made the final speech to close the Third World Congress. The Danes had done a super job of organisation bringing together so much worldwide talent. We had all spent a fascinating two days and thanks go out to them for all their hard work. That last evening was spent at a Barbecue Supper, held indoors due to the doubtful weather, but it was a chance for lots more conviviality all round.
The following morning we were off to the Club Specialty Ch. Show nearby where we were able to study the real thing - so many lAvely Afghans in the flesh - and of course, carry on talking. Our tour still not over, on the next day we were off to the third and final day of the general Euro Ch. show in Copenhagen where we watched Lotte Jorgansen judging the Afghans and some of the groups before we had to taxi off to the Airport for home sweet home.
I'm surprised more breeds don't try and set up World Congresses. They can be such an education in one's chosen breed internationally and so many friendships await as a result. Now for Congress No.4, which will be in Sydney in 2000 at Easter. Start a piggy bank now. Even further ahead in 2002, Belgium won a vote to host the 5th. meeting to coincide with the 100th., I think, anniversary of their Sight Hound Club. Yorkshire had hoped to host a ten years later event, but on a vote Belgium won the day, so that is the plan for the next few years. And that is just about everything about the Copenhagen Conference.
Rene Fairlie July 97
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