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3rd World Afghan Congress Report #6
David Frei (USA)
(Acknowledgement and note We wish to thank the author, David Frei, of Stormhill Afghan Hounds USA, and also "Dog News", the USA canine publication, for permission to re-print this report which was written for, and published in, "Dog News". Copyright remains the property of David Frei and "Dog News". Please note that this report was written for Dog News and its all-breed, mostly-American audience, so it's a little different perhaps from one that might have been written for an Afghan Hound publication.)
ELSINORE, Denmark -- The third Afghan Hound World Congress -- equal parts educational event, family reunion, and show-and-tell -- took place last month in this beautiful seaside village north of Copenhagen. Bringing together more than 200 Afghan Hound fanciers from 23 different countries, the Congress featured two days of interesting and provocative (we hope) presentations. But it has come to be just as important for the introductions, discussions later in social settings, and the opportunity to put faces and names together in this world of magazine articles, ads, web pages and e-mail. Once again, it succeeded on all counts.
Thursday began with a welcome from Congress Chairman Ulf Jorgensen, and a showing of the fabulous Afghan Hound video produced by Chris Terrell and George Bell for the second World Congress which was held in San Diego two years before. Next, representatives of the three Afghan Hound clubs in Scandinavia greeted us with quick reports, and Uwe Fischer of Germany, president of the German Kennel Club and an Afghan Hound breeder, welcomed everyone on behalf of FCI. Two cases in the mythical "Afghan Hound Court," Ulf's way of getting everyone in the mood to participate, provided the highlight for the first afternoon. Mark Cocozza of England and I served as the prosecuting and defense attorneys, complete with robes, and a mannequin was the defendant in each case. In the first, the mannequin/defendant was charged with not allowing his stud dog to be bred to a bitch that he deemed to be only pet quality. In the second case, the charge was taping puppy tails to achieve the famous Afghan ring. I think that we got everyone laughing and into the participatory mode. Birgitha Runmarker of Sweden, Espen Engh of Norway and Paul Lepiane of the U.S. served on a panel that opening afternoon dealing with several subjects which came from audience questions.Friday morning began with reports from Sue Virgo about the first World Congress held in Yorkshire, England, in 1993, and from me about the second World Congress held in San Diego in 1995, which I had chaired.
One topic on the schedule that day seemed ambitious, to say the least: "International world wide Afghan Hound Standard." Maybe it's an admirable and appropriate goal for a world congress, with Afghan fanciers from 23 countries on hand, to try to produce one international standard for use all over the world. But knowing Afghan Hound fanciers like I do, it just ain't ever gonna happen, at least not in my lifetime. But the idea of even talking about it was intriguing, and with Birgitha Runmarker of Sweden the listed speaker, I was prepared for some interesting dialogue. However, Birgitha spent most of her time comparing the different standards and different dogs rather than advocating a single standard, and there weren't any fireworks. Maybe the topic title was lost in the translation.
One of the most curious moments of the Congress came when the legendary Christina Jernberg of Sweden delivered her message, "What has happened to our aristocratic Afghans?" Her world-famous El Khyria Kennels have provided the foundation stock for many Scandinavian Afghan Hound fanciers. She has rarely ever spoken in public (she declined an invitation to speak at our World Congress in San Diego), and she fought back from a life-threatening illness some years ago to remain active in the dog show world. Given all of that, it was easy to understand that she was greeted with a standing ovation. But then, delivering her message in Swedish and with an interpreter translating to English, she proceeded to rip into today's version of the Afghan Hound and the breeders who produce it. She finished by saying she will be devoting her time and efforts to her Chows from now on. Unbelievably, when she was done, the room gave her another (mostly) standing ovation. I was amazed, quite frankly. I, an Australian friend sitting right in front of me and a few others stayed seated silently and we all looked at one another in bewilderment at what we felt to be an inappropriate response to her disputable and debatable charges. What a shame that someone with that kind of respect and following and history in the breed would choose to take a swing at us and then run out the door to her Chows. If you really care, Christina, stay and fight for what you believe in. Sunny Shay and Kay Finch and Gini Withington may not have liked everything that they saw in the ring toward the end of their days, but they never would have walked away without fighting for the wonderful breed they loved.
Another provoking presentation was by Lotte Jorgensen and Kirsten Nielsen of Denmark on the topic of grooming and trimming. The FCI standard says, "Coat must develop naturally," and the American standard says, "The Afghan Hound should be shown in its natural state, the coat is not clipped or trimmed..." It's probably fair to say that many of the Europeans in attendance have never intentionally pulled a hair off their dogs, taking the standard quite literally. Generally speaking, it's a different story with the Americans, the Australians, the Danes and a few others. And of late, more exhibitors around the world have begun to "clean up" their dogs for the ring, and this was Lotte's point precisely. Lots of interaction for this issue, nicely presented by Lotte and Kirsten, but I doubt that any opinions were changed one way or the other.
Dr. Dennis Eschbach of the United States, a chiropractic physician certified in animal chiropractic, made a most interesting presentation on his specialty. Dennis, an Afghan Hound breeder-exhibitor from the St. Louis area, talked about musculoskeletal considerations, stretching and warm-up exercises and the holistic approach of chiropractic care for dogs in general and Afghans in particular. As someone who has taken a dog to a veterinary chiropractor, I wanted more time for Dennis, and I'd like to encourage all dog fanciers to explore the topic, with Dennis or someone in your home area.
American Donna Broucek shared the podium with Pauline Hewitt of Australia to speak about breeding ethics, education, and mental preparation. "Stay current, everything changes," said Pauline. "Read, listen, attend functions, and watch other breeds," counseled Donna. "Maintain your opinion but don't close your mind." Be honest with your customers, Donna told the audience: "You can only be as successful as the people you sell your dogs to." In closing, appropriately, Pauline suggested, "Go to church and pray... there's a lot of luck involved in being a successful breeder." Both of these ladies were very well spoken, and they were a fitting final presentation for the Congress.
Earlier, Sue Rhodes of England ("Who are we breeding for?"), Wendy Slatyer of Australia (frozen semen), and Roberto Posa of Italy and Switzerland ("Trends in Afghan Hounds"); Dr. Jens Jacobsen of the IAMS Company in Denmark, a sponsor of the Congress (canine nutrition); and Holland's Gerard Jipping, president of the Dutch Sighthound Club (Afghan type) were among the other panelists over the two day event.
And once again, that fabulous video from San Diego was shown to close the official proceedings of the Congress. The video, which has not been shown publicly since the last Congress, will make its next appearance at the next World Congress in Sydney, Australia, in the year 2000.
A wonderful dinner buffet and dance on Thursday night, supported by the Scandinavian Afghan Hound Clubs, and a barbecue dinner on Friday that had to be moved off the hotel beach and indoors due to rain, provided many opportunities for additional discussions and socializing. Other Americans joining Paul, Donna, Dennis and me at the Congress were Duane and Connie Butherus, Kathy Aure, Betty Stites, Barb and Lee Bornstein, Debbie Eschbach, Julie and Emmet Roche and Jay Hafford.
Saturday, the 25th anniversary specialty of the Danish Afghan Hound Club took place near the hotel, giving Congress attendees the chance to sit ringside and visit about the events of the past two days and about Afghan Hounds in general. I have always said that the Afghans that I have seen in Scandinavia could compete anywhere in the world (as Rafael de Santiago said at the World Congress in San Diego, a good Afghan is a good Afghan anywhere in the world), this entry did not disappoint in that respect. A Danish-bred dog, Ch. Boxadan's Double Trouble, now owned and exhibited in the U.S. by Jay Hafford, took top honors at the show under Australian Judge Edwina Thomas. Interestingly, an American bred bitch, Ch. Korelec's Kilamanjaro, was the Bitch CC shown by its new owner, Auge Gjetnes of Norway. (The SBIS dog was not shown the following day at the European Dog Show since its breeder was judging.)
David Frei/Dog News USA July 97