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JIM HICKIEíS FAIRY TALE

A WHIMSICAL LOOK AT

"THE COAT MUST BE ALLOWED TO DEVELOP NATURALLY"

 

Introduction; There is an ongoing debate about the rights and wrongs of "trimming" and other measures designed to enhance the show Afghan Hound's coat - in contraction to the words of the breed standard which state the coat must be allowed to develop naturally. The following article written by Jim Hickie addresses this issue , in Jim's individual style. Please feel free to click on the mail link and let Jim know what you think!.

JIM HICKIEíS FAIRY TALE

Once upon a time a young man called Fred found himself at a dog show and he admired the various breeds and the competition and by the end of the day had decided that he just must have a pedigreed dog to show. Now being young Fred had other things on his mind and realised that he did not have the time or the talent to prepare and present his first choice - a Poodle.

So Fred went off to the Terrier ring and he liked the smart and firey look of the Smooth Fox Terriers so he approached an old terrier man and said that he was impressed by the breed because it was smart and sharp and obviously did not require a lot of coat maintenance and preparation.

"Not so" said the old terrier man "All show dogs require lots of preparation and in this breed we sometimes have coats that carry too much undercoat, too much ruff around the neck, too much hair on the tail . etc , and to get these dogs ready for the showring requires weeks of work to get him looking smooth and natural and to keep them looking that way. We also have to trim the feet so that they look small and catlike. Sometimes you also have to tape the ears over so that the flaps fold over neatly (but super glue is sometimes used) and some dogs have their tails straightened surgically.".

Reluctantly Fred decided that there might be just too much work in a Smooth Fox Terrier to fit in with his lifestyle and the thought of having a tail tampered with did not appeal to him at all, but he continued his search and looked at the English Cocker Spaniel - lovely little dog, smart, wonderful temperament and affectionate too.

"But" said the breeder, "this breed requires more preparation than any other and it is nearly all done by hand plucking except for around the feet which are cut to make them appear catlike. - and the end result must look entirely natural."

"Not for me " thought Fred but continued his search and said to an Afghan Hound exhibitor as he was passing "All that coat must require a lot of work:"

"Not at all " said the owner, "An Afghanís coat must be allowed to DEVELOP NATURALLY and what you see before you is a perfect example of that - a long flowing coat that has DEVELOPED NATURALLY"

"And very glamorous too" said Fred.

"All that glamour and very little work !" thought Fred

"Where would I be able to buy such a dog ?"

"Well you are very fortunate - I just happen to have an eight week old puppy. He is a black masked gold - a very popular colour with the judges - and you can have him for a thousand dollars"

Now this was about twice as much as Fred had contemplated spending but how else could one acquire such glamour with so little maintenance - no trimming, little grooming - just let it DEVELOP NATURALLY - this was indeed a bargin.

Six months later Fred takes his blacked-masked gold Afghan to its first dog show and is placed sixth out of six.

Naturally Fred is a little disappointed at this result even though all the other exhibits in the class looked more glamorous than his. Ask the judge ? Well why not ?

"I would have to say young man that your exhibitwas very untidy and ungroomed.

Indeed I felt that it was dirty. And the matts in the coat are just not acceptable in the showring."

THE COAT MUST BE ALLOWED TO DEVELOP NATURALLY ?

Over the next few weeks Fred brushed the coat daily and got all the matts out and went along to his next show and came in fifth against the same opposition - a result still not up to his expectations, so he spoke to some of the other exhibitors and learned about shampoos and conditioners and how to get him looking right with a blow dryer etc.

THE COAT MUST BE ALLOWED TO DEVELOP NATURALLY

At his third show Fredís dog is a truly glamorous puppy with shiny coat nicely parted down the middle, fuzzy monkey whiskers and lots of hair around the throat and on the tail and he came in first and Best Puppy in Breed. With a few more wins Fred was beginning to think that this was good fun even if

"LETTING THE COAT DEVELOP NATURALLY" meant that you had to spend all that time grooming, bathing, blow-drying etc. not to mention the expense of shampoos and conditioners and of course the blow dryer - all required to LET THE COAT DEVELOP NATURALLY.

Now if Fred had lived in England this fairy tale would have ended right here in the usual way that fairy tales end.Fred however lives in a country beginning with A and a couple of months later Fredís dog is back to the wrong end of the placings.

By this time Fred has been in the show game for six months so he knows where to go to get his questions answered.

"Well" said the experienced handler, " you cannot show a dog in Junior Class with all that coat and expect to win. You have to get rid of all those puppy whiskers, take out all that dead hair from the saddle and strip all the excess from the tail."

"And how do I do all that ?" queries Fred.

"You have to pluck it out , clip it off, or thin it with thinning scissors, or in places where it is not too bad you can shave it down with a pumice stone or use a terrier blade."

"But I thought THE COAT MUST BE ALLOWED TO DEVELOP NATURALLY?"

"Of course that is true", replied the handler "But you must realise that there are certain breed standard requirements if the dog is to look like an Afghan - so you must let it DEVELOP NATURALLY and then make it look like an Afghan".

"I thought that ALLOWED TO DEVELOP NATURALLY meant what it said"

"Of course it does". replies handler.

Now, Fred may be a little slow but he is not stupid - he does not even have a computer yet. - and he finds that he has a talent for all this stripping, cutting, grooming etc. and he goes out and wins the points on a few occasions

Fred also finds that he can grow longer ear fringes if he wraps the ears (let the coat DEVELOP NATURALLY inside the wraps) and at other times a snood is used to protect the top knot and ear fringes and the body coat is kept in oil to further protect it..

And then of course Fredís dog never runs free any more - it may damage the coat, which MUST BE ALLOWED TO DEVELOP NATURALLY.

By now of course Fred is an expert and when he is asked if his dogís coat is entirely natural always replies.

"Of course it is, but you must remember that once you take a dog out of its natural environment, plan its matings, select for the next generation, keep alive the weak that nature would have eliminated, maintain them with veterinary care and allow them to become lounge lizards they are no longer like they were fifty or eighty years ago.

We have taken over from nature and DEVELOP NATURALLY means develop in the natural environment that we created for them. and after all I am showing show dogs and it is a level playing field in there because I learned all of the techniquesof presentation from my competitors"

(Didnít I say Fred was smart ?")

And these days Fred wins a lot with his dog who is now a champion and Best in Show winner - however I cannot tell you whether he is a local hero or despised by the other exhibitors for that might divulge which A country he comes from. Suffice to say that the breeder who sold him his first dog is now another "sour old breeder" continually bemoaning the fact that the breed is no longer what it used to be, having lost their spring, their angulation, their shoulders, their keen fiercemess and their coats are stripped and pampered etc. etc. Of course she now confines her activities to another breed in another ring.

Now many fairy tales have a moral conclusion at the end and this one is no exception; in fact it has a number:

(1) Old terrier men are smart dog people.

(2) Afghan people could learn a lot from the English Cocker exhibitors.

(3) The Poodle Standard got it right - well eventually anyway.

(4) Afghans have accumulated more "sour old breeders" than any other breed.

(5) I am no Hans Christian Anderson when it comes to fairy tales.

(6) If this story had not started with"Once upon a time" it would not even be a fairy tale.

(7) THE COAT MUST BE ALLOWED TO DEVELOP NATURALLY

Jim Hickie, Gengala Afghans, Australia
Copyright(c) Sep 1997, jhickie@gengala.com

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