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AHCA National Specialty
Tuscon, Arizona, 4-9 October, 1998
Report By Steve Tillotson

(Report originally published in the Novembre 98 issue of "Our Afghans"

Photo Carol Hedstrom, National Visitors at The Grand Canyon

The Oasis
Being an intrepid desert-traveller (well.. I once drove across the desert between Los Angeles and Las Vegas) I was looking forward to reaching the Oasis and reputed Afghan Hound watering hole known as Bennigans Bar at the Four Point Sheraton Hotel, Tucson, Arizona. Panting at the leash I signed in at reception at precisely 1059 pm on the Monday night, asked the important question wheres the bar and was told over there sir, but it closes at 11 pm. Shock horror! Can I believe my ears? Am I in the right desert? Is this the right watering hole? Where are the Australians? they would never allow this.. Abandoning my luggage, moving with the agility of an elephant but with the speed of a sighthound I rush to the bar.. is there time? will I catch last orders? can I quench this thirst or will I have to endure the make-your-own coffee in the hotel room? Crashing frantically through the bar doors I hear the wonderful noise of drinks being poured, glasses chinking, and... Australian voices... Yes, I am in the right place, yes the Oasis is still functional.. phew, that was a scare.. What beer do you have? I enquire. We have over 100 beers sir is the proud response... This is truly an Oasis for the intrepid desert-traveller.. No time to sort through 100 different brews, I ask the barman to pour me something dark, but not too dark, he does and I enjoy my first sip of Killians. I dont know what it is, or where it was brewed, but it hit the spot just right. I think I owe a debt of thanks to the organisers and of course the Australians - all of whom had apparently persuaded the hotel management to extend the bar hours..

The Setting..
I had hoped to arrive earlier in the week but a judging commitment in the UK on the Sunday prevented me leaving until Monday (UK time). So on to Tuesday, up early, walk around to survey the scene. I particularly enjoy these early morning walkabouts and a chance to meet exhibitors with their hounds. The show setting was lovely, an enormous marquee set in the grounds of the hotel. Most of the exhibitors seemed to be booked into rooms on the ground floor, some with canopys set up against their hotel rooms/outside wall, giving quite a nice village feel to the setting. The marquee was an impressive sight and seemed to be a perfect fit where it was located, surrounded by the hotel rooms. Between the marquee and the hotel was the food/drink stand, again, ideal placement and convenient too.

I was impressed to find a group of residents enjoying the small pool at around 7.30 am, a chilly morning with steam rising from the pool, looked brrrrrr cold to me, but they seemed comfortable and enjoying it. Humans were not the only early-bathers as exhibitors could be found bathing their Afghans in baths set up outside and adjacent to the refreshment area. As the early morning progressed more and more Afghans and their owners emerged and before long the village came alive with Afghans and people. Outside and along one wall of the marquee a grooming area was set up and soon became busy with exhibitors preparing their Afghans for the days events. By 10am the village was truly alive, very colourful, lots of activity and lots of Afghans almost providing a pre-show of their own.

The outside front-left of the marque was decked with a display of photographs of past national winners, an appropriate scene setter which also provided a historic perspective and proved very popular with visitors.

Inside, the marquee was enormous, fully carpeted throughout, windows all round providing natural lighting, supplemented by internal lighting as needed. At the far end, facing the entrance was the AHCA trophy stand, beautifully arranged and providing a very striking centerpiece. The huge ring was surrounded on the other three sides by several lines of seating. To the right was an inside grooming/preparation area, to the left and along the entrance wall several trade stands were set up. As the morning progressed, spectators took up their seats, exhibitors arrived and commenced to prepare their Afghans, the temperature and excitement began to rise.

The Show
And so on to bitch/Intersex, our judge was Dr Gerda Kennedy (Shangrila) who looked splendid in her outfit, with a stylish ring prescence all of her own. The judge took her time and exhibitors had to work very hard for their placings. Judging was accomplished with conductor type hand signals, whizzing her fingers round to tell exhibitors to keep going, and a sense of fun throughout, a happy and nice rapor between judge and exhibitors.

It is very difficult to comment on a breed in a country without generalising, and the diversity of Afghans in the US make any such generalised summary even more difficult, if not impossible. However, I have been asked for my impressions, so I will do my best to respond. I only arrived in time for bitch and Intersex judging and enjoyed the latter more. I felt Intersex had the greater depth of quality throughout. In bitches, a number but not all, appeared to have incorrect front assemblies, shoulders too far forward, legs not tucked under, exacerbated by what a US friend described as stove pipe necks. I also felt a number of the bitches had high tail sets, not set on low. Movement generally had what I would describe as a busy action rather than one that covered the ground effortlessly with drive and reach. I note that Lila Wadworth found some of these problems in dogs and she commented about this in her summary critique at the awards dinner. Intersex contained many super Afghans and it was great to see several that I had observed in Racine in 1996, including the eventual BIS.

I really enjoyed the Intersex judging, allthough I felt it went on a tad too long. I followed the fortunes of a west coast dog that was run off against another successful youngster. This provided a thrilling challenge between two closely matched dogs. Ringside you could really sense the tension and thrill of these two dogs competing, aided of course by enthusiastic support from each dogs ringside fan club. The west coast dog made the cut and went on to gain an award of merit after several other subsequent challenges. A thrilling performance, one of many.

Lila Wadsworth (Dogs)
Dr Gerda Kennedy (Bitches and Intersex)
Karen Wagner (Sweepstakes)
BOB Ch Tifarah High Flying Victory
BOS Ch Wynsyr Absolutely Fabulois
BOW WB Tifarah's Pretty Woman
MERIT Ch Zions Lady Of The Night
MERIT Ch NFX A Night To Remember
MERIT Ch Calai Sunrise At Stormhill
MERIT Ch Jacosta Driftaway
MERIT Ch Terlingua's Crimson Glory
WDGenesis-Amberlike River Dance
RWD Asmaroni Ali Al Daoud
RWB Fox Runs Star Of David
BEST IN SWEEPSFox Runs Star Of David
BOS SWEEPS Bijan-Lyrix Suckerpunch

The judges routine involved the exhibits doing a slow up and down diagonally across the ring, followed by a not too fast run round the full size of the ring. At times I thought the slow up/down was too slow and the Afghans just did not show well as they simply did not get into any kind of stride pattern. Generally, running round the ring was at a sensible pace. I think all concerned did their best to run their exhibits as per the judges instructions, perhaps a few took the instructions too literally, and went a bit too slow. A few tight leashes, so tight that the front feet barely touched the ground and inhibited natural movement. There was also the opposite of this, loose leashes and no control. Generally handling was of a high standard.

There was no lack of ringside support from individual exhibits fan clubs. At one stage the judge walking down the line approached an exhibit and as she put her hand forward to touch the dog applause started, she stepped back and it stopped in an instant. This had me looking for the applause on/off switch on the dog! Certainly no lack of enthusiasm ringside..

The US process of judging involves moving the exhibits many times and takes longer than judging does here in the UK. The US routine also requires a good level of athleticism and fitness from both exhibitor and exhibit. To be honest, I think a lot of UK exhibitors would be exhausted by the demands of exhibiting to the US routine. This also raises a question in my mind, do US judges place more emphasis on movement in their overall assessment of an exhibit, and do UK judges perhaps place more emphasis on conformation?. Class sizes in the UK often exceeds those in the US and the UK rings are pathetically small which can inhibit movement. Even so, US Afghans and handlers are fitter and more athletic and that must be a factor in achieving good ring performance. There is also the issue of style. Its fair to say that a lot of UK exhibitors adopt a quiet, almost introvert style of showing, by comparison the US style is much more extrovert.

The judging system in UK is slightly different to the US. We judge on a class basis, separate classes for each sex, unbeaten class winners go on to challenge for best of sex, and the two eventual best of sex winners then compete head to head for best of breed. Its quite usual to have a different Judge for each sex, in which case both judges judge the best of breed. If they are unable to agree, a third judge, (The Referee) is called in to make the final decision. We do have mixed classes at our (non championship) open shows.

The Awards Dinner
Following conclusion of the show, the hotel staff speedily re-arranged the marquee, set up tables, bars and the buffet ready for the evening awards dinner with David Frei ensuring the busy evening of announcements, speeches and entertainment ran smoothly.

All present expressed their appreciation to Lee and Barb Bornstein for their tremendous efforts in organising this years National which has proven to be a great success. In view of the late change of venue, this was a fantastic effort by Lee and Barb, well done indeed!

David Frei welcomed and thanked the many overseas visitors for attending and adding the international flavour to this years National. An impressive list of overseas attendees, including visitors from the UK, Ireland, Peru, Mexico, Italy, Germany, Canada, Australasia, and several other countries. The National is becoming pretty much International.

A short quiz tested the memories and knowledge of dinner guests on the subject of the history of the US Afghan hound and provided us with some light hearted entertainment. David Freis line that bottom of the list in the quiz results was an American table, even the Irish did better gave us all a giggle. A little personal brag here, why not! There were only three people on our table compared to seven or eight on the majority. Our table comprised of two non-Afghan people, including the host hotels Sales Director, and one overseas Afghan person (me). Despite this enormous disadvantage (well, I did say I would brag..) we scored eight or nine compared to the winning score of 13 correct answers. The Sales Director was inspired, and spotted the date of 1937 on the AHCA logo, thus ensuring we got at least one question right. A good bit of fun, and well done the Irish too!

The list of annual awards, such as top winning bitch, BIS, Top Producer, top AHCA/ASFA etc were read out, sorry this reporter was unable to keep up with the awards/names.

There was a special AHCA award to Connie Buthreus, AHCA President 1996-1997 as an expression of gratitude for her contribution to the AHCA.

Lifetime membership was awarded to Karen Armistead in recognition for her contribution as board member, breed historian, librarian and producer of excellent videos on the breed. Karen commented We might not have met each other but for our dogs. Gifts of love the dogs have given us and I thank the dogs we all met.

Honorary membership was extended to Norma Cozzoni who was stepping down after a 12 year contribution as board member.

Certificates for various achievements were issued to Midwest, AHC California, AHC Gt Chicago, AHC Gt Portland, Colonial AHC and Nutmeg.

Certificates were issued to Sharon Howlett (California) and to Bev Davenport (Portland) for outstanding work on Afghan Rescue. Certificate issued to Sue Macker (Chicago, Indiana, Winsconsin) for her rescue efforts and in covering such a wide area.

(Photo Left, Ruth Weddle with UK visitors Pam and Stuart Mottershaw). Ruth, publisher of the senior breed magazine Our Afghans received a special award for her contribution to the breed spanning 31 years.

Bob and Carol Penta received a special award for their contribution to the breed.

Karen Wagner, our Sweepstakes judge, commented that she saw quality, and she saw problems. Karen explained that there was a lot of negative talk about problems such as sickle hocks, dogs out at elbow, bad necks etc and that we should use our energy to turn these negatives into positives in order to produce high quality dogs.

Lila Wadsworth, our dog judge, gave a brief comment on her observations. Lila stated she felt priveleged to have judged the National for a second time. She encouraged us all to read Betty Stites newsletter and read about incorrect straight front assembley which should be set back under. Lila was also concerned ahout flat croups, high set tails, weak/narrow heads and would like to see stronger male heads.

Dr Gerda Kennedy, our bitch and intersex judge, started her speech with the lighthearted comment this is not good for my makeup, explaining that the National was a very emotional event for her. Gerda stated that she had no prepared speech and was talking from the heart and that these are two days I will never forget, thank you. Gerda stated that the quality of Afghans presented to her was very high and that this should be an inspiration to us. Gerda concluded her speech with thanks to all for the hugs and kisses she had received.

Jim Hickie gave a brief presentation on the 4th Afghan Hound World Congress scheduled in Australia in the year 2000 and invited and encouraged us all to attend, pointing out that with the weak Austalian dollar, now was a good time to book. Jim informed us that Roberta Posa from Switzerland was the main judge.

A framed picture of an Afghan Hound was presented by the AHCA to the Sales Director of the host hotel (Sheraton) in appreciation of her wonderful efforts in providing facilities and support of the National at her hotel at such short notice.

A feature of the National is that it brings many of us together once a year from far and wide. It seems that I have to travel to the US at least once a year just to meet up with Jim Hickie from Australia, well thats my excuse and I am sticking to it.. I met many new friends this year, including enthusiasts from Mexico, Peru, Australia and several other countries. It was a great pleasure to meet so many people that I have corresponded with via the Internet. It is so much better when you can put a face to a name. Mannie and Eadie Glazer kindly introduced me to just about everybody, so I thank them both for their great hospitality.

Steve Tillotson
November 1998

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