A dog show in Chennai

Print edition : January 05, 2002

The three-day international event, featuring more than 800 well-groomed dogs, opens on January 4.

A SMILE lights up J.K. Kuki's face as Honey reaches up to give him his plate of food, followed by a bowl of water and a towel to wash and dry his hands. Kuki is a paraplegic undergoing extended rehabilitation at the Military Hospital at Khadki in Maharashtra, and his only leash on life is Honey, a Black Labrador trained to help the physically challenged.

Dogs have long served humans by guarding homes and livestock or by simply being a loyal companion. In times of war they have served as messengers, sentries, scouts and lifesavers. Today, in the fight against crime, they sniff out drugs or explosives and track down criminals. Rescuers turn to them to find people trapped under debris. Now, they also take on the extraordinary role of helping people like Kuki.

A German Shepherd at last year's show.-R. RAGU

For three days, beginning January 4, some 800 well-groomed dogs from all over India and abroad will pit themselves against one another at the international dog show in Chennai, organised by the Kennel Club of India (KCI) in partnership with the Brussels-based Federation Cynologique Internationale (FCI), the apex world body with 120 member-nations, and the Tokyo-based Asian Kennel Union (AKU), a 15-member organisation co-founded by the KCI. A feature of the show is an AKU conference, being conducted after 15 years in India. It will be attended by experts from 15 countries, including scientists, dog handlers, dog trainers and representatives of agencies receiving services from dogs such as the army, the police and organisations that do rescue work. They will discuss matters concerning dogs, including health, nutrition, diseases, methods of evaluation and anatomy.

As is the pattern in dog shows, the Chennai event will start with obedience trials. The dogs will perform set exercises that test the teaching ability of the trainers, the dogs' familiarity with the trainers, and their ability to follow instructions.

The German Shepherd Club of India, a member of Schaferhund Verein (SV), the German world body for the breed, is to conduct in Chennai a Seiger show (a major annual event in a town of that name in Germany where over 2,500 German shepherds participate), in which over 250 German shepherds from around the world will participate.

According to KCI committee member and show secretary C.V. Sudarsan, the beauty and brains of the dogs would be on test. In breed shows, dogs are judged for their resemblance to the breed standard. The events that test the brains and brawn are obedience, agility, hunting and field trials, and Schutzhund (obedience, agility, tracking and protection) trials. On display will be a range of breed groups such as the gun dog (English setter, Irish setter, pointer, golden retriever and Labrador), the hound (Afghan Basset, Caravan and Beagle), the terrier (bull and fox), the utility dog (bull dog, Dalmatian, chow chow, Lhasa Apso, poodle and the Great Indian Spitz), the toy (miniature, pinscher, Maltese, Pekingese, pug and Pomeranian), and the worker ( Black Russian terrier, Boxer, Doberman, Great Dane, Rottweiler and German shepherd).

To encourage and popularise various breeds, there will be a speciality show including of the Boxer, the Doberman, the Great Dane, the Labrador, the dachshund and, most important, the Indian breeds. Says Sudarsan: "Our focus is to save Indian breeds from extinction." Ironically, not one native breed is represented in the 331 recognised by the FCI. Although seven breeds are native to India, only the Rajapalayam and the Mudhol hound are found in reasonably large numbers - in remote, rural India. The Chennai event will showcase 80 Mudhol hounds, primarily from Karnataka, and over 50 Rajapalayams. According to Sudarsan, all efforts would be made to impress upon the international experts to include the Rajapalayam and the Mudhol hound in the FCI listing.

The 105-year-old KCI has 48 clubs, including the Madras Canine Club (MCC), affiliated to it. The MCC's golden jubilee dog show (which is also the 25th year since the inception of the club) will be the high point of the second day, when over 750 dogs of 50 breeds, many of them rare, will be on view. To encourage children (between 12 and 18 years) to bond with dogs, there will be a competition for junior handlers.

The finale will be the FCI/AKU all breeds champion show, with over 750 dogs of various breeds participating. A panel of 10 international experts, including experts from India, will judge by FCI methods as the KCI is now a full-fledged member of the Federation. Hitherto, the KCI followed the British system of breed standards and judging methods.

The international judges include Christina Rafton and Dave Strachan (from Australia), Donna Cole (Canada), Mario Magsaysay (the Philippines), Horst Klebenstein (Germany), Yugi Mihara and Awashima (Japan) and Tan Pak Song (Singapore). The Indian breeds will be judged by Leela Ratnam, D. Krishnamurthy and Ramadar Pandey, all from India.

The show will also have over 40 stalls, selling items as varied as dog products to rare stamps on dogs from the 17th century. For the regulars, it will be an occasion to exchange notes, and for novices an excellent place to learn about dogs and their pedigrees and learn first-hand about their intelligence.

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