Don’t Cry For Me … I’m in Argentina
I had forgotten how stressful home selling and buying can be and so as I waited impatiently for papers to be signed and solicitors to pull their respective fingers out, a week in Argentina seemed very attractive. I always allow myself at least 90 minutes for connecting flights but as I sat on the runway at Birmingham and heard the announcement that the flight into Amsterdam would be delayed by 50 minutes I began to panic as 40 minutes to get from one end of Schiphol to the other and be sure that the bag was loaded seemed to be a little ambitious. In fairness to KLM they contacted the airport ahead of our landing and a buggy was waiting for me to take me to the gate. There a very helpful young lady informed me that my bag was on its way and that she would contact me on board to confirm it had been loaded … and she did … so I could relax on the 13-hour flight. Looking at the choice of films when the first G&T had been served I noticed that My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 was available. I loved the original and have seen it many times. I remember meeting its star, Lanie Kazan, at an American Kennel Club judges’ dinner aboard the Queen Mary in Long Beach several years ago when she was the guest of Matthew Stander and Eugene Zapahiris who have recently successfully launched DN as the new must-read American weekly newspaper for the fancy. She is a totally charismatic lady and very talented actress.
The flight landed on time, immigration took just a few minutes and I was soon reunited with my luggage. In the arrivals lounge I was met by the Argentinian Kennel Club’s driver, Marcos, who had already collected my good friend Juan Allberto Grillo who was here from Colombia for the SICALAM conference which includes all the kennel clubs from South and Central America, from Mexico southwards. We were driven to the Regente Palace Hotel and I took the advantage of a few hours rest before easing myself into the day and preparing for dinner at the FCA offices on the Wednesday evening.
My fellow overseas judges – Adrian Landarte and Jorge Nallem from Uruguay, Edd Bivin from the US, Roberto Velez Pico from Puerto Rico, Luis Pinto Teixeira from Portugal, Juan Luis Martinez from Mexico, Denis Kuzelj from Bugaria and Eugenio Gonzalez Aguilo from Chile, along with several of the SICALAM delegates were welcomed at the Federacion Cinologica Argentina offices in the heart of Buenos Aires by Nestor Frascino, the president, and Miguel Angel Martinez, vice president, who was also judging at the shows. The offices are indeed impressive – vast, modern, airy and superbly equipped. When we were there in the evening the office staff were still hard at work processing authenticated pedigrees for breeders who had dropped by and had their paperwork produced in minutes. All judges were introduced to the treasurer and had their expenses and judging fees paid before we sat down, all very efficient.
After pre-dinner drinks and tapas we were treated to a splendid dinner in the dining room accompanied of course by excellent Argentinian wines.
My Thursday assignment was a busy one, having lots of breeds in groups 1, 6 and 7, then best puppy, junior and adult in those three groups plus best in show. Quality and depth varied from breed to breed but I was able to find quality dogs in virtually all breeds that were worthy of certificates. My ring steward was a young lady called Natasha who was charming and super-efficient. She coped single-handledly with me for four days and was a treat to work with. Most of the dogs in South America are professionally handled and behind the rings was a vast area where the handlers set up with all their paraphernalia. Generally speaking the handlers do a great job and most of the dogs were beautifully presented and well-schooled. I do find it irritating however when handlers shower the ring with bait and leave it there. Similarly when a dog empties itself in the ring I expect handlers to clean up after their dog. In Buenos Aires there were clean-up personnel at every ring who are obviously used to coming into the ring to sweep up bait and also clean up when dogs relieve themselves. The handlers are used to this I guess but I find it rather disrespectful and thoughtless.
After breed judging we had a pleasant lunch in the showground cafeteria and got ready for the big ring competitions which started around 3.30pm.
My winner of group 1 was a very handsome and good moving White Swiss Shepherd. Group 6 was won by a very typical Beagle and a rather weak group 7 by an English Setter bitch of good basic type.
Juan Luis Martinez selected the best baby which was a very impressive American Akita. Miguel Angel Martinez awarded best puppy to a really exciting black Standard Poodle male who I discovered was a son of Ricky out of a del Zarzoso bitch … he certainly is a chip off the old block and has his sire’s natural charisma. Second to him was the White Swiss Shepherd who had won my PG1. Denis Kuzelj chose best junior, a Dogo Argentino bitch who had apparently done very well at the recent World Show in Moscow.
When it came to BIS I was presented with a very impressive line-up, the ten group winners being the White Swiss Shepherd, another Dogo Argentino, an American Staffordshire Terrier, a Wirehaired Dachshund, a Siberian Husky, the Beagle, the English Setter, a Golden Retriever, a Smoothcoat Chihuahua and an Afghan Hound.
The huge big ring gave all the dogs plenty of room to move and show to advantage and eventually I decided that the winner was the Afghan Hound male who excited me on the move with his classic carriage and gait, strikingly typical outline with excellent hip bones, fallaway and ringed tail. Apparently he comes from Ramon Podesta’s highly successful kennel in Chile. Second to him was the very handsome Dogo Argentino who I found entirely typical and a powerful mover. Third was the Wirehaired Dachshund who was evidently a Tres Pinheiros from Brazil and so typical of the stock consistently produced by this formidable kennel. Fourth was the American Staffordshire Terrier, a real powerhouse, and fifth the little Smoothcoat who never stopped showing his heart out for a second.
That evening we were taken to the Happening Restaurant where we indulged in some wonderful Argentinian beef after the usual tapas and concluded that the first of the four days had been a resounding success.