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2010-10-20 / Columnists

Pets, Pets, Pets

Where do you hold a gigantic pet breed convention in New York City? At the Javits Center, of course. Last weekend the return of Meet the Breeds™ hosted by the rare pairing of the American Kennel Club (AKC) and Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA) was billed as the world’s largest showcase of dogs and cats. That claim is based on attendance at last year’s inaugural two-day gathering.

Meet the Breeds™ is an educational expo introducing the public to common and rare breeds. Visitors can see and learn about everything from a Beagle to a Boerboel (South African Mastiff). Each individual dog or cat club is supposed to decorate their booth to reflect the heritage and history of their breed, and to bring sociable four-legged representatives for a meet n’ greet. The breed spokespeople then provide information about characteristics and care of their breed. Actually, it is a grueling day for the dogs that are petted and posed non-stop. The cats are a bit more hidden.

Manx cat dressed as Carmen Miranda at Meet the Breeds. Manx cat dressed as Carmen Miranda at Meet the Breeds. Last year, over 36,000 visitors interacted with over 160 different dog breeds and 40 cat breeds plus their respective human fanciers, some who dress in native costume. The Saluki gang (dogs too) donned Egyptian attire in their pyramid while the Afghans romped on pillows within their Aladdin-style casbah, but their owners didn’t dress to match the tent. Terrier folk wore tweeds and British shorthair ladies put on Elizabethan gowns. The people are just backdrop behind the furry stars who steal the show.

I helped out at the Afghan Hound booth on Saturday. The spots are in alphabetical order, only Affenpinschers precede us. Last year the Affenpinscher table was empty, but this year club members came from North Carolina; while our other neighbor - the Airedale - was a no show on Saturday. (Oddly, no one represented Labrador Retrievers, the AKC most popular breed.) Participation is dependent on getting volunteers. As for Afghans, the national specialty in California coincided with Meet the Breeds™ so fewer show people were available.

Thisyear the cat arena was right in front of us, providing a back stage view of the feline fashion show including a Tonkinese as Cleopatra, a Manx in a Carmen Miranda hat, and a Sphynx dressed up as a cowboy. The super models tolerated photographers quite well. In another aisle the cat agility course was completely screened in so athletes couldn’t decide to defect.

The Afghan booth had an interesting international contingent although the ancient breed originates in the Middle East. Anna Stromberg, a top Afghan Hound handler, brought four of her champions – Amelia from Sweden, Marcus from Finland, Zurah from Chile, and Dusty from L.I. who all played with Sif, a six month old puppy from Iceland.

The Afghans’ tresses were banded in ponytails or protected by sequin snoods which seemed to mesmerize the crowd, many who have never been to a competitive dog show. Canine celebrities Marcus and Amelia spent the day entertaining with bows, high fives and graceful leaps on and off the grooming table while their brother Dusty posed in his ladybug snood since he regularly attends a “Reading with Rover” program where struggling young students eagerly read to him.

To me, the day’s high point was when both Amelia and Marcus approached a quadriplegic woman on a ventilator who signaled with her eyes that she wanted to pet them. With assistance she was able to brush her fingers against their silky hair. Throughout the event we gave out brief primers on the breed and bookmarks with Edgar Afghan Poe’s pet safety tips for Halloween, but for the second year in a row, someone walked off with my samples of the Afghan Hound Club of America Rescue calendar. Bummer.

The objective of Meet the Breeds™ is to acquaint prospective owners with the needs, as well as pros and cons of each breed so these people can make informed decisions before acquiring a new pet. The dog clubs stress the importance purchasing a pup from a reputable breeder, never a pet store, after researching whether the breed of your desire fits your lifestyle. Most clubs also promote their specific purebred rescue efforts and make sure interested parties hear that rescued purebreds make great companions too.

No one is supposed to walk out of the Javits Center with a new dog or cat, but there was some adoption showcasing going on. I saw a Beagle walk by wearing an orange “Adopt Me” vest. Last year’s Mayor’s Alliance cat adoption area on the lower level resulted in inquiries for 200 cats and kittens adopted later on. Might exposure at Meet the Breeds™ in 2010 match or surpass this number of homes for the many needy kitties sans a pedigree?

For Adoption at Babylon Town Shelter (631-643-9270) Lamar St. W. Babylon: Now it is time for “Meet the Shelter Breeds”. This friendly, white male Beagle #93555 is the larger size. “Snuggle” in C-10 is a 4 year old domestic shorthaired, charcoal gray cat, declawed and a gentleman. His family moved without him and he has been waiting months for a new family.

More cats: “Ingrid” in C-9- sweet 2 year old tabby; “Hemi” in the Cat Colony- also declawed and well-mannered.

Male Dogs: Clumber Spaniel mix #93531; “Blue” #93487-Retriever mix; Pug.

Female Dogs: frightened Cockerpoo; “Jinni, Lydia, Asia, Brownie” all Pit permutations. “Brownie” is the new featured pet on Babylon Shelter’s Petfinder site-NY275.

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