Friday, January 31, 2014

Best In Show: Attending the 114th Golden Gate Kennel Club's All-Breed Dog Show

The 114th Golden Gate Kennel Club All-Breed Dog Show
Photo: Chronica Domus

This past Sunday, as is the case most years on the last weekend in January, I had the pleasure of attending a very fun show.  That is to say, a very fun show for anyone who enjoys being surrounded by well behaved dogs, in tip-top physical condition, in all their varied shapes, colors and sizes.  Yes, the time had once again arrived to make the short trip by car to attend one of the two well loved Golden Gate Kennel Club all-breed dog shows, the highlight of my January social calendar.

The Cow Palace exhibition arena is the annual venue for the two shows that are staged back-to-back to a delighted crowd of dog lovers who attend the shows to not only see the dogs being judged in the ring, but to also meet the diverse entrants in the exhibition halls surrounding the main arena.  This particular show, organized under the auspices of the American Kennel Club, is known as a "benched" show, meaning it gives spectators the opportunity to meet the dogs when not being shown in competition.  It is one of the very few shows of its kind in the country; the Westminster Kennel Club show, held at New York's Madison Square Garden, being perhaps the most well known example of this type of dog show.

 Golden Retrievers in competition for Best of Breed
Photo: Chronica Domus

One can wander about the various benches to gain a better understanding of the breeds, meet the exhibitors and handlers, see the dogs being groomed to showy perfection, and even pet a dog or two, with permission.  The breeders are more than willing to share their dogs with an admiring public, and also share valuable information on their specialty breed with potential future dog owners and admirers alike.

Benched Irish Setters patiently await their admiring public
Photo: Chronica Domus

At this year's shows, a dizzying array of 138 AKC recognized breeds were represented, amounting to a total of 1347 entrants, all vying for the coveted title of Best In Show.  With so many dogs under one roof, one would imagine having to be subjected to a cacophonous din of yelping, barking and whatever other sounds emanate from the mouths of dogs.  Incredibly, I can report, not a peep was to be heard from any of these supremely behaved pooches.

  A Standard Poodle fresh from the doggie salon
Photo: Chronica Domus

 One of the grooming stations ready for action
Photo: Chronica Domus

 I couldn't quite tell if this adorable bedraggled Puli Dog had already visited the grooming station or not
Photo: Chronica Domus

 A view of three patient dogs being groomed
Photo: Chronica Domus

 Alongside the main arena, where dogs are judged for breed and group, other competitions are taking place in the lesser rings and in the exhibition halls.  These determine the best Junior Handler (always astonishing to watch the young handlers navigate their way around the ring with the utmost confidence and professionalism), Obedience Trial champs and Utility winners.  These particular exercises test the competitor's ability to complete a specific set of commands in a timely and structured fashion.  Watching these competent canines perform like well-oiled machines is always so thought provoking, and I find myself daydreaming that perhaps one day my dear old uncoordinated Mavro will be successful in retrieving a mere stick on command.  Sigh!

 The Working Group compete for Best of Group
Photo: Chronica Domus

Champion of the Working Group, Akita Redwich Adrenaline Junkie 
Photo: Chronica Domus

A trio of Pugs waiting for their turn in the ring
Photo: Chronica Domus

At last... now it's my turn!
Photo: Chronica Domus

Dogs surely have earned the title of man's best friend for good reason, and if you are considering the addition of a companion animal to your life, and are clueless as to where to begin the process of narrowing down your breed and temperament choices, attending a well-organized benched show will steer you in the right direction.  I would also highly recommend visiting animal shelters and contacting breed-specific rescue groups that offer wonderful animals waiting to be matched to their next loving owners.  I have adopted a number of dogs from these groups over the years and have always been rewarded with oodles of love, cuddles and loyalty from my fury companions.

Tell me, do you own a dog or have you considered adding one to your household?

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Spring In Winter

Avalanche Narcissi
Photo: Chronica Domus

I am all astonishment as to what has become of winter here in San Francisco.  During the last three weeks of December, and practically all of January, the temperature can best be described as mild, even slightly uncomfortably hot, on most days.  My heavy winter coat has hardly seen the light of day this winter.  Now we are being told that California has entered into a period of drought unlike anything seen in the entire history of the state.  The effects, unfortunately, are already visible.  I worry for the flora and fauna.  I worry for the farmers who toil in the dry soil, and what will become of their thirsty crops.  I just worry.

 Avalanche Narcissi at the front door
Photo: Chronica Domus

The unprecedented warm spell has also welcomed the traditional harbingers of spring this winter around my home.    In the front garden, in full bloom, I see a pretty row of dainty heirloom narcissi Avalanche to brighten the way towards my front door.  A mockingbird has taken up residence atop the tall yew trees and has been singing its melodious tunes almost constantly over the past few weeks.  Old-fashioned forget-me-not plants that self-seeded have revealed their diminutive sky blue flowers to the world.  It truly feels like spring has arrived, early.

Forget-me-nots have not been forgotten this winter
Photo: Chronica Domus

I also see signs of grape hyacinths (Muscari Armeniacum) rearing their spear-like heads, and the green leafy tips of other varieties of narcissi that will surely be in bloom within the next month or so.  I have even spied the first bloom on the magnolia tree (Magnolia x Soulangeana Black Tulip), which has no business showing its dramatic color in the month of January.  What has become of winter in this topsy-turvy year?

Black Tulip Magnolia
Photo: Chronica Domus

I must declare that although I eagerly await the arrival of these cheery blooms that awaken my garden each spring, it is a little unnerving to think that the rest of the nation is presently experiencing record snowfalls and low temperatures.  Perhaps by sharing a little of my garden through these photographs, the arrival of spring will be hastened at your home.

What, if any, untimely effects have you experienced this winter season?

Monday, January 27, 2014

Chronica Domus: An Introduction

Reflection in the convex mirror of our home's vestibule
Photo: Chronica Domus

Welcome to my blog.  I am an inveterate curious being who enjoys the process of discovering the simple joys of home and hearth, gardening and travel.  I am a Brit who moved to the San Francisco Bay Area in the early 1990's and lives in a 1920's home with 1820's sensibilities.  English Regency and American Federal decorative arts inspire my style at home, which I share with my adoring husband, young daughter, Patience, and ever trusty canine companion, Mavro.

This blog is an attempt at chronicling the ruminations of a life spent puttering around the home and garden, excursions to places of interest both near and far, and anything else that may capture my interest and inspire curiosity.

Please feel free to join in the banter and leave a comment or two.  Do remember your good manners (old-fashioned, I know, but never out of fashion).  Queensbury rules apply. 
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