• U.S.

Animals: Finest Dogs

5 minute read

With quieter eloquence but no less feeling than Senator George Graham Vest displayed in his famed “Tribute to a Dog,” Mrs. Geraldine Rockefeller Dodge, rich and gracious wife of Remington Arms Co.’s board chairman, declared last week on receiving the Chappel Foundation Plaque for signal devotion to dogdom:

“In the last decade there has been a distinct advance in the position of the dog. His steady rise in public esteem and the increased acknowledgment of his definite part in complex human relations is encouraging. The dog does not contend, he merely adds his measure to qualities of which this world has never had enough. Loyalty is a favorite word in our vocabularies. It is a luminous word, direct and simple. May we pledge it anew to the cause of those quiet friends who have helped us to interpret and define its meaning.”

On both sides of the Atlantic last week there was ample testimony to Mrs. Dodge’s thesis as thousands of dog lovers swarmed to London and Manhattan for the No. i British and U. S. dog shows. At the Royal Agricultural Hall, called the Coronation Show in honor of George VI, was the biggest dog show Britain had ever held except for last year’s Golden Jubilee exhibition honoring George V. Manhattan’s Westminster was the biggest in its 61 years. Cruft’s* surpassed the Westminster not only in number of entries (4.352 to 3,144) but also in having on display ten Basenjis—little red dogs from the Belgian Congo which wash their faces with their paws, arch their backs when angry, chase lions and emit no sound but “groo,” having lost their bark in centuries of silent jungle tracking. The two shows were alike, however, in having on their entry lists more cocker spaniels than any other breed.

From the wheezing pugs and spotted Dalmatians of the 1880s through the French poodles of the Century’s turn and the post-War German shepherds, fashions in dogs have fluctuated almost as frequently and inexplicably as fashions in dress. Katharine Cornell’s co-starring Flush in The Barretts of Wimpole Street may have had something to do with the cocker spaniel’s recent spectacular rise in the U. S. A more likely explanation, considering its simultaneous rise in Britain, is growing appreciation of the flop-eared little dog’s all-around qualities as a pet as well as a gun dog. Playful, gentle and notable even among dogs for his panting, big-eyed devotion, the cocker likes apartment corners and city streets almost as well as small-town lawns and country fields.

Mrs. Norman Thomas, wife of the Socialist, and Mrs. Francis Patrick Gar-van, wife of the Chemical Foundation’s philanthropic lawyer-president, both breed fine cockers on Long Island, both had entries in last week’s Westminster. But the best of the show’s 205 cockers, jet-black Champion Torohill Smoky, belonged to Mrs. Garvan’s 15-year-old son Peter, a Millbrook School fourth-former who has devoted his vacations for three years to feeding, grooming and exercising his dog.

Young Peter Garvan’s heart thumped as he watched Smoky go on from winning best of breed to be chosen best of all sporting dogs, thereby becoming eligible to compete for best-in-show or U. S. Dog of the Year.

Ten thousand dog-lovers were packed around a great square of faded green carpet in Madison Square Garden when the class champions, aloof and self-possessed as dowagers at a benefit, trotted in for the final judging. Under the arc lights the best hound, a snowy greyhound named White Rose of Boveway, was a study in rippling marble. Best working dog was the ugly, muscular boxer, Dorian von Marienhof, whose owner year ago incorporated him at $4,000, sold $1 shares to such folk as Jack Dempsey, Sally Rand, Jack Pearl (TIME, Feb. 3, 1936). The best toy, Tang Hao of Cavershawm Catawba, was, as usual, a Pekingese, a breed whose courage was demonstrated in Manhattan’s Central Park last week when one of them, out of sheer pugnacity, committed suicide by attacking an Irish wolfhound. Other finalists were Torohill Smoky and the best terrier, a pert little wire-haired bitch named Flornell Spicypiece of Halleston.

As she twinkled around the ring, dark eyes snapping, white coat curried and brushed to a glistening alabaster (see cuts), Spicypiece looked every ounce her name. The crowd cheered and clapped when the judge, towering George S. West of Chestnut Hill, Mass., looked her way, held its breath while he eyed and handled the others. The suspense was soon over.

After one of the briefest inspections in Westminster history. Judge West waved Spicypiece to the winning stall, did not bother to rank the rest. Said he afterward: “She came as close to perfection as one could ask.” For Spicypiece’s owner. Broker Stanley J. Halle of Chappaqua, N. Y., her win meant a double distinction. His Flornell Spicy Bit of Halleston, also a wire-haired terrier but no kin to Spicypiece, took best in show at Westminster in 1934. For young Peter Garvan there was solid consolation.

Grand Champion Spicypiece was imported from England only two months ago. and before he entered the final judging Torohill Smoky had been awarded the James Mortimer Trophy as best U. S.-bred dog in the show.

Winner of the 1937 Cruft’s in London last week was a Labrador retriever, Cheverells Ben of Banchory owned by Lorna, Countess Howe.

*Named for its founder in 1886, Charles Cruft. In 1891 Queen Victoria gave Cruft’s the cachet which has made it Europe’s greatest dog show by entering her collie and three pomeranians. Now 84 and probably the world’s best-known dogman, Founder Cruft still manages the show, avoids partiality among breeds by keeping no dog of his own. Says he of dogs: “I admire them because they do not talk.”

More Must-Reads from TIME

Contact us at letters@time.com