2011-03-02 / Columnists

Pets, Pets, Pets

The spirit of Sensation transcends time. In 1887 at the age of 13, “Sensation,” the Pointer destined to be the emblem for the Westminster Kennel Club (WKC), died in Babylon. Each year, his image continues to grace most every sign, prize and catalogue from the prestigious dog show.

Sensation is more than a static symbol, for it seems his indomitable breeding lives on within certain champion Pointers who parade around the ring at Madison Square Garden; specifically within amazing dogs like “Buddy” (Ch. Eclipse JJJ, First Copy TDX, NA, NAJ, NF) who can trace their lineage to the legendary Sensation and other great Pointers who lived here in Babylon a century ago.

Sensation “became” Westminster from the get-go. In 1876, a charter WKC member sailed to the British Isles to purchase the best Pointer there to represent the newly formed club. Not only did Sensation win praise as having “best head of any Pointer in America, and probably in England,” but he also had an impressive record in conformation and in the field. During the 1879 WKC show, a special award was offered for the best puppy sired by Sensation. The prize was the familiar Wellstood profile print which has since become synonymous with Westminster.

June Johnston and her Pointer Buddy at Westminster.June Johnston and her Pointer Buddy at Westminster.An 1880 edition of Forest & Stream stated: “Naturally we consider Sensation to have the grandest style we have ever seen in a Pointer. His nose is as keen as a briar, and his movements graceful in the extreme.”

Because of my quest to find Sensation’s grave, I got an email from Westminster that the owner of one of this year’s entrants claimed her Pointer was a descendant of Sensation. At first, everyone was skeptical because there must be proof of pedigree. Actually, this claim isn’t unique. Since Sensation was such a prolific producer of champion pups, it is fair to surmise that many Pointers at Westminster over the last 135 years may have been related to him. Documenting it now would be more difficult, yet even if verified; announcing any “Sensation son” beforehand may give a dog an unfair edge before a judge, so I didn’t plan to discuss the possibility until after the show.

Shown Above, “Riley” Schnauzer mix Shown Above, “Riley” Schnauzer mix Westminster contacted Buddy’s owner June Johnston of Ashland City, Tennessee for me. Her response shed more light on the Buddy/Sensation connection, referencing the English River Pointers website which I use often. The site has been a helpful historical resource in my search for Sensation. Only one modern Pointer listed- “Ch. Ablelarm Bee Serious” (aka “Elliott”) has paths that trace back to Sensation as well as “Bang Bang” and “King of Kent,” other celebrated 19th century Pointers at the Babylon Westminster kennels. “Elliott” happened to be the #1 Pointer during the 1990s. He was also Buddy’s great-grandfather.

Shown Below, Valentino” ~ Akita mix puppyShown Below, Valentino” ~ Akita mix puppyJune explained: “Buddy traces to Sensation through his dam [mother]. About 28 generations separate him from his ancestor that graces the Westminster logo. Even through this many generations, Sensation’s “nose keen as a briar” still shines through in his descendants. A show Champion and a Master Agility Champion, Buddy’s dam, “Fancy” is also a master hunter with her major and both wins in Amateur field competitions and was the first pointer to ever earn the AKC’s Tracking Dog Excellent title. The keen sense of smell is alive and well in this distant descendant of the famous Sensation. Following in mom’s footsteps, Buddy ran in field trials a couple times as a puppy and won a Puppy Stake before we got scared of losing him because of how big he runs. He also became the second pointer to ever earn the AKC’s Tracking Dog Excellent title. (His sister, Saddle, is the third.)”

I spoke to June so we could meet at the show. Buddy was her first dog to go to Westminster. Her beloved boy had been with his handler in Rhode Island since September. Westminster would mark a family reunion because her Pointers are pets first, and they adore their people.

The Johnston’s and their dogs also enjoy performance events. Beyond beauty, these sporting dogs excel at tasks they were bred to do, like pointing at downed quail; plus newer events that weren’t even on the radar screen back in Sensation’s day. For example, Buddy aced the difficult tracking trial where judges lay out a track with obstacles and plant four articles such as a glove or handkerchief. Three to five hours later, the dog on leash must follow the track and uncover all the articles. Buddy loves agility because of the athletic activity and because he gets to team up with his owner, June.

Pointer breed judging was 8 a.m. on Tuesday. 14 dogs competed; four listed in the WKC catalogue had Bee Serious parents. Other Pointers present could well have Sensation bloodlines too. The WKC mascot’s aura is ubiquitous. One can watch the majestic dogs and then glance at the brass poles holding the ring ropes. Sensation’s silhouette is embossed on each one. June hid in the stands because she didn’t want to distract her boy. Although Buddy didn’t make the judge’s cut, everyone was proud of him. He was just happy to be there.

Buddy’s true glow lit the benching area later. While posing for pictures under a banner with the trademark Pointer profile, he gazed lovingly at his Mom, hugging her as if he hadn’t seen her in years.

He greeted me and every passerby with similar affection, so much so that Buddy could have spent his day at Westminster as “Mr. Congeniality” welcoming the crowd in honor of his famous ancestor, Sensation.

* Local Dog Does Well at WKC: A 13 inch Beagle- “Brigette” (Ch. Milroc Nothing Gonna Break My Stride) - belonging to Kelly Lockwood of Babylon won an Award of Merit. Brigette is related to past WKC Best In Show “Uno”.

For Adoption at Babylon Shelter (631-643-9270) Lamar St. W. Babylon: “Riley” #93856 is an adorable Mini Schnauzer mix stray, overcoming the terror of being abandoned. He is transforming into a happy fellow. “Valentino” #93877 is a sweet Akita mix pup found near Belmont Park with a fractured leg. The break should heal nicely.

Males: nice black Lab in Cage 17 found near Amityville high school; “Bello” #93830 chubby Shepherd pup; “Max” #93853-Golden mix pup.

Females: Beagles; “Lydia” #93376-Pit; “Ali” #93828-brindle pup; “Xena” #93832-Rottie; “April”, “Jules” & “Snowflake”- lovely cats in the lobby.

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