2014-01-29 / Columnists

Pets, Pets, Pets

Move over, Con Ed. The Long Island Papillon Power Authority is about to electrify the Piers during the Westminster Kennel Club (WKC) Masters Agility Championship on Feb. 8. A dozen Papillons from Nassau and Suffolk, including a trio of senior siblings, will be among the 225 canine contenders in Westminster’s first-ever agility event held before the prestigious breed competition the 138th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. These tiny Papillons are a force to be reckoned with. Let’s touch on WKC agility before profiling the local Papillon power grid:

Last year WKC broke with tradition and moved daytime breed judging from Madison Square Garden to Piers 92/94 at 55th Street and West Side Highway because renovations at the Garden had taken away the space needed to “bench” over 2,000 dogs. At a “benched” show like WKC, entered dogs must be on view to the public the whole day. The Piers have plenty of room.

Speedy senior Papillon siblings on their 11th birthday. Speedy senior Papillon siblings on their 11th birthday. WKC explored the best ways to utilize this wonderful new venue that was theirs for the whole weekend. To showcase a fast-paced, athletic competition that is also a celebration of the bond between dogs and people, WKC decided upon an American Kennel Club (AKC) sanctioned agility trial, beginning in 2014 on the Saturday before the conformation [breed] show on Feb. 10-11. WKC agility would be open to dogs that were already at the Masters or Excellent level, and would follow AKC regulations.

Over 600 agility dogs were entered, with only spots for around 200, so a random draw (pulling envelopes by lottery where there could be up to 10 entries in an envelope) was the fair way to choose the competitors. The draw resulted in representatives from 64 different breeds, including a total of 20 Papillons plus 15 mixed breeds (called “All Americans”). Despite what you may be seeing in the media, mixed breed eligibility is not new and not Westminster’s idea. The AKC determined several years ago that mixed breeds could compete in all AKC performance events. Also keep in mind that a Masters Agility Championship Title is called a MACH. The higher the number after the MACH, the more times a dog has earned this honor.

“Carly” and “Fame” do synchronized weaving at the WKC press conference. Photo by Jack Grassa “Carly” and “Fame” do synchronized weaving at the WKC press conference. Photo by Jack Grassa Papillons are adorable, agile, spirited Toys ranging from 5-10 pounds identified by their characteristic butterfly ears. They’re also intelligent and can be demanding of attention so agility is a great outlet for their energy and intellect. The LI owners of the dynamo dozen are good friends who share in the care and success of each others’ dogs. Now to “Meet the Papillons”:

Speedy Senior Siblings: “Chase, Astro and Cher” are three 11-year-old Papillons with different owners but from the same litter of three, all entered in WKC agility. Both of their parents are still alive. Mom “Star” is retired but can do agility at 14. The photo shows the trio celebrating their 11th birthday in December. Their presence together at the Piers is a testament to proper canine health, fitness, breeding and owner commitment.

The “triplets” were bred by Andrea Samuels of Westbury as part of her StarStruck line. She owns “Chase” and five other Papillons slated to be at the Piers. “Chase” and brother “Astro” are MACH11 in agility: whereas, “Chase” and five of the dynamo dozen are champions too. “Astro” belongs to Laura Simonelli of West Islip, who happens to live on Westminster

Lane, while “Cher” aka Starstruck Moonstruck, is the diva darling of Nancy Andrysiak of Albertson. “Cher,” and housemate, also WKC ace- “Levi” a drop-eared Papillon called a phalene- were featured on Animal Planet’s TV series “Dogs 101.” “Levi” is nicknamed “Yummy” because he is such a mellow fellow outside the ring. The photogenic pups have done modeling. “Chase and Mama Star” were featured in a Sachs Fifth Avenue ad that was displayed on the Westminster website. “Chase” will be competing against his sons- “Bounder and CJ.”

“Astro was at a show in PA several years ago. I threw him his squeaker ball, and it rolled under something. During the match, he got up to obstacle #16, left the ring, grabbed his ball and continued to do the last four obstacles with his ball in his mouth, “ said Laura. “The judge and I looked at each other but didn’t realize what he was doing until we heard people laughing.” Note: Astro was disqualified though thinking on his feet and reclaiming what was rightfully his.

Dual Dogs: Approximately 3,000 dogs are in WKC combined events this year. Only three are in both agility and conformation. Sisters “Fame and Cheers,” belonging to Andrea, are two of the dual dogs. They along with their Mom “Sparkle” and half sister “Carly,” also Papillon participants, are descended from the great “Kirby” (Ch Loteki Supernatural Being) who won WKC Best In Show at the Garden in 1999. “Carly” and “Fame” wowed reporters as they did synchronized weaving through the poles at the WKC press on Jan. 15.

“Gem,” a Border Collie rescue from Glen Highland Farms upstate, demonstrated agility that day too. She belongs to Dianne Jamison of Central Islip who will also be competing with her Papillon “Bounder,” Chase’s son. Andrea showed him to his championship; then Dianne worked with Bounder to earn his MACH. The LI Papillon people travel to the national shows together, and root each other on.

Vino, Vidi, Vici: Jill Blum, a retired microbiologist, owns a vineyard in Peconic. “I downsized from Dobermans years ago when I wanted a small, highly trainable, smart dog that I could work with in agility,” Jill said at last weekend’s match at Doggie U in Bay Shore. A favorite pastime for her Papillon “Dallas” is to run up and down the rows of grapes, chasing unsuspecting little critters. He will be running at the Piers with his Pomeranian partner “Token” while their Russian Toy pal “Zander,” also an agility ace, will be watching at home and minding the vino.

Blast’s a Blast: Laura, a high school physics teacher, confesses that her Papillon participant, “Blast,” was the most obnoxious puppy she ever owned. “Blast demanded attention, so we worked on tricks, lots of tricks. He can lift his paws by number, he can back up, bark on command and do a handstand, to name a few. He has taught me more about dog training than all my dogs combined,” said Laura. His repertoire is impressive. I saw “Blast” do his spider maneuver where he climbs up against a wall backward and pretends to hang there. It’s so Charlotte’s Web.

Agility creates a working team of dog and person, each tuned into the other’s movement and mind.

You want to hope that exercise and mental stimulation can add years to a beloved dog’s life. “Agility is addictive; the passion keeps you alive. It makes you live longer,” claims Nancy. So perhaps there’s a people pay-off, too.

Tune into the WKC agility finals on Feb. 8 at 7 p.m. on FOX5. Olympic diver and agility expert Greg Louganis is one of the commentators. You just might see a LI Papillon posing inside the silver trophy cup, reminiscent of the great “Kirby” in 1999.

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