Saturday, September 29, 2001

Labor of love

All Dobes, all the time

        You hear the strangest things at dog shows.

        “I whelped him.”

        “He would be a double grandbaby of his father.”

        “She would be our foundation bitch.”

        Thank goodness for clarifications.

[photo] Puppy Brooklyn, ears recently clipped, kisses Cheryl “Sissy” Cooper at the Drawbridge Inn on Friday.
(Patrick Reddy photo)
| ZOOM |
        As I discovered on Friday, the Doberman pinscher people are gracious about translating Dobe-talk. Ask a few questions, and you're liable to learn more than you ever imagined about the anatomy of a breed, not to mention the dedication of a breed's fans.

        “I've spent 30 grand on one dog in eight months,” said Alison Campbell of Los Angeles. “It's a bottomless pit. It's kind of like owning racehorses. You do it because you love it.”

        Nearly 700 Dobermans and their people are arriving this weekend at the Drawbridge Inn in Fort Mitchell. From Monday through next Saturday, the dogs will be walked, primped, praised and ranked at the National Speciality Show and Convention of the Doberman Pinscher Club of America.

        Make no mistake, this is big.

        “Everybody who's anybody in Dobermans is here,” said Cheryl “Sissy” Cooper of Cheviot.

        Ms. Cooper runs the Elite grooming salon and spends her free time raising and training Dobermans.

        The dogs learn to stand quietly in the ring, letting their handlers arrange their feet and fuss with their stubby tails. They open their mouths so judges can inspect their teeth. They are especially willing to be “showy” — ears up, eyes alert — when their handlers are about to give them a piece of liver.

        For convenience, some handlers keep the liver in their own mouths, then pass it to the dogs. That's dedication.

        Ms. Cooper and Ms. Campbell, formerly of Eminence, Ky., are co-owners of Rudy, who placed third in his class at a kickoff competition Friday.

        “People get totally immersed in this,” said Ms. Campbell, who worked with dogs full time when she lived in Kentucky. “It's like their whole entire life.”

        Sometimes, people get resentful of each other's success.

        “In some breeds it's really awful; no one speaks to each other,” Ms. Cambpell said. “I think there's a lot of friendship in Dobermans.”

        A lot of focus, too.

        She remembers attending one show shortly after the Persian Gulf War began. At the end of the first day, she realized no one had mentioned the war — not even once.

        People were similarly preoccupied Friday. While judges deliberated over the dogs, owners murmured comments or made quiet deals on the sidelines.

        The shows are all about demonstrating champion bloodlines. A top stud will fetch $1,000 in breeding fees. If others like your “stuff,” they'll want to make arrangements to breed your dog with theirs.

        “You bring, hopefully, your best stuff here,” said Linda Duff, a well-known breeder from Lebanon. “You want to show it off because it's your product. You made it.”

        If that sounds like an odd way to refer to dogs, well, the shows are an odd little world. People at once love their animals and gaze upon them as if they were Michelangelo's David.

        Kind of makes you wonder who's in charge here — the people or the elegant, dark-eyed creatures with the fondness for liver.

        Karen Samples can be reached at (859) 578-5584 or

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