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Carla Molinari
Treasurer of the FCI
IRA Ludwigshafen

Rusty rocks the ring

Cool winners - with the outside temperature soaring to 39 degrees

Caribbean weather conditions, record entry levels for the dogs and a drastic drop in spectator numbers. The VDH Rhineland-Palatinate kennel club had a lot to cope with in the context of this year's IRA, the International Dog Show. Nevertheless, at the end of the day the bottom line was positive

The fact that Rusty, even after a long and exceptionally hot day at the show, was still full of beans at 6 o'clock in the evening, was a great surprise for Lisbeth Mach, the Swiss Best in Show judge at the International Dog Show in Ludwigshafen. “He displayed a strikingly clean and powerful action with lots of charisma in the ring of honour. His body was perfectly balanced in accordance with the standard and framed by a not overly long, but well-groomed coat”, said the experienced judge. Moreover, the endearing and friendly nature of the Australian Shepherd with his gentle eyes took Lisbeth Mach's heart by storm.
“We BIS judges should never forget the purpose for which the dog we are judging has been bred”, said the Swiss judge. She could well imagine Rusty II working as a sheepdog, adding that “being a beautiful dog does not stop it from doing its work well”.

Best in show

A rare Affenpinscher

Saturday's winner, the Affenpinscher Taonga v. Tani Kazari, was another dog the Swiss judge won't forget in a hurry. “He was a true show talent, compactly built with an excellent head and a wealth of charisma for such a small-sized breed”, reported Lisbeth Mach. One of the things she found somewhat missing was that “clown touch”, one of the characteristics of this rare breed. She also thought that forequarters coordination could be better, saying that “the dog was also shown moving somewhat too fast”. These were the reasons why Rusty was ultimately able to assert himself against his small, yet impressive opponent.

Dream dogs galore

Lisbeth Mach's overall assessment was that the quality of the dogs appearing in the ring of honour was very good. “In many FCI groups, excellent representatives of breeds were to be seen in the ring of honour. I'm sure my colleagues had difficulties reaching their decisions”. FCI groups 1, 2, 3 and 9 were particularly well represented, showing “dream dogs galore”, enthused Lisbeth Mach. One positive aspect needing to be emphasised was the fact that all dogs with short muzzles gave a healthy and energetic presentation despite the heat. “A lot has been done here by our breeders to maintain these breeds and their health. And I would like to use this occasion to thank the event manager, his wife and the whole crew for the very well organised show with its large rings and excellent support facilities for the judges”, concluded Lisbeth Mach.

Record entry levels

Herbert Klemann, the IRA Ludwigshafen show manager, will undoubtedly be delighted to hear such praise. And he can also be happy about the record number of entries - more than 2,700 dogs. “The usual average is around 2,000”, he said. This somewhat compensated for the decline in spectator numbers, much lower than usual at this year's IRA. The reason for this drop was obvious - with outside temperatures soaring to 39oC, most people preferred to go swimming rather than to sit watching a dog show. The other side of the coin was that the number of visitor dogs shot up, with nobody wanting to leave his four-legged friend in the car in such heat.

Gabriele Metz

Interview with Dr Sandra Balkow and Martin Balkow, owners of the Best in Show dog

How would you describe the moment of victory?

It was a great moment, totally overwhelming. I really felt proud being able to present our Rusty - representing the Australian Shepherd breed - to the spectators. Despite the long day and the heat, it hopefully became clear that an Aussie is not a couch potato, but that his will to please makes him a great companion, whether at a sports event or at a show.

How did your dog feel?

Rusty loves being at the centre of attention. He enjoys the undivided attention, whether here at the show, or at Obedience or Agility trials. The place he loves best of all is the grooming table. The moment it gets put up, Rusty jumps up onto it, knowing that there he will be groomed and cuddled, with nobody interfering. Being the centre of attention - that's what he loves. At home, Rusty lives together with two other dogs, bitches, meaning that he is not always the centre of attention, but sometimes has to wait his turn. So he is all the more happy when he does something alone with me or my wife. Doesn't matter what it is, the main thing is that he's part of it.

When Rusty was chosen as Best in Show at the International Dog Show in Ludwigshafen, I was over the moon. Rusty looked up at me with his classic question-mark face, as if to say: "What's all the excitement about?" It wasn't until we were up on the podium that I noticed how thrilled he was. He was so excited he wouldn't react to any command. Well, Rusty was probably infected by some of my excitement, and just couldn't understand what I wanted from him now. It was a good thing that my wife had done the O3 obedience test with Rusty. He finally sat down when she called to him from a distance to “sit”.

After six appearances in the show ring on one day, even Rusty had had enough. While the judges were congratulating us, he just lay down on the podium, let his legs dangle down and enjoyed the peace and quiet - as if to say, that's enough for today. And he was quite right. I myself felt very hot and sticky in my black suit and tie, and I was very well able to empathise with him, knowing what a sensational performance Rusty had put in with his black coat on such a hot and sultry summer's day.

How do you motivate your successful dog to always present himself with such enthusiasm and joy?

Rusty displays great eagerness to work and doesn't need any additional motivation. Basically, all you have to do is to say to him: “Shall we do something?” - and you've got his attention. Even as a puppy, he loved to present himself, all quite naturally. He just loves being the centre of attention, and he thinks it great when we do something together. Rusty is of course also happy to be together with his two “ladyfriends”, Kim and Bliss, but when we are out together alone, he doesn't have to keep an eye on his women, meaning that he can relax and enjoy everything we do together.

For him, the show ring is work, just like an Obedience or aAgility test. This is the reason why we work all the time in the ring. When we for instance tell him to “stand”, we expect him to stay standing exactly in the position he has just taken. He does this very well and waits for us to tell him what to do next. We also have a command “teeth” (German: “Zähne”) so that a judge can inspect his teeth, or a command “keep still” (German: “Stellen”), so that he knows that I will be touching and adjusting the position of each of his legs in case he has adopted the wrong position. When there are a large number of dogs starting in our group, I try to get him to relax in the ring. But Rusty gets bored very quickly, and then he starts to bark quietly but distinctly. As if he wants to say: “Hey, can't we do something? It's boring just standing around doing nothing!”.

By the way, when Rusty’s concentration is not too good, all we have to say to him is a quiet “wag-wag” (German: “Wedel-Wedel”). Then his tail wags from left to right and the whole dog is happy. How did we manage this? I haven't got a clue, but I find it sweet!

What have been Rusty's three greatest show successes up to now?

Rusty has already notched up a lot of show successes. It's not always the size of the prize which defines success. Very special judges, for instance from South Africa, America or from another European country, who have awarded Rusty prizes, have a very special appeal. Though we all take our guidance from the same breed standard, focus and interpretation can differ. We are therefore particularly happy that judges from different continents have chosen Rusty as their Best Male Dog and BOB. And of course it is even greater when Rusty is awarded a prize by judges who have been breeding Australian Shepherds for decades.

Any dream still to be fulfilled?

Breeding a Rusty Junior.

What was your overall impression of the show?

Very, very good - quite independently of our sensational success. Everything was well organised, the helpers, parking attendants and people on the door were friendly, willing to help and well-informed. I would like to highlight the ring of honour speaker who was responsible for presenting the individual breeds, providing lots of information. It's the first time I have been provided with such a wealth of information. Taking into account that there are a lot of spectators possibly wanting to find out which breed is the most suitable for them, all this information is very important and valuable. And as one needed a bit more time for a round in the ring of honour, the speaker had enough time to present the breed.

Any suggestions for improvements?

  1. More waste-bins in the car-park, especially in the area reserved for caravans and motorhomes.
  2. It would also be good to have more waste-bins in the outer rings and possibly more dog waste bag dispensers. There's always the chance of a mishap happening, and if there's a dispenser near at hand it's much easier to clear up the mess.

What's the key to your dog's personality?

His personality is characterised by his confident and friendly nature. He himself is an XXL smoocher, and every member of the family must always be ready to face up to one of his intensive smooch attacks. He is initially somewhat more reticent with strangers, but he quickly opens up.

He likes most of all undivided attention, long walks and swimming. He just loves walks in the shallow North Sea waters - the Watt - and especially the wonderful dog beach at Schillig, of course only when the birds are not breeding. There he can wallow in the mud, race around with Kim and Bliss on the beach and in the shallow water, and go swimming in the North Sea. And there are always fish to eat there.

For Rusty, the highlight of the day is when we drive to the local dog sport club (Agility Hundesportgruppe Rhein-Sieg 1993 e.V.). He always has lots of fun there doing his Agility or Obedience training. And that's where he can meet up with his beloved Brigitte, a dog-sitter who always has a treat ready for him.

Rusty's favourite meals? All types of fish, green tripe, chicken hearts and liver, and any dog biscuits personally baked by his master.

Thank you for the interview.

Interview conducted by Gabriele Metz.