Big news in the D over the weekend — the suburbs, actually. A woman’s been missing for three weeks. Her husband said they had an argument, and the last time he saw her she was walking down their driveway to climb into a dark-colored sedan. This was February 9. He waited five days to report her missing, and then it started — an ex-girlfriend came forward with e-mails from the husband, saying he suspected his wife was having an affair, then the creepy interviews with media outlets where he referred to her in the past tense, before going all teary and begging her to come home.
Well, you don’t have to be an ace criminologist to suspect how it would turn out, although even ace criminologists probably didn’t expect a weekend like this one. The police searched the house Friday night, and in pretty short order found a woman’s torso in the garage. They turned around to say, “Hey, care to explain this?” but hubby had vanished into the gloaming. The following day was spent following the twin threads of the Search for More Body Parts and the Search for the Husband. They found the former (strewn around the proverbial nearby wooded area) before the latter, but by daybreak Sunday he’d been collared; they tracked him like an animal to a state park up near the Mackinac Bridge. He was found, hypothermic and frostbitten, huddled under a fallen tree with no coat or shoes. He confessed from his hospital bed, and will likely be cleared for travel in a day or two.
Anyway, reading all this exciting news in the paper Sunday kept me from Mitch Albom’s column longer than usual. But there it was, and so I read:
There is a dog show in Detroit this weekend, and 60,000 people are expected to attend, and 3,000 dogs, and 163 breeds, and we won’t even count the plastic bags and scoopers.
Hey, I went to that dog show. I read on:
And at some point during the show, as thousands of spectators cheer, the prized pooches will walk alongside their owners, in lockstep, in gentle canter, paws bouncing as if on marshmallows, coats groomed, heads erect, spines straight.
One sentence, and I can pick a nit in nearly every phrase. First nit: Most dog shows are not Westminster, in Madison Square Garden, but in vast convention-center spaces like Cobo, in Detroit. There are many rings scattered throughout this space. There have to be, as at last count the AKC recognizes something like 80 million distinct breeds. Anyway, the breed judgings tend to be attended by one of two groups — fierce partisans for the Bouvier des Flandres and exhausted spectators looking to take a load off their feet before checking out the Dog House Bakery, purveyor of gourmet treats for your best friend. A couple dozen, not thousands, and the standard expression of enthusiasm is applause, not cheering.
I attended one group class — the toys. Maybe 100, 150 people were strung along the outside of the ring paying attention to the events within. Most didn’t cheer. I guess, if you add up all the classes in all the rings, at least a couple thousand people actually cheered, but most watched with an expression suited to one of the two groups mentioned above. P.S. The Pomeranian won.
Next nit: Check the dictionary definition of “lockstep.” It means to march as close as possible to the person in front. Open up the definition a little, and I’d accept using it to mean walking in stride with someone next to you. In any event, it doesn’t describe how dogs walk next to handlers, because one party has two feet and the other has four.
“In gentle canter”? Even a nodding familiarity with four-legged locomotion would indicate dogs show at a trot. And what’s a “gentle” canter, anyway?
“Paws bouncing as if on marshmallows.” This, my friends, is the kind of wordsmithery that lands you at the top of the bestseller list for months at a time.
“Coats groomed” — yes, as opposed to those come-as-you-are dog shows.
“Heads erect, spines straight” — Note, please: A dog has four legs. This means its spine is on a plane perpendicular to ours, and so straightness has no relevance here. Dogs can’t exactly slump the way we do, although sometimes, when they’re tired, they’ll lower their heads, so he gets points for noting that a dog in the show ring keeps its head erect.
Because I am a masochist, I skimmed the rest of the column. It was about Mitch training his dog. Piercing insight: It turns out that when you hire a trainer, he doesn’t actually train the dog, he trains you to train the dog. What’s up with that!
OK, enough. I — we — enjoyed the dog show. Kate brought a friend, and the two oohed and ahhed over the teensy-weensy ones; apparently the toy dog you carry in a purse is all the rage with little girls. When I was her age, I read all the Albert Payson Terhune books and dreamed of owning a collie like Lad or Lady, so I don’t count this as progress.
I paid close attention the the Parson Russell Terriers, of course. Contrary to what you might have heard, a Parson Russell is not a Jack Russell, but the compromise in a bitter dispute over whether the JRT is the result of careful husbandry or just a naughty little mutt. When my own naughty little mutt was a pup, I quickly developed an eye for the breed, and it’s funny: They all looked different, and yet, they were unmistakably Jack Russells. Long coat, short coat, long legs, short legs — they all just had the look. (I think it was in the straightness of the spine.) This was before they were recognized by the AKC, and nowadays the Parson Russell has a standard and is much easier for civilians to pick out in a crowd.
I petted two. Both were adorable. One was terribly shy, not a good thing in a terrier. Not surprisingly, she was a washout in the show ring. Still, adorable.
I left thinking our next dog will not be something you carry in a purse, but not a collie, either. (Ack, the grooming. How did these dogs get bred in a country with so many burrs?) Probably another terrierist. Alan’s thinking a border terrier — he likes that little otter face. I’d be happy with a shelter critter. But not for a while. The one we have still has some life in him, the naughty little mutt.
In Fort Wayne my New Yorker used to arrive on Thursday (it’s published Monday), but here it comes on Saturday, so I was late reading Seymour Hersh’s “The Redirection.” Not recommended for the easily upset. Hersh says we’re preparing for the war to spread into
Cambodia Iran, among many other things:
One contradictory aspect of the new strategy is that, in Iraq, most of the insurgent violence directed at the American military has come from Sunni forces, and not from Shiites. But, from the Administration’s perspective, the most profound—and unintended—strategic consequence of the Iraq war is the empowerment of Iran. …After the revolution of 1979 brought a religious government to power, the United States broke with Iran and cultivated closer relations with the leaders of Sunni Arab states such as Jordan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia. That calculation became more complex after the September 11th attacks, especially with regard to the Saudis. Al Qaeda is Sunni, and many of its operatives came from extremist religious circles inside Saudi Arabia. Before the invasion of Iraq, in 2003, Administration officials, influenced by neoconservative ideologues, assumed that a Shiite government there could provide a pro-American balance to Sunni extremists, since Iraq’s Shiite majority had been oppressed under Saddam Hussein. They ignored warnings from the intelligence community about the ties between Iraqi Shiite leaders and Iran, where some had lived in exile for years. Now, to the distress of the White House, Iran has forged a close relationship with the Shiite-dominated government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.
Note: The headline for today’s post is not a Honeymooners reference. Have a nice day.