Hair Of The Dog

By Christine Wilson, England

I CAME TO YOUR National Specialty at Hudson, Ohio in 1990 and at 5 AM that first morning (with my body clock still on U.K. time), I awoke, could not get back to sleep so decided to go out for a walk. Everything outside the hotel was dark and quiet, except for a tent in the tennis court area. Being nosey, I peeped in.

"Hello there, pass me that spray bottle, could you, please?" greeted me. Standing on the table was a Newf, patiently waiting. Scissors, combs, brushes were nearby; obviously a grooming session was in progress. I asked if I could stay and watch.

"Sure," came the reply, "so long as you help if I need you; just hold his head still while I trim his ears."

This was my first meeting with Penny Shubert.

In England, I would wash my Newfs about four times a year, brush them deep down once a week, then the day before a Championship Show give them an extra thorough brush, trimming ears and feet if they needed it. They had won or been placed in most of their classes and were as clean and tidy as most other Newfs in the ring-and a lot more than some (matts, fluffy feet, mud, and yellow-tinted Landseers were not exactly rare). What I watched in that tent was a whole new concept. Here every Newf in turn was "perfected"-that was the only word I could think of to describe the care and attention given to each dog's appearance. I was still in that tent at 11 AM, having missed breakfast and most of the Puppy Sweeps classes.

The following morning brought Judy Oriani (a Newfie breeder) and myself to that tent; helping with the work if asked. How Penny must have hated us as she tried to work to her ultra tight schedule and explain the how and why of every movement of her scissors. We watched, fascinated and soaked up her words and techniques like a couple of sponges. We got none of the "I can't tell you that, it's one of my little secrets" attitude we would have encountered back home. By the end of the week, we were determined that in the future our Newfs would look much smarter in the show ring than they had in the past.

Back home the dryers were bought and then, having practiced on our older non-show dogs, we set to work on our show "hopefuls." We were very cautious at first, aware that new ideas are not always welcome, especially with some of our more traditional breed specialists. Nothing too drastic to start with, just a cleaner, more "groomed" look. My puppies were always immaculate (in the show ring that is) and they won again and again, often taking both Dog and Bitch Puppy classes. In May, 1991, Penny and her husband Bob came to U.K. and kindly offered to give us a grooming day. Friends came from many parts of England to watch Penny groom their dogs; two of them for the Championship Show the following day. Watching Penny's 10" blade scissors make contact with the coat it has taken six plus months to grow, without the benefit of having seen what a fantastic result she gives, must take courage. The following day both dogs won their classes and the bitch took the Challenge Certificate, despite having no undercoat at all!! People said Penny had taken at least two years off her age and several thought that Carol had brought out a new dog.

Gradually the standard of presentation over here is improving, but Judy and I still suggested to Penny that she should come back this January and groom our dogs for Crufts; the most famous dog show in the world. Luckily she agreed and spent six busy days bathing, drying and trimming the Newfs of those five people who decided to put their trust in her ability. I had a panic moment when a fellow exhibitor told me in mid-December that our judge for Crufts like a Newf "au naturelle" with not even the hocks trimmed to shape. Dogs have to qualify for this show by wins or placings in certain classes at Championship Shows. The judge, Mrs. K. Gibson, is one of our long-established breed specialists. Poor Nick Ford at his first Crufts was our guinea pig. We waited with baited breath as he entered the ring with Louis, the first "penny groomed" dog to be shown. Would she throw him out with the comment "he was overtrimmed." We all breathed again as she awarded him a second; well, he had looked very good! Penny groomed a total of eleven Newfs there that day; they were awarded 1 x 5th, 1 x 4th, 1 x 3rd, 1 x 2nd, and 5 x 1sts, the Bitch Challenge Certificate winner (Ashness Naomi) and the Reserve to her (Ch Stormsail Black Walnut). We were so pleased for Penny and the bookings are already coming in for next year. The judge then will be Judy Oriani and everyone knows that she will expect well-groomed Newfoundlands under her hands. How glad I am that I could not sleep that first day of your Specialty!

 THANK YOU Penny for the changes you have brought to the Newfoundland show ring over here.