Dalmatians have for generations adorned firehouses and livery stables, run under coaches and even starred in the circus. Now there are fewer carriages and the spotted dog often serves as a companion and guard. (There was once a Dalmatian named Delilah who took her guard duties so seriously that she barked herself to death in a fit of frustration brought on by the presence of a high fence between her and a hated gas meter reader.) But the breed has not often been taken seriously by judges at the biggest dog shows.
Not until last week, that is, when a distinguished Dalmatian named Roadcoach Roadster, a 27-month-old from Pennsylvania, won the big best-in-show bowl at Mrs. M. Hartley Dodge's Morris and Essex near Madison, New Jersey (SI, May 21).
Before the fateful decision, the distilling process of selection that makes a dog show had lasted nearly 10 hours. In the 32 rings spread out on the springy turf of the Giralda Farms' polo field 32 judges went about their business of judging the dogs in the atmosphere of an overgrown lawn party. Pennants flapped and tents billowed in the brisk wind, but the sun shone brightly on the 6,000 spectators who munched frankfurters and homemade cake while absorbing the spectacle. Dogs of all sizes and shapes—2,304 of them—were scrutinized by knowing eyes, felt by searching hands, paraded by proud handlers or nervous owners.
Tension grew as the time for verdicts on the variety groups drew near and even the dogs quivered in anticipation. The sporting group was the first considered, and 14 breed winners circled on the thick grass. A classic pointer, Ch. Finefield's Cover Girl, owned by John D. Rementer Jr. and handled by veteran Showman Charles Meyer, was awarded the group prize.
A CHOICE OF THREE
Then the toys trotted perkily over the turf. Perhaps the wind flattened the fluff of toy poodle Ch. Wilber White Swan, best-in-show at Westminster (SI, Feb. 27) and Boston, for it seemed like the day for the smooth-haired dogs. A sleek pug, Ch. Pugville's Maybe Stupendous, handled by Walter Foster, was placed by the coveted number one. Seventeen terriers pranced into the rope-enclosed quadrangle to vie for their group honor, and it went to a trim miniature schnauzer, Ch. Phil-Mars Gay Knight, owned by Mr. and Mrs. Philip Anspach and handled by Mrs. Anspach.
The working dogs, 14 strong, paraded with style and Mrs. Jouett Shouse's boxer, bold Ch. Barrage of Quality Hill, a many-time "best," was the victor.
Charles Meyer brought Mrs. S. K. Allman Jr.'s gay Dalmatian, Roadcoach Roadster, for judgment in the nonsporting group. The dog, fresh from victories at Greensboro, N.C. and Winston-Salem, oozed confidence. He accepted merited applause and first prize with a showman's gusto.
Again Meyer entered the ring, this time with an Afghan in the hound group. Marjorie Jagger's Ch. Majara Memelek, the breeze rippling his coat, jauntily took first and left Meyer with the rare experience of having three dogs up for best-in-show. He chose to handle the Dalmatian.
Across the grass in the long shadows trod the finalists, the six group winners, outstanding dogs all. But Ch. Roadcoach Roadster, tail wagging and stepping as proudly as the horses his ancestors once ran by, upholding the honor of countless firehouse pets, demanded the big award. None seemed surprised—least of all Roadcoach—when he got it.