You’re in luck. I had originally written a lengthy year-end tome on “purpose” in the dog world, drawing on concepts from such varied thinkers as Churchill, Nietzsche, and Dilbert. Then I thought, “Who needs this kind of crap after the kind of year 2020 was?” and I threw it away. Suffice it to say that in 2020 we showed Canaan Dogs when we could, we ran Fast CAT and lure coursing with Canaan Dogs when we could, and we bred Canaan Dogs when we could. Why? Because we love this rare and unique breed, and we want others to learn about and appreciate it so that the Canaan Dog survives long after we are gone.
And now for the year-end summary: We lost our beloved 15-year-old Salina in December. Because of her love of the public, and her many years of Meet-The-Breeds, benched shows, and other exhibits, Salina was likely the most petted Canaan Dog in history. During her extraordinary career she earned a variety of performance titles, as well as an AKC Best Veteran in show at the incredible age of 13-1/2. She won three consecutive Best Veteran in Sweeps at the CDCA National, multiple UKC Best Veteran and Best Altered in Shows, and CDCA Dog of the Year. CH UKC ALCH Eastland Salina So Special RN CGC TKN FDC, we miss you and will love you forever.
On Valentine’s Day we welcomed Anni and Vino’s four healthy and beautiful puppies. The three boys are already wonderful emissaries for the breed on two continents. We kept Kari, the lone girl. She has brought joy and dozens of shredded toys to our home. Although her show opportunities have been limited, she’s already “singled out” in her pursuit of an AKC Championship, and she won Canaan Dog Puppy of the Year at the AKC Royal Canin National Stakes last month in Orlando. She’s Revelation Sukaryat Lev, “Kari.”
Vino continued to demonstrate his varied talents. In addition to siring our wonderful Valentine’s Day Four litter, he won an Award of Merit at Westminster and, before shows shut down in March, earned enough breed points to end up the #8 conformation Canaan Dog for 2020. He also decided he really liked Fast CAT and lure coursing, and in a single year earned his CA, BCAT, DCAT, FCAT, FCAT2 (the first in breed history), and even an FCAT3 (also the first in breed history). He was the third fastest Canaan Dog in America for the year. He was bred by Isabella Zirri and is CH Velikayas SH Yayin Shen Ari CA FCAT3, “Vino.”
Anni had the hardest job of the year, whelping and raising the Valentine’s Day Four puppies. She is a tremendous mother. Her Fast CAT attempts didn’t go well (she saw no point in chasing a simple plastic bag), but she somehow found the time and energy to end the year as the #1 Owner Handled Canaan Dog and the #2 Canaan Dog in Grand Champion points. She’s only a couple of points shy of her Silver Grand Championship, and as of Jan. 1, 2021, she is the first and only member of her breed to earn an AKC National Owner-Handled Series Platinum Level of Achievement. Nice job GCHB Pleasant Hill Anni Aharona of Carters Creek, “Anni.”
And last, but by no means least, there’s Avi. Avi ended 2020 as the #1 Canaan Dog in breed, all-breed, and Grand Champion points. He became the first and only Canaan Dog in history to earn a Platinum Grand Championship, and one of the very, very few dogs of any breed to add an FCAT to that. He won the breed at Westminster, and at his very last show of the year an unprecedented group placement at the National Dog Show, which was viewed by over 30 million people on Thanksgiving Day. He’s an incredible ambassador for his breed, MBIS MRBIS MBISS GCHP UKC GRCH NBOB Pleasant Hill Avram of Carters Creek CA FCAT CDCA HCX and DOTY, “Avi.”
And with that, David, Cynthia, and the rest of the Revelation Knaani family all wish you a Happy New Year.
Salina So Special was born on November 28, 2005. No one is sure how she got her name. Annette Israel remembers that one of her young daughters chose the name, but she doesn’t recall why she picked “Salina.” A couple of celebrities have been named “Selena,” but they were either well before or well after Salina’s birth. “Salina” is a city in Kansas (pronounced differently, with a hard “i”) and an island in Sicily, but neither seems a likely inspiration for a Canaan Dog’s name. It is also a “multinational publicity company,” a song by some band call The Get Up Kids, and a café near San Francisco International Airport, none of which seems at all relevant. So we’ll just leave it at that.
Salina has achieved success in a wide variety of activities, from performance events, to conformation, to promoting her breed, all while following her philosophy of Minimum Effort for Maximum Results/Food. Nowhere has she applied this philosophy more diligently than in the Rally Obedience Ring. Annette began taking Salina to Rally classes when she was a couple of years old. In class, Salina was the star pupil. She had no trouble completing an entire Novice course without a single mistake. But when it came time for her first competition in Raleigh, Salina wouldn’t even sit at the start of the course—she just looked up at Annette with an expression that said “Really?” Annette thought that maybe a change in handler would improve her attitude, but when I took Salina in the ring I got the same exact result. Why was Salina so good in class and so bad at a real trial? It was, of course, the fact that treats were plentiful in class and non-existent in the real ring. No food, no effort. Many years later we learned that Salina had truly achieved Minimum Effort for Maximum Results at this trial. She had finally earned a couple of qualifying Rally scores, and out of the blue we received a certificate for an AKC Rally Novice title. The title clearly required three qualifying runs, and I knew Salina only had two, so I called up the AKC. It turned out that Salina had erroneously received credit for her father Deke’s qualifying score eight years earlier in Raleigh. Clever girl. Note: It is much more difficult to get the AKC to deduct mistakenly credited scores than it is to get them to add mistakenly omitted points.
What changed in the intervening years that enabled Salina to finally (legitimately) earn her Rally Novice title? It wasn’t a change in attitude with maturity; Salina continues to follow her Minimum Effort for Maximum Results/Food philosophy. It was Jennie Larkin’s suggestion that we try World Cynosport Rally (“WCR”), which at first sounded like some heavily advertised prescription drug. But it wasn’t. Instead, it was an organization that allowed food in the Rally ring! The only downsides are (1) there are more stations than in AKC and UKC rally, and (2) there is a strict four-minute time limit for each run. At our first WCR trial Salina was fantastic. She methodically worked through all 18 exercises, with only an occasional pause for a reward. When she finished the last station the crowd, including even the ring steward, gave Salina an ovation. I thought that was very nice, if perhaps a bit much, until the steward pointed at the time clock, which read “3:59.62”. Salina had successfully finished the course with only 1/3 of a second to spare. Minimum Effort for Maximum Results.
Salina went on to earn her WCR and AKC Rally Novice titles. But her nascent Rally career came to an end at the AKC National Championship in Orlando in 2016. She was entered in the off-lead Advanced class, and the first day she put in a lackluster performance that only earned 80 points. The next day she barely qualified with a 71. I should have known, because all the signs were there, but I went ahead and ran her the following day. Sure enough, at the dreaded Halt, 1, 2 and 3 steps (three sits in a row) exercise, Salina sat the first time, then on the second “sit” command gave me the “Really?” look, turned around and casually walked out of the ring. Done. Three days later Salina was halfway through her six-hour shift at the Canaan Dog Meet the Breeds both when, above the din of thousands of people in the Orlando-Orange County Convention Center, I heard someone shout, “That’s the dog!” I looked up and it was the Rally judge from the day Salina walked out of the ring. There was nowhere to hide, so Salina and I had to cheerful endure as the judge gleefully related to her friend the story all over again.
Salina’s conformation career has been much less tumultuous, because after all conformation truly is Minimum Effort for Maximum Results. All Salina has to do is stand for a minute or two, move a little bit, and then—treats! As a result, she won Best Senior Puppy at the 2007 Canaan Dog Club of America National Specialty, and it didn’t take much longer for her to earn her AKC championship. Then she retired to have puppies and pursue other interests, i.e., food. But many years later, after we began showing our younger Canaans, Salina demanded to go to all the shows. She remembered that vendors were a ready source of handouts, and there was almost always leftover bait ringside. Minimum effort required there. But she was altered, so we couldn’t show her in most AKC events. In 2017 we noticed that altered dogs were eligible for the CDCA National Veteran Sweepstakes, so we entered her and she won the whole thing. She loved it. She could get food in the ring and still scavenge for extras later. She won the Veteran Sweepstakes again in 2018 and yet again in 2019, against dogs almost half her age.
In the interim we started showing our younger dogs in UKC events. At a large show in southern Virginia another exhibitor asked why we weren’t showing Salina. “She’s spayed” I replied, and the exhibitor then patiently explained how there’s a whole separate class in UKC for altered dogs, and they can also show in any veterans competitions. So I got up early the next morning and entered Salina in the day’s two shows in both the altered and veterans classes. After facing real competition all day long, Salina went home that evening with two Altered and one Veterans Best in Shows. That day she got plenty of treats, but she really had to work for her Maximum Results. Since then she has earned additional UKC Best Altered in Shows and a rare AKC Best Veteran in Show, and she won Best Altered and Best Veteran at the 2019 ICDCA National Specialty.
As much as she likes conformation, Salina’s absolute favorite activity is to represent the Canaan Dog breed at events, festivals and Meet the Breeds displays. And why not? Talk about Minimum Effort for Maximum Results, all she has to do is sit on a table and have the admirers come to her. She’ll happily work for hours, for the occasional treat of course, after dogs a quarter of her age have been exhausted. Salina has introduced thousands upon thousands of people to the breed while anchoring Canaan Dog booths at (among many other events) the National Dog Show, broadcast on NBC on Thanksgiving Day, and at the AKC National Championship in Orlando, during both of which her displays won highly-coveted awards in just the past couple of years. For lifetime service to the breed, Salina herself won the CDCA Dog of the Year Award for 2018.
Because she is so food motivated, Salina is very easy to train. So we’ve continued to look for new things for her to learn and do. Certain activities on their face violate Salina’s Minimum Effort for Maximum Results philosophy. She has totally failed Herding Instinct Tests after realizing that it is much too difficult to convert sheep on the hoof into mutton on the plate. Lure coursing was greeted with even more disdain, although Salina over the years has proved more than capable of chasing down real rabbits and squirrels. Although we took a couple of agility courses, that’s hard on an aging dog’s body and it isn’t keeping with Salina’s philosophy—too much work for the return. I’d heard about Barn Hunt (a.k.a, Find the Rat), and I was always looking for shows that offered an instinct test. Our introduction to Salina and Barn Hunt was somewhat embarrassing, however. One evening we were sitting in our living room with guests, and Salina was extremely interested in the coat closet at the far end of the room. She kept sniffing and pawing at the closed door. At first we didn’t think much of this, given that Salina had often gone “shopping” in the closet for food left in a purse or briefcase or, even worse, in a coat pocket. But that evening Salina was so persistent that I got up, walked over to the closet, and opened the door. Salina immediately dived into the pile of bags, shoes and other detritus on the closet floor and came out with . . . a live mouse. Needless to say, we were hesitant for years after that to invite people to our house.
It wasn’t until a few years later that Salina entered her first official Barn Hunt Instinct test. The test consisted of a hay bale maze with three fully enclosed tubes at the end, one of which was empty, one of which contained rat litter, and one of which contained an actual, live rat. Salina naturally passed the test in her usual style. She unsurprisingly wouldn’t sit at the start of the test, but once released she found her way through and over the maze of hay bales and immediately and without hesitation stuck her nose on one of the three tubes at the end. Knowing that two of the tubes were empty I foolishly asked her “Don’t you want to check out the other tubes?” She looked up at me with the usual expression that said, “Really?” and walked off in apparent disgust. I therefore called the tube she had nosed. Sure enough, it was the one containing the rat. Even with my delay to quiz her, she had the fastest successful run of the entire day.
I wasn’t familiar with Trick Dog, but after Salina earned her first Best in Veteran Sweeps I noticed that the local all-breed club was presenting Trick Dog tests. I quickly scanned the rules and saw that food is allowed in the ring. Plus, because Salina already had her Canine Good Citizen certificate (she officially has two—we think she “stole” her first one from her father too), she only needed to complete five tricks. That’s all I needed to know. We entered, and sure enough, Salina aced the test, completing 10 tricks in less than 10 minutes. Yes, 10 tricks. Although she only needed five, why stop when you can get an easy treat each time you do something?
While she continues to follow her Minimum Effort for Maximum Results philosophy, as Salina approaches her 14th birthday she is getting more strategic in her application of that approach to life. She recently received her Farm Dog Certified title, which requires two qualifying runs through twelve exercises designed to simulate the challenges of working on a farm. While none of the exercises is particularly difficult, no food rewards are allowed. One of the exercises requires the dog to wait quietly while the handler feeds livestock. On her first run, Salina was perfect—she calmly and patiently waited while I fed a goat. But she was clearly watching carefully, because during her second run the following day, when I turned my back on her to feed the goat, Salina immediately went for the bucket of Goat Chow. Fortunately, a dog rewarding herself during a run didn’t result in a DQ.
Even though Salina is almost 14, she is as alert as ever. She’s still the first to pounce on spilled food, and she’s always on the lookout for someone else’s stray kibble. So we have to be careful, and nowhere is safe from her scrutiny. Anything remotely food-like that is left in the car will be thoroughly and destructively examined by Salina for nutritional and/or flavor value. Fast food trash is particularly delicious. A couple of years ago we stopped for milkshakes on the way to a show. When we arrived at the show site, Cynthia put her half-finished peach milkshake in the front seat cupholder when we briefly left the car to talk to some friends. When we returned just a few minutes later, Salina was in the front seat and the milkshake was gone. The cup was still in the cupholder, and the lid was still on the cup, but the cup was empty. Without creating a mess or spilling a drop, Salina had managed to loosen the lid just enough to get at the good stuff. Ever since then, the front seat of the car has been a potential treasure trove for Salina. The assorted seat barriers we’ve installed have uniformly failed to prevent her from scavenging there. The UKC shows after this year’s ICDCA National Specialty were outside in beautiful weather, and we left Salina and the rest of the crew in the well-ventilated car while at the site, after first removing all conceivable edibles from the vehicle. One time when we returned, several people came running up—“We’ve been looking everywhere for you. Your windshield wipers have been going almost since you left!” That was odd, because the car wasn’t running, and it hadn’t rained for days. A brief examination of the front seat, however, provided the answer. Salina had penetrated the latest seat barrier, and while snuffling around had (1) stepped on the fancy “Start” button on the console, which activated the car’s auxiliary power system, and (2) knocked the wiper controls to “On.” It was either an accident, or Salina was annoyed because we hadn’t left her any tasty trash to consume.
The car is not the only place Salina has learned she can apply Minimum Effort for Maximum Food. Cynthia will never forget the time when Salina chewed a hole in her Patagonia parka hanging in the closet to get at the treat left in the pocket. I will never forget the conformation suit pants Salina has chewed through to get the bait remnants in the pockets. Even worse, she’s always willing to try new “foods.” Dryer lint and used makeup wipes have been on the menu in the past, so laundry room, bathroom, and hotel room trash cans must always be out of reach. Once I withdrew $140 from an ATM, which I shoved into my nylon briefcase instead of placing the bills immediately in my wallet like I should have. You can see where this is going. When I got home, I made the additional mistake of leaving my briefcase on the floor in our home office. Before I knew it, Salina had pulled out the seven $20 bills and thoroughly shredded them. Many have a taste for money, but this was ridiculous. Fortunately, (1) Salina didn’t actually like the flavor, because she didn’t swallow any of the money, and (2) our bank was happy to replace the shredded bills once taped back together (which is how we know that Salina hadn’t swallowed any bits).
Some things, however, can’t be taped back together. We recently stayed at an all-suites hotel while attending a dog show. Salina likes these hotels, because she can have her own chair or sofa to sleep on. She can also hope that someone forgets to put away a trashcan. One morning Salina wasn’t entered at the show, so she stayed in the suite while the other dogs competed in the breed. The trashcan was locked up in the bathroom. A couple of hours later we returned to the suite, and the floor was covered in shredded . . . something. What had Salina done? What was all over the suite? Then it hit me. Our friend Brittany had left her suitcase in the living room area of the suite. Like many female dog handlers, Brittany used her bra as a conveniently accessible place to keep bait while in the show ring. That made her worn undergarments irresistible to Salina, who had methodically removed them from the suitcase and then carefully and thoroughly shredded each one. It was an expensive treat for Salina, who was forced to turn over all of her previous sweepstakes winnings to Brittany, and it was highly embarrassing for us. But I think it was all worth it for Salina So Special, who always does things her way.
 Her fancy name is now Multiple Best Veteran in Show, Multiple Best Altered in Show, Best Veteran and Altered in Specialty Show, Multiple Best in Veteran Sweepstakes, Canaan Dog Club of America Dog of the Year, AKC Champion, UKC Altered Champion, Eastland Salina So Special, Canine Good Citizen, Rally Novice, Trick Dog Novice, and Farm Dog Certified.
Which came first, the chicken or the egg? This causality dilemma has been pondered since well before Aristotle’s day, and its proposed solutions, including those of modern, evolutionary-theory-based philosophers, are not entirely satisfactory. But more on that later. The more important paradox for me right now is “Which came first, the dog or the obsession?” Or more immediately, what has caused me to sacrifice real and substantial blood, flesh (yes, that too), sweat, tears, time, and money in the pursuit of arguably ephemeral and meaningless dog-related pursuits?
As far as the dog vs. obsession question, the answer is clear. Dog came first, or more accurately it was two dogs: (1) Kizzy and (2) Avi. Kizzy (HRH Eastlands Keziah) was our first Canaan Dog. After many months of research, many hours of talking with breeders, and a narrowly averted catastrophe involving house rabbits, we got Kizzy from Annette Israel in 1998. In retrospect, she may not have been the ideal dog for first-time dog owners because of her timid and wary personality. But we had been well educated about Canaan Dogs and knew what we were getting into, and at that time we still had deep reserves of patience, so we spent countless hours on socializing and desensitizing her. Progress was slow, so we got her a more easy-going Canaan Dog companion, Kaleb (Eastlands Kaleb Ha-Pere RN CDCA-HCX AHBA HCT). Much to our surprise, the more confident Kaleb quickly became the willing subject of the still timid Kizzy. Eventually, as if a switch had been flipped, the old Kizzy was simply gone, replaced by a newly confident Kizzy who quietly controlled all in (and out of) her domain. For example, one day we were walking the dogs in our neighborhood, and a young out-of-control Rhodesian Ridgeback came around the corner. Kizzy calmly turned to face the Ridgeback and gave it three staccato barks. The Ridgeback instantly stopped in its tracks, dropped into a submissive pose, and began drooling. That was the power of Kizzy. We could have any number of dogs and people visit without any problems because Kizzy controlled all, sometimes with a short bark, but usually with The Look. If you’ve ever known a Canaan Dog, you may be familiar with it. The all-seeing, all-knowing, I’ve-been-here-for-thousands-of-years look, which is unlike anything else in the world. And thus began the obsession. I still think of Kizzy every day, and I wish she were here to control that which I cannot.
Which brings us back to the chicken and the egg dilemma. The early philosophers considering the question basically just gave up trying to answer it. They ran into the infinite regression of causality, where each cause (the chicken and the egg) must seemingly be preceded by each effect (the egg and the chicken). Because there is no way to distinguish cause from effect, there is neither cause nor effect. But the philosophers had to acknowledge the inconvenient fact that chickens and eggs actually existed, so they simply concluded that neither came first, but that a poorly-defined “unmoved mover” got both the egg and the chicken, so to speak, rolling.
In our story Kizzy would be the unmoved mover. She hooked us on Canaan Dogs. But the obsession was still well controlled. Kizzy had been spayed (“I wish we knew then what we know now,” says today’s obsession in response to that mistake), so AKC conformation was not an option. We contented ourselves with walks and hikes and some herding and rally work with Kaleb. And we still had lives. We both worked in demanding professions, and with Annette’s kindness in lodging K & K for extended periods, traveled extensively throughout the Himalayas, the Andes, and the Alps. Even adding Salina (AKC CH UKC ALCH Eastlands Salina So Special RN CGC TKN FDC) part-time to the family didn’t change things much because Kizzy was in control.
But eventually the cruel hand of time intervened, and we lost Kizzy at 15 and Kaleb a year later. For the first time in almost a decade and a half we only had one Canaan Dog. We needed a puppy. Annette had what seemed to be a perfectly timed litter, but all the puppies were girls, and we needed a male for compatibility with Salina. We knew that Donna Dodson had just had a litter with two males, so we called to ask if either was still available. Donna said that one of the males was already taken, and we couldn’t have the other one. “Why not?” we asked. Because, Donna said, he was a show-quality puppy and we weren’t “show people.” But it was too late for us—she had shown us a photo of Avi—so we spent the next few weeks promising and pleading, until we were finally on our way home with Pleasant Hill Avram of Carters Creek.
Starting that very day we worked non-stop to socialize Avi. And of course we had promised Donna we would show him, so Jennie Larkin found us a wonderful beginning conformation class to add to Avi’s already active schedule. Avi’s personality and physique were developing quite nicely, so as soon as he turned 6 months old we entered him in his first show, with Cynthia handling. He was terrible, spinning on the end of his lead, and he lost. But fate was having none of that, and a couple of weeks later Avi ironically broke Cynthia’s finger in Canine Good Citizen class, so we needed a new handler. Once again Annette saved us and began handling Avi. And he immediately started winning. And winning. He earned his AKC championship just a couple of months later. At that point we knew Avi was special, and Annette had already done so much for us, so we began looking for a professional handler and ultimately found Brittany Cipriotti. And then, at just 11 months of age, Avi won the breed at the prestigious once-every-five-years Morris and Essex show. We were now hooked. And the rest is history.
Well, not exactly, because we’re not done yet. Nor were philosophers done with the chicken and the egg causality dilemma. But they had to wait a couple thousand years for the development of evolutionary biology. Under Darwinian principles, species evolve through favorable reproductive mutations. Therefore, the modern chicken is the result of a proto-chicken laying a fertilized egg with just the right DNA mutations to create a chicken. Thus, as summarized by Neil de Grasse Tyson, “Which came first: the chicken or the egg? The egg—laid by a bird that was not a chicken.”
I don’t find this solution entirely satisfactory, because it changes the question in order to answer it. But when you have a question, or for that matter an obsession, and you can’t deal with it head on, perhaps that’s the best course. Due to our obsession, we have been showing dogs as a full-time second job for four years now. While that doesn’t seem like much in a multigenerational hereditarily biased pursuit such as conformation, it amounts to a whole lot of dog shows, particularly when you’re going to 125+ shows a year and entering two or three dogs per show. (We added Anni (GCHB Pleasant Hill Anni Aharona of Carters Creek) to the family in 2017 and Vino (CH Velikayas SH Yayin Shen Ari) in 2018.) So after over 500 shows I have a few observations, most of which are likely self-evident to anyone who regularly shows dogs in the U.S.:
• Dog shows are often unfair, just like life.
• Judges are human. They have varying degrees of knowledge and interest. They have different likes and dislikes. They have friends, acquaintances, and adversaries.
• To be truly competitive at the top levels of the sport, you almost always need a professional hander.
• The AKC Owner-Handled Series is taken very seriously by the owner handlers, but not so seriously by anybody else.
• Showing dogs is expensive, even without a professional handler.
• Some show-sponsoring clubs cater to the needs and wants of the average exhibitor, but many do not.
• The AKC does a variety of things well, but not everything. For example, their disciplinary process is at best opaque and often fails to protect aggrieved parties.
• We’ve met some of our newest and best friends at dog shows. But not everyone wants to be your friend.
• If conformation success is your primary goal, pick a breed other than the Canaan Dog.
I find much of this highly frustrating, which leads me in turn to question why we continue showing Canaan Dogs. The obsession, of course, but like pulling the proto-chicken egg out of a hat to answer the causality dilemma, that’s not a satisfactory answer. Nor will I resort to highfalutin concepts like “sacrificing” to “save a rare breed,” because I’ve ultimately realized that just like changing what’s wrong with dog shows, we can’t make a meaningful difference for the breed on our own no matter how hard we try. So for the new decade I resolve to do what I can, but also to try and accept that which I can’t change.
* * * *
So what happened in 2019? Vino won an apparently unprecedented second Best in Sweepstakes at the Canaan Dog Club of America (“CDCA”) 2019 National and earned his AKC Championship at that cluster of shows. In addition, he’s now two-thirds of the way to his CDCA-HCX herding and AKC Lure Coursing and Fast CAT titles. He’s proved he can do almost anything, if he can pay attention long enough.
Salina continued to amaze. For the third straight year she won the Veterans Sweepstakes at the CDCA National. She also won Best Veteran and Best Altered at the Israel Canaan Dog Club of America (“ICDCA”) 2019 National, and earned her UKC Altered Championship. She also won yet another UKC Best Altered in Show. In her spare time she earned her Farm Dog Certified Title. She was named CDCA Dog of the Year for her lifetime of service representing the breed to the public. And in September she won an AKC Best Veteran in Show. Salina turned 14 last month.
Anni has one big handicap—she usually shows against her brother. Nevertheless, in 2019 she became only the fourth Canaan Dog bitch to earn an AKC Bronze Grand Championship, and she’s now #5 on the lifetime Canaan Dog Grand Championship Points Ranking. She was Best of Opposite Sex to Avi at Westminster and the National Dog Show, and Reserve Champion to Avi at the ICDCA National. For the third year in a row she was the top Owner-Handled Canaan Dog in America, and she is #1 in lifetime Owner-Handled Points. She also won the breed at the 2019 AKC National Owner-Handled Series Finals.
And then there’s Avi. By any objective measure, in 2019 he cemented his place as one of the greats in breed history. He was one of the top 25 Herding Dogs in the entire country. He won the breed for the second time at Westminster. He won the breed at the National Dog Show for the third time. He won the CDCA and ICDCA Nationals, each for the second time. He won a UKC Best in Show, followed by the Best of the Best in Shows at the ICDCA National cluster of shows, and his UKC Grand Championship. He won his second AKC Best in Show and his fourth Reserve Best in Show. He has now won the Herding Group more times than any other Canaan Dog in history, and he is second in lifetime group placements. For the third year in a row he is the #1 Canaan Dog in America in breed, all-breed, and Grand Championship points. He is the only Gold Grand Champion in breed history. He is MBIS MRBIS MBISS GCHG UKC MNBOB GRCH Pleasant Hill Avram of Carters Creek CA CDCA-DOTY CDCA-HCX—Avi.
And finally, thank you to all of our dog show friends and acquaintances that have supported us and our dogs in ways small and large. Thank you to Donna Dodson for the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to live with and show Avi and Anni. Thank you Annette Israel for, well, everything. Our lives would have been incomparably less fulfilling without you. Thank you (I think) Isabella Zirri for Vino and Cydne Clark for wrangling him. Thank you Kristi Allison for providing a caring home away from home when needed. And thank you Brittany Cipriotti for doing everything within your power to feed and yet help us control the obsession.
Happy New Year!
2018--What a year. And it could have gone terribly wrong right from the beginning.
Avi won the Herding Group at the first two shows of the year in January. He won the breed the next day, and we were standing outside the group ring when an out-of-control unoccupied scooter chair plowed into the knot of people and dogs, striking Avi and a Cattle Dog. No one was physically injured, but the psychic damage was done. The Canaan Dog was bred by nature, and nature breeds for survival. So it was no surprise that Avi was now on high alert not just for scooter chairs, but for anything with wheels, sudden movements and loud sounds. All of the things that are common at dog shows. The hunt for group wins and a best in show had to be put on hold—our first priority was to help Avi heal.
The calendar was not friendly, however, because Westminster was just five weeks away. We couldn’t allow a freaky Canaan Dog to damage the breed’s reputation. So the hard work began immediately, under Brittany Cipriotti’s direction. We went back to obedience basics to redirect Avi’s focus and slowly and carefully tried to desensitize him to various sights and sounds. We even got out the $50 eBay broken TV camera, stuck treats in the lens hood, and “filmed” Avi with it. It was slow going, and much too soon Westminster was upon us. Combining the organized chaos of a big dog show with the organized chaos of New York City presented an enormous challenge, including the freight elevator crowded with dogs, people and gear at The Piers, the crush of thousands upon thousands of spectators, and the big TV cameras in the corner of the breed rings. But Avi weathered it all, almost too exuberantly, and won the breed. That qualified him for even more craziness, from the bus ride to Midtown, to yet another crowded freight elevator, to many more thousands of spectators and, ultimately, the enormous and intimidating group ring at Madison Square Garden, where he gave a solid, non-freaky performance.
The rest of the winter and spring were a blur. There were some good wins and some unfortunate shenanigans, and although Avi was still not 100%, he continued to progress. His confidence and results improved even more with his preferred outdoor summer shows. And then it happened. On Sunday, July 1, which was a sweltering day in Vandergrift, PA, Judge Kenneth Rayner Jr. awarded Avi a Group 1, and half an hour later Judge Deborah Anthony presented Avi with his first Best in Show. That made Avi only the sixth Canaan Dog in AKC history to receive this honor. Thank you so much Judge Rayner and Judge Anthony, and thanks also to Emmitt, Lizzie, Breeze, Magnum, and Gale for leading the way for the breed.
The summer and the fall continued to go well. Avi won three Reserve Best in Shows, including one at the single show in Millwood, VA that wasn’t cancelled because of monsoon-like rain and epically muddy conditions. It was so bad there that we felt sorry for the Standard Poodle (or what was left of it) during the BIS competition. Over this period Avi also earned several more Group 1s and many other placements, and during his free time an AKC Coursing Ability title.
November arrived, and with it The National Dog Show cluster. Another big, benched show, with the marquee event filmed for broadcast on Thanksgiving Day. Adding to the excitement (and stress) this year was NBC’s selection of Avi for a general interest story during the broadcast, highlighting his prowess at finding and herding home an escaped neighborhood llama. We knew this meant even more lights and cameras and other stressors, and we were again determined that the public see a happy, confident Canaan Dog on TV. The NBC crew first filmed the breed competition, and Avi was largely unfazed by the commotion. When the whole entourage moved to our much smaller benching area, Cynthia Dodson and Brittany managed to keep Avi’s attention where it belonged while Mary Carillo conducted her interview. By the time Avi got to the group ring later that afternoon, the cameras, lights, and noises were old news and he gave a solid performance. On the actual Thanksgiving Day broadcast, NBC devoted almost three whole minutes to Avi and Canaan Dogs more generally, which was invaluable exposure for the breed. Avi apparently made a good impression, because Mary Carillo later said her sister and brother-in-law fell in love with the breed and now want to get a Canaan Dog. And that’s exactly why we do all this.
There was no time to rest after Thanksgiving, because the most grueling shows of the year started just three weeks later—the AKC National Championship week, or just “Orlando.” Five shows in six days, plus two days of the largest Meet the Breeds (“MTB”) in the country, all spread out over a 50-acre facility. And here’s the best part: Dozens upon dozens, if not hundreds, of scooter chairs. Scooter chairs zipping around everywhere. Because of the enormous size of the facility, coupled with the inevitable scheduling conflicts, this may be one of the only places on Earth where the able-bodied unashamedly use scooter chairs. Because we knew that Orlando presented this and other potential unpleasantries, we seriously considered skipping the shows entirely. But no other member of the Canaan Dog Club of America was willing to organize, set up, and man the MTB booth, and we also felt some responsibility to show two of the top Canaan Dogs in the country at the AKC National Championship. So we somewhat reluctantly went to Orlando.
Things got off to a slow start the first day when a distracted Avi lost the breed to Keith Shank and Cheryl Shank’s Lil Roy who looked fabulous with handler Laura King (they even got pulled in the group ring later that day!). But after that, Avi was . . . simply Avi. He was focused, he never put a foot out of place and he moved effortlessly. Almost one full year after “The Scooter Chair Incident” he was back to being himself. And good thing, too, because he had to face one more challenge. After winning the breed on Friday, Brittany tore her hamstring running to another ring. Laura King (with the Shank’s blessing) graciously showed Avi in the group ring that afternoon. But that still left Avi without a handler for the actual AKC National Championship on Sunday. Virtually every handler we knew was already booked, if not double- or even triple-booked. Ultimately, handler Greg Strong agreed to fit Avi into his very busy schedule, and the rest is, well, history as they took the breed together. Thank you so much Greg and, of course, enormous thanks to breed Judge Lorna Hastings Menaker. But we still weren’t finished—who would show Avi in the Herding Group? Greg already had two top herding dogs, so we figured he’d be unavailable. We’d already imposed on Laura King. Who could keep Avi focused in the big ring with the lights and cameras and announcers? Who else but Angéle Cipriotti, Brittany’s daughter, an accomplished junior handler, and one of Avi’s best friends. You can see them in action on the web or on Animal Planet’s broadcast of the AKC Championship on January 1, 2019, from 6-10pm ET.
After a truly frightening beginning, and after a whole lot of hard work, 2018 turned out to be a very good year. None of this would have been possible without Brittany Cipriotti and her family. Brittany had the knowledge, patience, and love to fix our “broken” dog and take him to new heights. And of course she also put up with us. Thank you Donna Donna L. Dodson for entrusting us with two of the three show dogs from your magic Galya x Grant litter. Thank you Keith and Cheryl for your incredible sportsmanship and tireless help with the Orlando MTB booth. Thank you Laura King and Greg Strong for filling in for a fallen comrade. Thank you to the judges that have recognized Avi. Thank you Anni, Salina, and Vino for supporting Avi (and for your own successes). And thanks to all of Avi’s other friends and supporters—he loves you too.
In summary, for the second year in a row Avi is the #1 Canaan Dog in America in breed, all-breed, and Grand Champion points. He has joined the all-time greats of the breed with his Best in Show, 3 Reserve Best in Shows, 27 Group 1s, 25 Group 2s, 32 Group 3s, and 23 Group 4s. This year he won the breed at Westminster, The National Dog Show (for the third year in a row), and the AKC National Championship (for the second year in a row). He became the first and only Canaan Dog in history to earn a Gold Grand Championship. And he even found time for a lure coursing title. He is BIS MRBIS MBISS MBOHIS MBBIS CDCA-DOTY GCHG CH Pleasant Hill Avram of Carters Creek CA CDCA-HCX—Avi!
Meet the Breeds at the 2017 AKC National Championship
Around 200,000 Canaan Dogs could comfortably fit into the cavernous Orlando-Orange County Convention Center, home of the 2017 AKC National Championship. But since the other 199,996 Canaan Dogs were unavailable, Roy, Salina, Anni, and Avihad to work extra hard at the two-day Meet the Breeds event held in conjunction with the Championship. After all, there were over 160 other breeds represented on December 16 and 17, so they had to demonstrate to the thousands of visitors the qualities that make Canaan Dogs so special.
This year the CDCA had a prime corner booth, outfitted with LED-illuminated banners of desert scenes, tomb paintings, and famous and loved Canaans, as well as a fancy digital picture frame scrolling photos submitted by club members. But the stars of the show—what the crowds really wanted to see—were the dogs themselves. Ably assisted by Keith and Cheryl Shank, Bryna Comsky, Richard Vulliet, and David Golden, Roy and Salina were the hardest workers, spending hours greeting the public from their faux-fur-covered dais as the humans explained the breed’s incredible history. Anni periodically relieved Salina, while keeping a watchful eye on Roy who really wanted to be her friend. And Avi made an appearance on Sunday after slacking off the previous day at the spa.
Many of the visitors to the booth were thrilled to finally meet real, live Canaan Dogs. Even some of the 5,000+ exhibitors and competitors at the AKC Championship had never had that opportunity before. A few had seen Canaans in action and were so impressed that they asked for breeder referrals (dozens of CDCA brochures were distributed). Some quietly puzzled over the “Kelev Kna’ani” on the Beni Hasan tomb painting banner before asking (the giant “CANAAN DOG” sign and CDCA logo right above the banner didn’t seem to help). And still others had never heard of the breed, but were drawn to the booth by the handsome dogs and stayed to hear some history. And what history. Just a month earlier a new archaeological report had been published showing ancient rock carvings in the Saudi desert of hunters with leashed dogs that the scientists said “resembled the modern breed of Canaan dogs.” Only at the CDCA booth could people pet a 9000-year-old dog.
The attractive dogs also drew the attention of a film crew shooting short breed videos for the AKC’s website. In addition to the canine glamor shots, the crew conducted a brief interview with some of the human crew, focusing on the breed and its fascinating history.
After two full days, greeting thousands of visitors, and walking miles back and forth across the convention center, the dogs were tired and the humans were exhausted and hoarse. But it was all worth it to show and tell so many people about the extraordinary Canaan Dog.
Kochav Mazel Tov Lil Roy Me Toro, CH Eastland Salina So Special RN CGC TKN, GCH Pleasant Hill Anni Aharona of Carters Creek, and DOTY GCHS Pleasant Hill Avram of Carters Creek CDCA-HCX.
Salina Goes to Barn Hunt
By David Golden
When I first heard someone mention “Barn Hunt,” I thought how hard can that be? After all, a barn door is commonly used to refer to a target that cannot be missed. But then I was told no, barn hunt isn’t locating barns, it actually involves your dog finding a real live rat hidden in a hay bale maze. OK, I concluded, that is a bit peculiar, and I forgot about it.
Several months later Cynthia and I invited friends to our house for dinner. We were all sitting in the living room watching Salina (CH Eastland Salina So Special) sniff and claw at the door to the coat closet. We figured that She Who Will Eat Anything (except kale—we tried) wanted food crumbs in someone’s coat pocket. We discourage that kind of thing, particularly after Salina had gnawed through a down jacket to get a leftover treat. But eventually her persistence wore me down, so I went over and opened the closet door. Salina dove into the closet and emerged with a live mouse between her teeth. After dealing with the immediate situation, I had two revelations: First, we could never again have friends over to our house, and second, Salina might like Barn Hunt.
Barn Hunt is an independent sport, although its titles are recognized by the AKC and the UKC. I learned that when I went looking for the rules. There are 62 pages of Official Rules, Judges Guidelines, and, most interestingly, instructions for someone called the Rat Wrangler. The Rat Wrangler is responsible for rounding up the rats and must therefore be adept at using a tiny lasso. (The lasso part is not true.) The basic concept of Barn Hunt is that one or more rats are placed in 4” diameter tubes made out of PVC plumbing pipe. The tubes have air holes and, once the rat is inside, are sealed at both ends. Other tubes are filled with rat litter and others are left empty. The tubes are then hidden in a course made of hay bales, designed to simulate the inside of a real-life barn. The dog must navigate the course, through a tunnel and on top of the bales, and within a time limit find the tube(s) with the rat(s). It must not get distracted by the other tubes. The more advanced the level, the more complicated the course, and the more rats the dog must find. The handler is only permitted very limited control over the dog—the handler’s primary role is to know when the dog has found a real rat hidden in the hay and signal the judge to that effect. A false signal results in disqualification. If the dog eats the rat, the judge must assess a “Lack of Control Error” 10-second time penalty. There is no penalty if the handler eats the rat, unless you consider that “Unsportsmanlike behavior or conduct.” (The
Barn Hunt Association says that no rats are ever hurt or killed, and “many enjoy the sport and interacting with the dogs.”)
I found the Rules and Guidelines and requirements for the various levels (RATI, RATN, RATO, RATS etc.) confusing, so I did what any professional used to spending hours deciphering intricately worded text would do—I searched for Barn Hunt on You Tube. After watching a couple of videos it all became clear. I would sign Salina up for an Instinct test (RATI), which involved going through one tunnel, onto and over one hay bale, and then selecting the correct tube from a bank of three: one rat, one litter and one empty. After I entered the trial, we . . . waited. Unlike other performance events, there’s really no practical way to practice Barn Hunt in advance, unless you (1) invest in an entire stable of rats, PVC tubes and hay, (2) own a real farm with a real barn, or (3) have a rodent-friendly coat closet.
Finally the big day arrived. Even though I believe and trust everything I see on You Tube, I went to the building where the Barn Hunt was being held early so I could witness some runs first hand. There were all kinds of dogs entered, from Golden Retrievers to Poodles to French Bulldogs. No breed or group seemed to do better or worse than any other. Then it was our turn. Salina and I had to first sit in a blinded staging area with four other Instinct Test teams. This area is shielded from the course so that neither the dog nor the handler can see where the rat(s) are being hidden. After the other teams ran, we were called to the start box in the ring. Dogs must run naked, so once in the box I removed Salina’s collar and lead. Although not required, I told her to sit, just like we always did at the start of a rally course. Or, more accurately, like she occasionally did at the start of a rally course. Salina looked at me, while still standing, as if to say don’t you remember my rally performance at last year’s Specialty? Don’t you remember my performance on the last day of rally in Orlando? Don’t you remember all the other times I wouldn’t sit during a rally course?
After the rally disaster flashbacks subsided, I was no longer nervous. No matter what Salina did (or didn’t do), it couldn’t be nearly as bad as some of our rally experiences. So I calmly told her “tunnel,” and much to my surprise, she took off like a rocket. She hurtled through the tunnel, leapt onto and off of the hay bale, and by the time I caught up was sniffing one of the three tubes at the end of the course. So I asked her, “Are you sure? Don’t you want to check out the other tubes?” She looked up at me with visible impatience and walked off. So I pointed to the tube she’d been sniffing and yelled “Rat!” The judge said “Correct.” Salina had found the rat in 19.2 seconds (about 15 of which involved me questioning her) and came in first in the Instinct Test.
We will definitely try Barn Hunt again. And when we do, I’ll remember the judge’s advice as we walked out of the ring: “Always trust your dog.”
It Isn’t as Easy As It Looks— Our Introduction to Conformation
By David A. Golden
The whole conformation thing did not start well. It wasn’t the confusing entry form--so many little boxes to fill in. It wasn’t deciphering the arcane lingo and process--OK, Avi’s in the 6-9 month puppy class, but what’s a “winners”? And who is this “Major” person? It wasn’t even figuring out how to get the number to stay on your arm—use two rubber bands. It was the fact that Avi was literally spinning at the end of the lead. In the ring. With the judge watching. It wasn’t really his fault. Cynthia and I had no idea what we were doing.
Avi is our fourth Canaan Dog, so we have some experience with the breed. For almost 20 years we’ve been fascinated by these intelligent, versatile, caring and sometimes stubborn dogs. They’re living history—Canaans have populated the Middle East for over 4000 years. But we had never shown in conformation before, nor did we ever intend to do so. That changed, however, when the breeder told us that the little puppy we had our hearts set on was “show quality.” I still have no idea how she could tell that of a six-week-old white and black ball of fur, but we respected her judgment, honed by decades of experience, and agreed to show him. After all, how hard could it be?
We had religiously watched the AKC/Eukanuba Championship and Westminster on TV every year. So it looked like all you had to do was get a pretty dog, a not-too-outrageous outfit, and run around a ring for a couple of minutes. Avi was now teaching us how wrong we were. We should have known better. Why would anyone expect a puppy to stand still while some stranger petted him? That’s an invitation to play! So after we all got home and calmed down, we came up with a better plan.
The first thing we needed was a mentor. We were in luck, because we had the perfect person—our friend Annette, who had bred our first two Canaans, and with whom we co-owned our third, Salina. We had watched from afar as Annette had shown and finished Salina herself, so we knew where to go for advice. But Annette offered us much more than just advice. She started working directly with us, teaching Avi how to stack properly and us how to help him without fumbling around. And even though she was showing her own puppy, Annette kindly offered to handle Avi until we were comfortable enough to do so ourselves.
We also signed up for a handling class at a friend’s local dog training club. The first time we went Cynthia handled Avi, and the instructor wisely said, “Nice puppy. Let’s make sure he’s having fun.” For practice I handled Salina, and the instructor growled, “That dog is good. She must be a champion. But you’re lousy.” Once again, he was correct. But we kept at it, we started improving, and we were all having fun.
Then it was time for Avi’s second show. We were so nervous we accepted Annette’s offer to handle him. She took him into the ring and he looked great. We were thrilled--no spinning! The next thing we knew, he had won his puppy class. Everything after that was a blur, with Canaans and handlers shuttling in and out of the ring, as the judge worked through the various classes. We tried to help, holding dogs going in and holding dogs coming out, but we still kept an eye on our puppy. After what seemed like an eternity it was all over, and to our amazement the judge was pointing at Avi for best of breed. Wow. Five shows later, after I’d taken over his lead, Avi earned his championship. And we earned an appreciation of how complex yet satisfying it can be to show your dog in conformation.