"A Five Day Love Affair With The Newfoundland"

This article first appeared in the January 2003 AKC Gazette and is reprinted with permission. AKC logo
by Mary Jane Spackman

Each year, Newfoundland lovers from all over the world gather at our national specialty to celebrate the breed. This celebration is a five-day event, but it was not always so.

The Newfoundland Club of America (NCA) held its first national in 1940 in conjunction with the North Westchester Kennel Club. It was not until 1967 that an independent, one day national would be held. Gradually, events and activities were added, transitioning into the five-day extravaganza that we now hold annually.

To be sure, each of our national specialties has its own "signature," defined by the host regional club. Of course, the main focus is on the conformation ring. The 2002 national, held at the Clarion Hotel and Conference Center in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, was a good example of what the Newfoundland national specialty offers to fanciers of our breed. Last year, more than 650 Newfs were entered.

The national kicked off on Monday evening with a welcome reception, highlighted by a band and a parade of Newfoundlands pulling decorated carts to welcoming attendees.

Tuesday began with the focus on working aspects of the breed, with the first of two days of obedience trials and draft tests. We had more than 90 Newfs competing last year in each of the two obedience trials, dispelling the myth of the plodding Newfoundland with little drive in the obedience ring. A working-dog reception was held on Tuesday evening, with mentor tables to discuss all aspects of the breed, from water rescue to agility to freestyle.

The obedience trials and draft tests continued on Wednesday, with the addition of veteran and puppy sweepstakes judging. As the day drew to a close, one of our most popular "fun" events drew spectators back to the ring for Decorative Carting-a spectacle that brings out the creativity and sense of humor of Newf fanciers.

The highlight of Wednesday evening was the "show within a show"-an event that invites the top 20 Newfoundlands from the previous year to compete under three different judges. It is typically an elegant event, with exhibitors in black tie and the audience in cocktail attire.

On Thursday through Saturday, the conformation ring runs full-tilt, with all of the usual classes offered as well as Working Dog/Bitch, Veterans, Maturity, Brace, and Team.

Time is also taken each year to honor our Newfoundlands with an honors and rescue parade, bestowing a commemorative medallion on each titled or rescue Newf.

Each year there is an educational seminar. Last year, Dr.Jean Dodds spoke on autoimmune disorders and the use of titers. Another evening is devoted to the NCA annual meeting. We are extremely fortunate to have an active membership, and typically more than 400 of our members attend this meeting.

The closing event is the annual banquet that follows Best of Breed judging on Saturday. Many Newf owners are drawn to the breed by its versatility. Our national specialties reflect that breadth of capability and celebrate the whole Newfoundland. -M.S.