Friday, September 19, 2008

Candid Pics vs. Formal...the Challenge of Photographing Dogs

I am very active in the dog show world, and if we are lucky enough to have a nice win, we will have a formal portrait taken with the judge to document the day. Below was the first time I handled a dog to a Group Placement. This is Ch. Winsor's Ultra Violet of Glentom (Violet) taking a Group 2 under judge Joseph Gregory in January 2007. And boy was it a surprise! Violet was quite young, entered in the 12-18 month class at the time, and she was full of beans that day. Or should I say "full of fire", which is actually part of the Bull Terrier AKC standard. It can be very frustrating for the bull terrier fancier to handle a BT at an all-round show and have a judge that actually seems to penalize our dogs for just this trait. I'm not talking about truly unruly dogs, but dogs that show spunk and a bit of chutzpah - we like that in our bullies. Anyway, she had won breed and I was very nervous about showing in Group and actually considered asking someone else to handle her, and to their credit (Thank you Freeman and Kerry), they basically brow-beat me into staying on the lead. Typically an inexperienced dog coupled with a handler inexperienced in the Group ring is not a winning combination. So into the Group ring we went. She moved around the ring quite well, but when it came time for her to free-stack in front of the judge, she seemed to be enamored of something going on Behind her in the ring. To judge Gregory's credit, he told me to just let her turn around and indeed, she free-stacked beautifully, baiting off of whatever smells or sights were attracting her back there. My friend RC Carusi, a well-known handler, was given Group 1 for his Welsh. Violet was awarded Group 2. RC's wife, Shari, another handler I greatly admire, was handling her Wheaton and was awarded Group 3. Now, this wheaton was (I believe) the #3 Terrier at the time. Freeman, my son, had worked for RC and Shari, so I knew them quite well. I was physically jumping up and down (small jumps, but excited movement just the same). As I stood between them, all of us waiting for the judge to bring us our ribbons I said "I know this is old hat for you two, but this is my first Group placement and I'm very excited"! As if they couldn't tell. Let me just say that I could feel Shari's eye's boring a hole in the back of my head. I don't think she was very pleased. If I were handling the #3 Terrier in the country and was placed after an unfinished puppy, I would have had my own moment of frustration too, I am sure. But as they say, any win is really just a snapshot in time. 

The photo is OK but I can pick it apart. She is doing something funny with her lip, which I was not aware of, her front legs were placed square, but do not look like it because her body is not perfectly perpendicular to the camera....and I am looking at the camera. After studying many ads and formal show pictures, after this one was taken, I realized that the professional handlers are usually looking down at their dog. The picture, after all, is supposed to be about the dog and by keeping an eye on their charge, they can make sure that the dog is set up as well as possible. I still find posing a dog for a formal picture to be a huge challenge. When there is a platform, I find it even harder; some dogs seem to be particularly uncomfortable on them, so then there is this extra added factor. A few months later, still in the 12-18 month class, we brought Violet all the way down to Maryland in April 2007 for Freeman to show her under judge Peter Green. Peter had actually done a fair amount of bull terrier handling at one time and in fact had littermates to some of Marion Dussault's dogs and they used to show against one another all the time (and Marion would win, but that's another story). The point being that Peter had seen Violet in January (not at the show mentioned above) and had followed me from the ring back to our grooming set-up and was going on and on about how That's what a bull terrier should look like, and how much he liked her. When a judge does that you make a Huge mental note. He also likes Freeman and at one point had asked Freeman to come work for him. With information like that, you get in the car and drive to Maryland! And it paid off. Peter put her up over a champion to give her breed that day. Here is that picture. Freeman, apparently, knows well enough to make sure she isn't doing that funny lip thing.

Taking pictures of dogs and handlers moving is another matter all together. I am in awe of sports photographers, and indeed, there are some great ones out there specializing in
dog show photography. Check out Chris Halvorson and Louis Ruediger for some fabulous examples of dog pics.

The candid shot is something else altogether, and a good one speaks volumes. This following picture was taken of my son Freeman when he was 13 years old, his handling skills belying his age. The woman in the rear right of the pic, Ann Wiggins, is the owner of the dog in the ring, whose name was Finn, Wendigo York's Double Take (he would receive his Champion status later on under Claudia Sharp).  Freeman's bitch had gone lame and he didn't have a dog to show. Ann very graciously asked Freeman to take Finn in the ring, and as is typical with Freeman, he had an instant rapport with the dog. (It is moments like this that make the dog show world so wonderful). The judge is David Harris, in the rear left, inside the ring. This was taken during that year's National Specialty. I absolutely Love this picture. The photographer has put Ann and the judge in focus and indeed, they are both intently focused on what is going on in the ring. Freeman has a relaxed body language, he is in touch with his dog and still in charge. The leash is just taught enough to give Finn guidance. Finn is responding perfectly, ears up, body alert. And, since Freeman knows what he is doing, you can sort of see, although the angle makes it tough, that he has the dog directly in front of the judge, giving him a clear view of the dog's rear movement. All in all, this is a wonderful composition. I have lost the name of the photographer and would love to give credit. If anyone knows, please let me know. 

The next photo is my favorite candid of all time. It was taken right after Freeman and Hope were awarded a Finalist placement at the Canadian Bronze competition. What a tender moment between a boy and his dog. Freeman bending down to give Hope a congratulatory kiss, the Finalist medal clutched in his hand.

Now for another sort of pic, one with a bit of humor. When our girl Hope was 4 months old she was hired to do a Target promotion in the Hamptons. She was "on duty" for hours, greeting celebrities and posing for pictures. One of the funniest things about bull terriers, and it happens with many of them, is when they are really, really tired, their ears start to fall down the side's of their head. As though they are so tired that they cannot concentrate hard enough to keep them up top! Here, David, my partner and Hope's daddy, is carrying her out of the party at the end of the night. Her makeup is smeared from so much hugging and kissing and her eyes and ears clearly show an exhausted pup.

The next two pics are candids and involve movement. The first one reminds me of wild animals crossing the Tundra. In fact, this is just Marion Dussault's yard. The tri bitch in the back is Ch. Winsor's Beton Double Down ROM (Belle) and she is the mother to half of these pups. She and another bitch had their babies within 24 hours of one another and Belle adopted them all, often taking over parenting duties for one and all, including nursing. Here she is taking the pups out for an afternoon walk. Note that although all the babies are the same age, some of the ears are up, and some are not, and this is very typical. The white baby in the center, with the colored ear toward the camera, is Violet (Belle's baby).

The next photo was taken by Freeman. I was standing outside the Westminster ring with Beckett (Ch. Winsor's Damned to Fame ROM) on the leash and tossed him a piece of bait to keep him interested. See the bait flying in the air coming in from the right? Freeman caught the photo during the second it was mid-air. I also love the American Staffordshire on the left, eyeing Beckett's bait. 

As you have probably figured out by now, it is not so easy to get a great side shot of a dog, which are the kind of shots typically needed for an ad or to best show off the dog as a whole. Below is a pic that was taken during a Devon/Montgomery weekend when Beckett was about 2 1/2 years old. I took the pic and asked Glenna Wright to set Beckett up for the shot. Of course Glenna could be cropped out of the photo and that is what I did for some formal ads, but I like being able to see how Glenna is getting Beckett to set up so nicely. She has him flat to the camera, which is showing off his fabulous profile and nice short back to best advantage. The collar is loose and the leash is nicely situated to the back side of his head. She is keeping her hand low, holding bait, so that he keeps his head low as well. And dare I say it...because I dont know whether this was deliberate or not...Beckett is heading into the sun, which is making his nice small eyes all the more extra squinty! Nice job Glenna:) Bet you didn't know there was That much going on in dog pictures, eh?
And just to leave you with a ridiculously adorable photo, below is Violet as a baby showing that great stage, one ear up, one down, the pigment in the nose, still filling in and the paws still pink and tender and sweet. If this picture doesn't make you want to give her a raspberry on that tummy, then nothing will! This picture should also put to rest that age old question, "Do dogs smile?" I say Yes. 

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Ch. Rocky Top's Sundance Kid ROM aka RUFUS Makes History

OK so Rufus won Westminster in 2006, but I have to tell you, I still cry when I watch the video clips. That year was special to me for many reasons. I had been there in 2005 and the day of Terrier Group, when Rufus did not progress further, I just felt like next year was gonna be the year. I literally felt it. His mom and dad Barb and Tom Bishop worked very hard that year along with Rufus and they came into Westminster 2006 with momentum. Freeman and his bitch Hope (my son and dog) were headed to Westminster as well. This would be Freeman's first time showing at Westminster a mere month after he turned 16. They would be in the whites class, so they would not go head-to-head with Rufus. Terrier Group is always the first night of Westminster. During the day's breed classes, Rufus took breed, as expected, and Hope took breed in whites, as hoped! Freeman and Hope would be showing during the televised portion of the event that say adrenaline was running would be a Huge understatement...for me, that is. Freeman was cool as a cucumber. In fact, here he was taking a nap on one of the benches during the afternoon LOL. 

That evening I played kennel bitch for Freeman and was in charge of grooming Hope backstage. Freeman was Ready. We were in the area where all the terriers assemble. On TV it is the place where they all emerge from to enter the ring. Linda Lethin had her mini and she was giving Freeman all kinds of encouraging words, having been there several times before. 

Up in the stands, my dad, Freeman's dad and girlfriend, my partner David and a slew of best friends were assembled in a group of about a dozen, ready to yell and scream. We apologized ahead of time to the people sitting in front of us because we Knew we were gonna make noise.

Group was thrilling and Freeman was as calm, as always. This is a shot taken during Group. I love this pic for so many reasons. They are so in-sync. He is far enough away from Hope to allow her to shine on her own, yet close enough to provide control and guidance. The lead is loose, but not so loose that he cannot offer corrections. His body language is relaxed. The lead is very neatly tucked up into his hand, providing no distractions from his girl.

They were in the ring with all of these professional handlers, and here is this kid, with his first show dog, and he brought her all the way to the floor of Madison Square Garden. Yes, I am very proud.

Here is another pic that someone sent me. At first I thought, why did they send me this pic? And then I noticed that the dog is watching Freeman and Hope during Group as they were examined by the judge!

Now, while all of this personal history was going on, some Serious Westminster and Bull Terrier history was unfolding. Rufus won the Terrier Group. Freeman and Hope were done and there was the option of driving home but there was No Way we were not going to stay for Best In Show the following night...again, I know you don't have to believe me, but I felt it in my bones. Rufus was going to win and I wanted to be there.

So the following night a bunch of us assembled in the stands again, waiting to yell and scream for our Bull Terrier Ambassador. When the BIS judge asked for the colored bull terrier we went Wild and raced as fast as we could to the floor. Now, there were BT folks here and there within Madison Square Garden and we all rushed down at the same time. I don't know what we were thinking because of course when we got to the edge of the floor, there were security men holding us back. I ended up next to Heidi Clayton, who has a Rufus daughter, and we hugged each other in our excitement and were determined to get onto the floor with Rufus and Barb and Tom. We both had tear stained cheeks of joy! It never occurred to any of us that we Shouldn't be there LOL. Security felt differently and just when we thought all was for naught Tom walked over to the guard and said "These are my friends. Let them through" and that was that! Following are some pics my partner David and I snapped while in the center of the hubbub. Rufus was a star and this was his shining moment and I will never forget that I was there and got to experience this part of history - the first colored Bull Terrier to win Westminster. 

Here are some pics of Rufus, his handler Kathy Kirk and his mom and dad, Barb and Tom.

You can check out Rufus' kennel page at for more great pics of the man himself, his home-mates and babies. 

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Check out the New On-Line Magazine

See the URL link down in the right column or go to to see the premier issue of this fabulous new bull terrier ezine. Brought to us by none other than June Krukenkamp of TNG Bull Terriers and Dalmations. June is the award-winning Fergie's momma. When I was first on the BT show scene, the hot little red and white Fergie was at her peak and I was awestruck by her showmanship. Not all BTs are natural show-girls, but Fergie turned it on in the ring! This new magazine is jam packed with kennel ads featuring stunning pictures and also has informative educational content, so check it out soon. The pic above is none other than Fergie herself, Ch. Buoy's TNT at TNG. Check out Page 4 of the ezine to see my ad for Ch. Winsor's Hot Mocha Java ROM.

June, Good Luck with the Magazine!

Where it All Started.....for Me, Anyway

My father, Moses Acosta, saw Willy, George Patton's bull terrier during the war. It was love at first sight for him. Fast forward to 1970 and my father arranged to purchase his first BT from Michael Sottile of Alaric Kennels in Somerville NJ. He found Alaric through Eva Weatherill, whom he had visited in England. He had hoped to obtain a puppy from her, but once she found out that he was from the states, she suggested he follow up with Alaric Kennels, which happened to be close to our Manhattan home. Soon enough, Alaric's Loverly Lily, a small-ish terrier style smut fawn and white came into our lives. We drove over to NJ in a friend's old VW van to pick up the new baby. For my mother and me, these were the first bull terriers we had ever seen in the flesh. My dad had sent us to see the move Patton, so our only reference was the screen version of Willy, who was portrayed as a bit of a wuss. Patton's widow, by the way, was not happy about the portrayal as she knew it was not accurate. Anyway, while my mom and dad were inside brokering the deal, someone, I dont remember who, took me out to the kennels. I was handed a bowl of food and they suggested I go into the kennel-run with Lily's father, Alaric's Frandas Brandy Snap, a 70 pound red and white stud. He had a full-size tire swing for a toy....or so my Mom remembered; I dont remember that part. She does because she said her heart fluttered to think that I was in there with this big, strange dog! Well, he couldn't have been sweeter and so my relationship with bull terriers was born. We gathered up Lily and drove back to the city.

It was school night and we got home late and my dad suggested he go out to get Chinese take-out while my Mom and I brought Lily upstairs to the apartment to get settled. My dad exited the apartment and strolled a mere 30 feet to the corner, where, low and behold, a man was waiting for the light and holding a bull terrier on a leash! This was more than fortuitous - and odd - because literally up to this moment, we hadn't seen any bull terriers in the neighborhood. My dad, who had wanted a bull terrier since 1947, was terribly excited and went up to this stranger:

"Excuse me sir, I just got a bull terrier! My first bull terrier," my dad said. "Just now! We just brought her home!"

The guy eyed him up and down as my father babbled a bit more, gaining momentum with his excitement.

"Sir, did you just say you got a bull terrier?" asked the man

"Yes, yes that's what I'm telling you. Just now, we brought her upstairs for the first time," exclaimed my father.

"Sir, you are In Trouble! This little trouble-maker just ate my couch!"

And with that, a Legacy was born. Lily was my first, but far from my last, and I hope to never be without a BT in my life again.

These pictures are of me with Lily about 7 months later at a match in LI put on by the Knickerbocker Bull Terrier Club. If Anyone knows any of the other folks in the pictures, I would love to know! We are pretty sure it was May 1971. Lily won her class. Of course she was the only one in her class, but that didn't matter. I studied and read-up - remember this was the days before the internet, so it was pretty enterprising for a 9 year old - and I told them what kind of show-leash I needed. I practiced with her every day for quite a while leading up to the match. I remember when the judge wanted her to stand still, so that he could look at her bite and body, she jumped up and kissed him. I didn't even know these pictures existed until just this year. My daughter, rummaging around my dad's apartment, found them and gave them to me. I cherish them and the years I spent with this very special dog. 

Its a Family Affair

My son Freeman Wilson is as active as I am in the bull terrier world. In fact, in some arenas I am known as "Freeman's Mom"! Freeman asked to learn how to handle dogs at the age of 12. He is now 18 and there is no turning back. He was a natural from the beginning and has won many prestigious awards.

Here are some pics (yes I am a very proud kid and dog mom):

This first picture to the left was Freeman at age 12 showing his very first show dog, Belle. He finished her Championship as well as her ROMs (Recognition of Merits). She is formally known as Ch. Winsor's Beton Double Down ROM. He is currently showing her daughter, Domino, show in the next pic, known as Winsor's Mah Jong Dominique. This was taken at her first show as a puppy where she beat a few Champions and generally made a splash onto the show scene. Freeman has become a sought after handler and will handle dogs for other people on occasion.

Welcome to the Home of Legacy and Winsor Bull Terriers

Welcome! I have lived with bull terriers since I was nine years old and I cannot imagine my life without them. We are a third generation bull terrier family, hence the name Legacy, which is our kennel name. Marion Dussault, who owns Winsor Bull Terriers, has provided us with many show dogs, pets and breeding stock and this blog is dedicated to her and her wonderful line as well.

Enjoy our photos and exploits and drop us a line! We are passionate about these dogs and would love to hear your feedback.

Dede Wilson