With great anticipation dog fanciers mark their calendars. The Annual Dachshund Party, hosted by Iris Love at Manhattan’s famous Tavern on the Green, is “the” event for eclectic VIPs attending The Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. The well-heeled crowd partakes in pre-Westminster celebrations with gusto and among four-legged best friends. The recognizable faces in attendance such as Lily Tomlin, Walter Cronkite, Diane Sawyer, Mike Nichols, Barbara Walters and former Secretary of State and Mrs. Henry Kissinger blend within a harmonious and egalitarian pack far removed from an ‘alpha dog’ mentality. Expect to rub shoulders, tails and muzzles with the likes of Ch Felicity’s Diamond Jim (“James) and writers from The Poop, Crazy for Critters and WOOF Patrol as well as meet everyday dog owners from the nearby dog run or someone Iris met on her way to the party.
Every year Love’s decadent pooch-posh bash stirs up an Oscar-party-like buzz. Past themes have included China, Viking, American Indian, Ancient Egyptian, Japanese Geisha girl, Scottish regalia and New Orleans Mardi Gras. What, if you are invited, will you wear? Gentleman should go in Dachshund shades of black and tan. Ladies have tons of color options but to play it safe go red and keep your hair in a smooth style that shows off your confirmation.
NOTE: Dachshund owners that have misplaced their invitation need simply to put their pooch in an exotic, colorful and preferably Grecian-like outfit. (Iris has a special passion for everything Greek.) Then take a taxi to Central Park where Tavern on the Green is located. Once you arrive, head to the front of the line and announce that Champion Roll-Over-and-Beg has arrived. Doors will open and Ch Roll-Over will not need to beg but be graciously escorted in. Regardless since your wait with other Dachshund owners will produce tales of their own making.
Iris knows how to throw a party. Ice sculptures in the shape of fire hydrants, a life size dachshund made of chicken liver pate, and bone-shaped gingerbread cookies altogether turn the phrase ‘Puttin’ on the Dog’ into a Love trademark canine-lovers extravaganza.
Since the age of four, Love has attended The Westminster show and in the process raised the profile of Dachshunds to a breed of great distinction. Over 50 of her dogs have gone on to become champions. Love’s Champion Dachsmith Love Tyche Tyche, an American/Canadian/Bermudian passed away in 2006. She was a magnificent, extraordinary sensation that sparked a genuine interest in Dachshunds within show circles as well as outside of them. This great female titleholder boosted a Best in Show girl, multiple Group I and placement wins, Best of Breed at the Dachshund Club of America (DCA) in a field of over 700 competitors, and Breed winner at Westminster in 1996. Her #1 status in breed reflected her great confirmation and outstanding presence. Tyche elevated the breed known for its low-to-ground carriage to new heights. She was loved by Iris in the same way that dog-mom loved Achilles, another Dachshund from one of Love’s prized first litters.
Iris Love: My very first litter was a knockout. The mother, Champion Laddland's Liz the Lionhearted, whom we called the Empress, provided me with seven very special puppies. Five became champions; one was given to a friend; and one, Achilles who was born with a cleft palette, became a wonderful companion to the rest of the litter and enjoyed a very long and fruitful life.
Love’s Achilles was a true hero. His birth defect was not a flaw. Instead, his cleft palette which kept him out of the show ring became a symbol of courage and determination for her pack. Many breeders would not have kept Achilles. Love did. But then again, Iris never follows. She leads.
On July 20th, 1969, Iris, a noted archeologist, during an expedition in Turkey with a Swiss colleague, Rolf Stucky, rediscovered the long-lost Temple of Aphrodite at Knidos. That same day another exploration was underway: man taking his first steps on the moon. That coincidence — and its magnitude — reflect Love’s accomplishment and life. Aphrodite was the goddess of love and was worshipped in conjunction with the moon. That the Temple of Aphrodite was discovered by a woman named Love on the same day that man landed on the moon is a kind of synchronicity that is familiar to Love.
Photo: Temple of Aphrodite © www.farhorizon.com – (rediscovered by Love over 250 years later)
Iris Love: I knew, having read the ancient literary sources, that the Temple of Aphrodite must be circular, which was unique for the Greeks. I based it on what Pliny the Elder said: 'Aphrodite stands in her temple in such a way that she is equally admirable from every angle.' To be equally admirable from every angle, it would have to be circular.
Love’s sensibility and passion towards life balances true glamour with humor. She herself is pure pedigree. On her father’s side, she’s a direct descendant of explorer Captain James Cook and founding father Alexander Hamilton, and on her mother’s side, Guggenheim. She’s known by many from a variety of backgrounds. When Iris sets her mind on something … well it’s likely her friends will smile and smartly suggest: “It’s better to just join in with her.”
David Frei, Director of Communications for The Westminster Kennel Club told us that: “Iris is a wonderful friend and competitor in the dog show world. On top of that, she is a great story teller and is a joy to follow around at shows and sit with at post-show dinners.” David told WOOF Patrol that some of the stories she wrote on her TV information card for him to use on the USA telecast are hilarious, but one in particular:
Iris, owner of Dachsmith Love Kennels in Vermont, has bred and raised many champions among them: Ch Dachsmith Love Tyche Tyche, Ch Dachsmith Love Ajax and Ch Dachsmith Love Diomedes ROMX, perhaps the best known. All three are noted Westminster Kennel Club breed winners. However, Ch Dachsmith Love’s Tyche Tyche achieved special notoriety, a celebrity ranking for both her form and her canine charm. Tyche means good luck in Greek and Tyche Tyche means double luck. Yet her wins were not luck. Jon Cole, the judge at The Westminster Show who titled Ch Dachsmith Love Tyche Tyche breed winner in 1996, still fondly remembers twelve years later that her win was “Deserved.”
Jon Cole – All Breed Judge: On that particular day Ch Dachsmith Love Tyche Tyche was the most outstanding. She projected well and deserved to win. Tyche Tyche was credible and represented the breed well.
WOOF Patrol: Are there certain canine champions that resonate in your mind years later?
J.C.: The ones like Champion Tyche Tyche that have great confirmation and presence. Those are the ones that take the sport to new levels.
"She (Tyche) was born a showgirl and came on the scene at a time when judges often forgot to look at the end of the line in the Hound Group. I believe she helped turn that trend around."
. Iris Love, The 2006 Dachshund Annual.
Love’s appeal for Dachshunds is rooted in the breeds’ intuitive below-ground work. The breed originated in Germany. Dachshund in German means “badger dog”. They were bred to hunt badgers in the German forests and did so fearlessly. Their elongated bodies could dig as well as contend with their opponents. They retain to this day their innate hunting instincts as well as hole-manufacturing capabilities. The breeds’ passion for exploring and searching out treasures forms a complimentary bond with Love. The compact Dachshund with his friendly expressions and lively and affectionate personality is also a quality that Love simply finds irresistible.
Iris always highlights the glamour, not the sometimes mockery of the Dachshund. She once stated in an article that Dachshunds are, “Good strategists and very affectionate, although they can be a bit snobbish, too.” Love and others of a well-established circle of current and former Dachshund owners include Brooke Astor, England’s Queen Victoria, Carol Lombard and Clark Gable, Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, E.B. White and many others of prestigious and noted backgrounds.
American Kennel Club ranks the Dachshund the sixth most popular breed in the United States. Attendance at a Dachshund festival held in New York (Washington Square Park), California (San Francisco), Virginia (Manassas), Florida (Miami Beach) or elsewhere might just make one reconsider the breeds’ AKC popularity standing. Perhaps their adoration and devoted owner status is attributed to the fact that they come in many varieties: smooth, wirehaired and longhaired. There are also standard and miniature sizes. And as for colors, there are well over sixteen shades that include red, chocolate, Isabella/tan, American creme, dapple, piebald-colored and plenty of in-betweens.
I.L.: As with all pets, they teach you unconditional love. They teach bravery and loyalty. They are true friends, gifts from God whom we must protect. When I have felt down all I have ever had to do was look into the eyes of one of the dogs … instant therapy.
W.P.: You have therapy dogs.
I.L.: Some of my therapy dogs have passed on. At one time we had 5 or 6. We are hoping to have more trained this year. I think therapy dogs are essential for the care of people in hospitals and homes. Two of my canine girls, The Empress and Phryaki, took care of my dear friend Anne Radice’s mother. They stayed at her mother’s side and escorted her to the next world. This story is told many times over by those who have seen therapy dogs in action.
Therapy dogs go through a great deal of training with their owners prior to being certified for visitations at hospitals and other care facilities such as nursing homes. What can’t be taught to a dog or their owner is intuitive and compassionate intelligence. In partnership they work. Their role is interacting with various patients on an individual needs basis. Canines and other therapy animals provide a unique form of comfort and connection that is without judgment. Patients as well as their family and their caregivers have different needs, expectations and circumstances that must be factored into a pet therapy visit. It takes a special breed, one like Love’s Ch Phoebe. NOTE: There’s a brief and engaging online video of Love talking about one particular therapy dog visit made by Phoebe with a Parkinson’s patient. (Link for Iris Love talking about her therapy dog Phoebe: http://www.veoh.com/videos/v798407Prn9Z6TD)
I.L.: Champion Phoebe is a wonderful example of a therapy dog. During one of her sessions with a Parkinson’s patient Phoebe lit up. She started wagging her tail in rhythm to the song “Come on Everybody Get Happy,” and the patient raised his hand and tried to pet her. When Phoebe saw this she crawled right up to his chest and started kissing him. He smiled. It was fabulous. The best part was his wife was in the room and burst into joyful tears. Even better though was that his doctor was in the room. Seeing his patient move his muscles and smile provided him with the knowledge that there are many roads to helping not just this patient but many others with therapy dogs. He understood the extremely important role that therapy dogs play in comforting and healing. I should say therapy animals because birds can make you happy also. And I will be extremely generous and say a cat can make you happy.
The voice over in the video questions her: “You’re not a cat person?” Love of course has the appropriate answer: