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updated 2/11/01
Innovative seminar style takes the biscuit

There are seminars and there are seminars but the Japanese Spitz Symposium sponsored by BETA Friskies, held on the 21st October certainly took the biscuit!

It is difficult to come up with innovation but the Northern Japanese Spitz Club (proposed), having Gerald Mitchell as Director and Co-ordinator, certainly broke new ground in the dog seminar field.

The delegates present on the day were all rewarded with a fast and informative programme. The four main speakers, Mike Stockman MRCVS, Malcolm Hart of Sheltie fame, Mrs Iris Bowker - acknowledged as one of the pioneers of the breed and Gerald Mitchell himself all gave excellent presentations on their particular section of the programme.

The usual welcome and introduction was staged and then things were completely different. Mike Stockman gave us a world tour of the Spitz breeds giving us lots of information on each breed as well as a sprinkling of some of his own experiences with the spitz family. Malcolm Hart gave us all food for thought on the origins of the breed, which are certainly still in debate even though the breed is now breeding 'true to type' all over the world.

Gerald Mitchell had the task of presenting the Breed Standard and, in his usual flamboyant manner had us all intent on learning as well as enjoying the many beautiful characteristics of both dogs and bitches. Iris Bowker, Club President, is surely a mine of information and she remembers very clearly the early days of the breed and how it has developed in this country.

It was also both interesting and gratifying to notice that none of these respected dog folk used notes. It was all off-the-cuff or rather straight from the pool of knowledge carried in their minds. An interesting feature was Gerald's quiz on the breed standard.

This certainly made you work hard to recognise the virtues and faults displayed within the four example dogs and the debates upon the answers when we all checked our papers was lively and - as with all judging - brought forth some disagreements. But it was all part of the learning curve.

Now they do say that a picture speaks a thousand words and the detailed computer graphics, which were used in every part of the programme, were expertly done and presented in a most efficient manner by Kath Mitchell aided by Tom Huxley. The wealth of information which was imparted to the delegates on the day was second to none and this information was further given out in the form of the programme which was full of the information condensed into a full colour presentation book for all of us to take home and both use as a reference and to enjoy as a reminder of the day. We were also given, in the Director's words, a 'sparkling opportunity' where we met on a one to one basis many live dogs and bitches - all of whom were presented in excellent order.

If you wanted value for money then the full Sunday lunch, served by the committee, was both delicious and entirely suited to the larger appetite. There is no doubt that having promised us a complete and comprehensive presentation of, in their words, 'our fantastic small dog'; they certainly achieved their aim. All the delegates, and some had even flow in from Southern Ireland for the event, were not only given the benefit of gaining knowledge but were also admirably entertained not least by the many photos of champions which had been so kindly sent in by all their proud owners in support of the club and the event.

As the event was sponsored by BETA their two lady representatives gave us a most informative ten minute double act on the BETA ranges which was not at all boring or pushy and was well received by the audience. We were also not only treated to a bag full of BETA Friskies goodies to take home but were also given a laminated pocket card listing the ten main points of the breed standard, a great stand-by for those days when you are asked to judge the breed. The whole presentation of the day was excellent, right down from the beautiful luncheon menus and table serviettes, the wonderful programme, flowers, drapes, display boards etc., (all courtesy of Club Secretary Mrs Mary Fallas), to the Chairman Gordon Lister's grandson's mural of Japanese writing welcoming us to the event to vice chairman Jim Peach's evening dress in common with all of the gentlemen of the committee and the ladies dressed in the Club's colours of maroon and white.

I am sure I speak for all the 85 delegates of the day when I say thank you to the main individuals concerned on their professional presentations, (including the cooks in the kitchen!), to the owners of the dogs for presenting their Spitz in such good order and to the Northern Japanese Spitz Club for a job very well done in support and promotion of their breed.

I understand that this club is not presently recognised by the Kennel Club but surely, after this day's display of their ability and dedication they will surely achieve their recognition aim. I would also say that it is one of the best doggy 12's I have ever spent! I understand that BETA is offering sponsorship for similar future events for other breeds and Gerald tells me that ten other breed clubs and liaison councils have already booked to receive the support for a similar presentation.

With this level of professionalism of presentation and excellent content of knowledge impartation I for one will certainly be watching this space.

Ralph Holmes