The Kurz Korner

Amusing Articles 
THE EVOLUTION OF THE CHOKER CHAIN

By Richard C. Kurz


       In the beginning, dogs ran free and nobody thought much about it. ... Oh, sure, ... occasionally somebody would get nipped trying to filch a Brontosaurus steak from a primitive canine lair or, ... would step in a warm pile while hoofing it through the primeval underbrush. ... In general though, people didn't think much about dogs.

     In 1534 BC the stirrings began. ... Streams of sunlight
were just beginning to penetrate the damp morning fog, as Grazd and his wife Yechh squatted in their cave wondering where breakfast would come from. ... (There were only four vowels in  those days and many more consonants.) ... Grazd, a far-away look in his eye, commented, ...

     "Let's have a `dog show'," he said.

     "A what? ..."

     "A `dog show'."

     "What's it taste like?"

     "It's not something to eat. ... It's an event! ...."

     "A what? ..."

     "An event."

     "What in the hell is an `event'? ...", Yechh was not known for her tact, particularly before she knew where breakfast would come from.

     "An 'event' is a "happening' like a war or an oyster
fight," (Mollusks had not yet evolved to the passive creatures we know today.)

     "I'll be damned! ... Here we sit in this damp cave,
stomachs rumbling and you're thinking about 'events'. .. Why don't you go out and clobber some breakfast? ..."

     Grazd did go out, but his thoughts were about the "dog
show". He bounced his idea around with all of his friends: Murf, Cratz, Kelph, and Charlie. ... They all seemed to go for it, mostly because it sounded better than squatting in caves all day with ill-tempered wives wondering where things would come from.

     "Look," Grazd told his cronies, "I'll be the judge and you bring your dogs down to the clearing, ... then I can tell you which one is best."

     "Who's got a dog? ...", Kelph was always a questioner.

     "Only time I see 'em is when I get bit.", Charlie rubbed his backside remembering.

     "Well then, thrash through the forest until you scare one up.  ... Yell for all your worth and I'll come running to judge it before he gets out of sight."

     And so it was for the first fifty years or so of "showing dogs". ... The exhibitors would spread out through the woods and, when they had spotted a dog, they would scream, "DOG! ... DOG! ..." until the judge arrived huffing and puffing.

     As Grazd grew older and less nimble, he found it nearly impossible to get to the exhibitors in time to see the animals. ... More and more, he found himself faking it. ... Telling them, "I just couldn't appreciate that one." ... "She wasn't my type." ... or, "He seemed to be crossing over a little today." ... In desperation he modified the rules such that exhibitors would be given special consideration if they brought their dogs to him at the clearing. At first exhibitors tried knocking the animals
unconscious with rocks and clubs and then dragging them to the clearing for judgement before they could regain their senses.

     It was during this period that Grazd began to refine his judging technique by inspecting every conceivable part of each specimen. ... It was tricky though. ... Most awoke somewhat cross and out-of-sorts. ... If the examination had not yet been concluded, the judging became an "event" indeed. ... In fact, Grazd suffered a very serious bite while conducting a pelvic exam on a particularly promising bitch. ... It was such a trauma to him that he deleted that part from the judging ritual and it has never to this day been reinstated.

     Toward the end of the century, Murf came upon a dog tangled in a vine and thus became the first exhibitor to return to the clearing with an awake, though  difficult-to-control animal. Thereafter, at each show you could see Grazd standing nervously in the middle of the clearing surrounded by exhibitors, each with a twisting, gnashing, howling specimen held securely by a vine tied to its left hind foot.

     As time passed, creative exhibitors, trying to catch the judge's eye, attached their vines differently. ... Some, to both hind feet; ... some, to the tail; ... to just about every appendage imaginable until, at last, the neck emerged as the most efficient spot for controlling both dogs and bitches.

     So it was for many years that the dog show was celebrated. Long after Grazd, Yechh, Murph and the boys had passed on, the next significant progress was made. It was in Egypt about 20 BC that Anwar Hemp, gassed out of his mind, began braiding his home-made cigarettes longer and longer until at last he had discovered "rope". Dog shows up and down the Nile took on a whole new look. Exhibitors discarded their "show vines" and adopted "rope". ... It was wonderful! ... You could show your dog all day and then, smoke the leash at the post-show party.
True enough, dog show fanciers began to get their "revellers" reputation, but it would not be historically honest to blame Anwar for all of their eccentricities.

     Hemp died an untimely death in 25 AD. ... Set upon by
thieves as he lay stoned at ringside during the Babylonian
National Specialty. ... (His dog wasn't "Select" that year
either.)

     Progress came slowly after "rope". ... For a while, leather provided a comfortable substitute for Hemp's invention. It was first observed in Athens at a fun match. It seemed to restrain the animal sufficiently and also satisfied those fastidious Greeks who objected to the dog hair in their after-show smokes.

     Although dog show popularity declined with the rise of Rome when Christian baiting became the vogue, it was during this period that the metal collar was discovered. ... Cicero's dog Remus got his head stuck in a grape urn which had to be cut off. All that was left was a slender golden band around his neck. ... Cicero found it handy, so he left it on. ... The concept was contagious. ... Before long, there wasn't a grape urn left in the empire. ... Two years later the Grape Pickers Trade Union switched to papyrus boxes, opening the market.

     The earliest metal collars were of this solid variety,
lending themselves not only to sturdiness, but also to strangled dogs. Adjustable collars would not come along for many years.  ... Not until the Middle Ages in England.

     It was that memorable Northumberland All-Breed in 1498 that provided several historic events. ... Events that would shape the dog show into what it is today.

     Bertrand of Orange was the judge, brought into town at the expense of Ye Canine Fanciers of Northumberland, Ltd. Until this show, judges had paid their own expenses. ... Had Grazd known that exhibitors would some day pay him to stand in the clearing, he would never have wondered again where breakfast would come from.

     The site for this show was a beautiful courtyard designed for "Kick-Melon", a fore-runner to "Soccer". Rings had until this time been "rings". ... Round rings. ... Forevermore dog show rings would be rectangular. ... Little did the attendees realize that history was being made. Rumor has it that the fist fight during the "Best of Breede" competition led to the currently "square" boxing "ring". The scandal of it also brought about the demise of the then- popular "Three-Square Circus".

     Everyone of note was there: Elizabeth of Rockdale, Richard the Rotund, Dwight the Dwarf, and Sammy the ____ Kicker, inventor of the "pooper scooper" as we know it. ... It was legend at ringside. ...

     Prior to the Novice Dog competition, William of Larchmont, known affectionately as Weird Willy, approached Richard the Rotund and asked, " May I 'andle your dog"? Before Willie could explain, Richard began pummelling him with his own purse, exclaiming, "I know your kind! ... Get out of here you, *&!@**/"!

     Once Richard was made to understand that Willy wanted only to "show" his dog, apologies gushed and, for the first time, a "handler" was engaged by a less-than-agile owner to accompany his animal into the ring.

     During the obedience competition that day, a German
exhibitor, Herr Hermann Schtrangel appeared with a strange device encircling the neck of his beloved Anna Von Der Behavenhundt.

     "What's 'e got on 'er neck? ...", asked Willy.

     "Looks like a chain," observed Richard squinting.

     "She certainly behaves beautifully."
 
 


     "What's 'e saying to 'er? ..."

     "Let's move closer." Richard lumbered over to ringside.

     "Zit! ... Zit! ... Gott in Himmel! ... Zit or Ich vill
auf das kopf gechoken! ..." The bitch sat; ... Richard heard...
...  and the "Choker Chain" became a reality.
 


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