I've always considered Feb pretty fab, what with the Super Bowl, Valentine's Day, and pitchers and catchers reporting to spring training no matter what that groundhog says.

And in the middle of it all, two nights of hairy competition that gives us paws: The Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show!

The WKC show airs live on the USA network tonight and tomorrow night, and I'll watch, as I do every year, nurturing my daydream of someday having a dog.

My kids and I love dogs, which is easy for us since we don't have to actually housebreak, feed, clean or walk one. I guess you could say that we love dogs in the abstract. Except my wife, whose allergies go wild if a dog gets anywhere near her abstract.

Each of my boys has a favorite kind of dog, all different of course:

* No. 5 son (age 4): "A spotted one!";

* No. 4 (8): A Golden Retriever, "to retrieve me some gold!";

* No. 3 (10): "One that's not too big, and already potty-trained!";

* No. 2 son (20): Loves the mugs of Pugs;

* No. 1 son (21): Britney's Spaniel. I thought he meant "Brittany Spaniel," but no, he wants Britney Spears' Spaniel, so he can personally return it to her.

Maybe we'll find one breed everyone likes while watching the WKC show. We'll see dogs we've never heard of before, which is good, because I think it would be fun owning an obscure breed. As long as it's not obscure because of its startling resemblance to E.T.

Speaking of E.T., there have been many celebrity dog-lovers through the centuries. I don't know if E.T. was one, but according to the Website "Thepoop.com," luminaries who've put on the dog range from Alexander the Great to Oprah Winfrey to someone named Cecil Hepworth, a pioneer in British film making whose recognizability today is, sadly, less than that of Paris Hilton's Chihuahua, Tinkerbell.

Speaking of names, celebrities often give their dogs memorable ones. Songster Jimmy Buffett had "Cheeseburger"; President No. 1 George Washington had "Sweetlips"; actor John Wayne had "Duke," which as everyone knows was also Wayne's nickname. (Many's the time someone would holler, "Come 'ere, Duke!" and find them both dashing up, tongues out, tails wagging.)

Wolfgang Mozart owned a dog, officially named "Trickster," although Mozart called it "Sugar." This got me to thinking—wouldn't an excellent name for a musically inclined dog be "Mozarf"? Or what if you had a dog of an obscure breed, with a startling resemblance to E.T.? Wouldn't the perfect name for it be "Bizzarf?"

Speaking of which, the names of the dogs that compete at the Westminster Kennel Club show sometimes push the boundaries of the bizzarf. Here are some real names of real dogs competing at this year's WKC:

n "Chelrock's Kodiak Ursus Ofih";

n "Bihar Ivytree 'N Marshvu Louie";

n "Aramis Rok Moninof at Woowoo";

n "Talydales Gluteus Maximus."

Of course, the owners of these dogs never actually call them by these names. These are just the mutts' formal identities registered with the American Kennel Club. For example, last years "Best in Show" winner at the Westminster event was a German Shorthaired Pointer with the registered name "Ch Kan-Point's VJK Autumn Roses." But he answers to the everyday name of "Cecil Hepworth."

Speaking of Best In Show, most breeds seem to have the proverbial snowball's chance of winning it. Of the 163 breeds competing at Westminster '06, only 42 have ever won Best In Show. I did the math, and I can report that the number of breeds that has never won equals a whole lot.

But it doesn't seem to bother the owners, breeders, handlers and screaming fans who pack Madison Square Garden for the WKC. They're just happy to be there, especially when the USA network interviews them about dog psychology, or grooming, or exotic pooch-foods, like Shiba Inu, Spinone Italiano and Petits Bassets Griffins Vendeen.

Wait, check that; No. 3 son just told me that Shibas, Spinones and PBGVs are dog breeds. And they're not too big. And tonight, to see if he likes them, he's letting them sleep on the bed in his abstract.

Gee, I hope they're already potty-trained.



Watch for Don Stuart’s column Mondays in the Rushville Republican. Add a comment at www.rushvillerepublican.com.

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