Sprinkles has her day

February 20, 2005|by ANDREW SCHOTZ


One day.

That's all Tony Saia was allowed to have a dog while growing up in Philadelphia.

He said his family got a beagle, but his mother didn't want it, so the dog had to leave after one day.

As an adult, Saia is immersing himself in dogs: Afghan hounds. He breeds them and shows them.

Last week, one of his dogs, Sprinkles, had her day. She was named best in her breed at last week's Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York City.


Each year, the Westminster competition is the biggest event in the dog-show world.

Saia, 50, who lives south of Hagerstown, said he had been to Westminster several times, but this was his first breed championship.

Last year, Sprinkles came close. She was named "best of opposite sex," which goes to the top dog of the gender opposite the dog picked as best in breed.

About 2,500 dogs were entered in this year's show. Judges picked the best in each of 165 breeds and varieties.

The breed winners competed to be the best in seven groups. From those seven group winners, best in show was chosen Tuesday night.

Sprinkles was part of the hound group, which was won by a bloodhound.

Saia said he has been showing Afghan hounds for about 25 years.

He has bred 62 champions. Four dogs have won best in show at various events. Seven dogs have won best in group more than once.

Sprinkles is 4 years old. Her registered name is Ch. Beachbrook's Its Raining Men.

The "Ch." is for champion, which means a dog has earned at least a certain amount of points at shows.

"Beachbrook" is the name Saia chose and registered for his dog breeding.

The story behind "Its Raining Men" is more amusing.

A breed apart

Sprinkles was born in a litter of nine - eight of which were boys. Saia said the boys all had weather names. By the time he needed a name for the girl, "Its Raining Men" seemed appropriate.

Sprinkles' mother is Ch. Beachbrook's Stormy Weather and is known as Feather.

Saia said five of Feather's children, including Sprinkles, are champions.

Feather, who is 12, and Sprinkles live with Saia.

He has sent other dogs to buyers all over the country and around the world.

Saia's telecommunications job took him from Philadelphia to Los Angeles in the late 1970s.

He said he went to his first dog show in California.

Six months later, he jumped in, feet first, and bought his first Afghan Hound. That was Ch. Shirkden Pahzaz of Babalu, who was known as Scandals.

Saia moved to Washington County in 1991, again because of his job. He works in Frederick County, Md.

As Saia talked about Sprinkles, she was flopped on the couch, eyeing the stranger in the living room. When her master called her, Sprinkles popped up and padded silently across the wood floor, her dark, bushy fur swishing around her.

Sprinkles didn't allow herself to get within petting range of the stranger. Saia said that's Afghan hounds often are described as aloof.

"Once they get to know you, forget it, they're all over you," he said. "But before that, they stay at arm's length."

Saia said he was fascinated with Afghan hounds as soon as he saw them.

"They are a very different breed, very independent," he said. "And they're funny. They're clowns.

"They're not for everybody because they're a lot of work."

'Glamor and attitude'

Sprinkles gets high-class dog food and vitamins. Saia cooks her some meat every day. Twice a week, he bathes her.

On Friday, Saia had put a snood, or baglike net, around her head to cover her ears, preventing them from drooping into her food dish.

He used two rubber bands to separate fur on either side of her rear, keeping it from getting wet when she urinated.

It was the day before another show and Sprinkles needed to stay neat.

Saia is one of three breeders for Sprinkles. The others are Leslie Stoffels of Florida and Floyd Gale of New Jersey, friends he made in the dog world.

Gale, who also is co-owner, handled Sprinkles at Westminster.

Saia said it was an interesting time. The crowd wildly cheered. Celebrities showed up. Donald Trump was there. Ice-T came over to inquire about the winning Afghan hound.

Another of Saia's Afghan hounds, Ch. Beachbrook's Diamond Jubilee - a 2-year-old male who lives in New Jersey - earned an award of merit at Westminster.

Saia said Sprinkles' show career is winding down and she soon will follow her mother into retirement.

He has a dog coming in from France that he will show next.

Saia hopes to replicate the presence of Sprinkles, who responded to the applause at Madison Square Garden with the swagger of a runway model.

"It's all about glamor and attitude," he said.

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