Darien's Cupid takes first in group at National Dog Show
Valentine's Day isn't the only busy holiday for Cupid.
This Thanksgiving, Cupid -- a dog owned by Darien residents Jeanne and Charles Hurty -- took home the top prize in the hound group at Purina's National Dog Show. The show, which aired on NBC on Thanksgiving Day, was taped on Nov. 14 in Philadelphia.
Cupid, whose registered name is Ch. Celestial CJ's Hearts on Fire, is a 3-year-old Petit Basset Griffon Vendeen, also known as the PBGV. He's a French hound, and though the word basset is in his name, Cupid looks nothing like the long-eared, droopy-eyed, smooth-coated Huckleberry Hound.
The first word in his name means small, while basset is French for "low to the ground," according to the American Kennel Club. Griffon refers to his rough, wiry coat, and Vendeen is the area of France where the breed originated, according to the AKC.
The breed is known for its happy, extroverted personality, and Cupid is no exception.
"He makes you laugh," said his handler, Greg Strong, who lives with Cupid in Maryland. "He's probably one of the goofiest dogs that I've shown in a long time. He kind of has his mouth open, and his smiling is his form of laughter and being goofy.
"We always joke that he's a few fries short of a Happy Meal, because he's like the big doofy brother that you hang around with. He's not stupid by any means, he just does things that make you laugh," Strong said.
His personality is all his own, said Strong, who has worked with some of Cupid's family members, including his half-sister, Fairchild, who is the winningest PBGV in history, and his father.
"His father was like a stuffed shirt, a 90-year-old man who had his nose in the air the whole time," Strong said.
Then there's Cupid.
"He'll put his mouth on your hand, like he's trying to bite you, but you can't feel his teeth on your hand. It's his way of showing affection; he doesn't even nibble. It's his way of holding your hand," Strong said.
There's a time for work and a time for play for a show dog though, and Cupid has no trouble getting down to business.
"He's actually an athlete. He's on a treadmill every day. He has a lot of training where he's taken and led to experience all sorts of different circumstances," said his owner Jeanne Hurty, who lives on Fox Hill Lane in Darien.
"I was at the show in Philadelphia, and there are cameras and music, and it could be very frightening for a dog. It takes a dog with a solid temperament, as well as being beautiful and the love of showing. If they're afraid, they aren't going to show as well," Hurty said.
Preparing him for the flashing lights and loud crowds of puppy fame is a major component in raising a show dog, Strong said.
"He is in an environment where he is kind of treated like a celebrity," he said. "We show a bunch of different dogs, but all of them are handled with kid gloves. They're paid a lot of attention to, and stimulated emotionally and intellectually. We focus on their mental and physical health ... . It's no different than the combination between a movie star and an athlete."
Cupid's day at a dog show begins at 6 a.m. and often ends at 10 p.m., and includes exercise, grooming, showing and walks, Strong said.
"His time on the road is very controlled. They rest a lot so they're ready for the big moment," he said. "They are kind of on stage the whole time they're at a dog show. People want to get their pictures taken with them, and we protect them from that a little bit, but we can't be too evasive, because that's why people come to the dog show."
Cupid does well with all the attention, according to his owner.
"He's absolutely the cutest personality dog, and he just loves everybody. He just has this really cute personality," Hurty said. "He's kind of a doofus. He's just the sweetest boy."
He's also beautiful, with unique markings.
"Cupid is named Cupid because he was born with a perfect white heart shape on the top of his head," she said.
But fame is a fickle friend, and youth is fleeting.
"When they're about 3, they'll begin their show career, Usually by the time they're 5 or 6, they're finished with their career," she said. "One, they'll be tired of doing it, and two the judges are tired of seeing the same dogs; it's somebody else's chance."
When Cupid hangs up his show leash, he'll spend his retirement as a family pet. But until then, it's full-speed ahead for the Darien dog.
"Our hope is that Cupid will do even better than he's done this year next year. Maybe he has a best in show in his future," Hurty said.