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The Newtown Kennel Club came under my radar for the first time as a staff reporter for The Newtown Bee. I was sent to cover the club’s annual awards dinner on April 16, 1986, at the Hawley Manor Inn on Main Street. I wrote an article and bland headline, “NKC Donates Funds,” which told readers nothing about what the funds were for or how much. Turns out, the NKC gave $250 to the Spay Neuter Association. Its President Hilda Walsh and NKC President Joan Buckley came to The Bee for a reenactment of the donation a few days later. To make the photo more doggie, I brought my 14-year-old, mixed-breed dog Tippy Toes, with a grizzled white muzzle and black coat, to the office. He was happy to sit upon a table and pose with the two women holding the “big check” passing between them. They didn’t bring a check, so I had to grab a blank white envelope off my desk for the photo. Anything in a pinch.
The next time I wrote about the club was at its 40th anniversary party in April 1987 where, “Nearly 65 members attended the banquet at the Stony Hill Inn on Wednesday night for an evening of good friends, good food, and fond memories of years gone by with a club whose motto is, ‘The Friendly Club.’”
“NKC Treasurer Joseph Raslavsky of Milford said he had met a lot of nice people over the last 40 years and made many good friends. The club gave him a gold initialed pocket watch presented by past club president Peter Jennings for his outstanding service as treasurer,” my article went on. Raslavsky was the club’s first and only treasurer and had served in that position for 40 years. Ironically, he had never owned a show dog or bred a litter. But he never missed a club function.
During the 1970s the club began having a booth at the Danbury State Fair for seven years, “which influenced hundreds of thousands of fairgoers each year,” according to Raslavsky. Jennings told the gathering, “This was our way of educating the public about the pure-bred dogs. We would teach the public what it meant to be a good dog neighbor.” The six dog show groups were displayed and club members would bring different breeds of dogs to the fair each day. “It was one of the most popular booths at the fair because most people like dogs,” Jennings said.
Matches And Dog Shows
The NKC held dog matches (practice shows) at the Edmond Town Hall gymnasium starting in 1947, on the first Thursday of every month, for 250 consecutive matches. The club began with 15 members in 1947 and in 1987 boasted 150 members, with 125 being active volunteers. The club’s first AKC dog show in 1947 had 500 entries, and by 1986 had 1,500 dogs. At the club’s first match on April 18, 1947, between 70 and 80 dogs competed. A newspaper clipping from The Bee of that first match included the following bizarre account.
“One little incident could now be told, that went unnoticed during the evening. Mrs Edith Parker, genial hostess of Parker House and director of the club, arrived with her two greyhounds at least an hour after the Hound Group had been judged explaining that she had been ‘washing dishes’ after the Hunt supper. As the officers and directors of the club had entertained the judge and his guest at the Parker House before the show, they knew what that meant, and an instant decision had to be made, so with a hurried consultation by the secretary of the Bench Show committee and the judge, it was decided to judge the Hound Group over again and Mrs Parker entered the ring with her two famous greyhounds.”
According to a press release unearthed from my archives, “When Newtown Kennel Club holds its 272nd AKC Sanctioned Dog Show and Obedience Match on April 25, 1987, it will mark its Anniversary — forty years of service to dogs, the dog fancy and the community.”
It further noted that “proceeds from these dog shows have gone to support canine research at Cornell, Purdue, Tufts, University of Pennsylvania and University of Connecticut as well as scholarships for Connecticut students seeking to become veterinarians. Donations have gone as well to various animal foundations and animal welfare groups in the area.”
As part of the club’s 70th anniversary this year, the club wanted to continue its tradition of donations and gave $15,000 to the Newtown Police Department K-9 Unit for a new dog and its training. As I was planning the publicity for the presentation, I thought back to that first photo I staged about the club’s donation to a local animal welfare organization and the check-passing photo. I know it’s a cliche, but I have a soft spot in my heart for “big checks” in photo opportunities. Thirty years later, I wanted something more spectacular than a blank envelope, so I made a big 2-foot by 3 foo-check that I brought to the presentation. Besides, it always seems to make everyone smile when they see it, and the jokes come too, “I’d like to see the wallet where that check is kept.”