The regal dog on this week's cover, a blue-blooded boxer named Barrage of Quality Hill, stands ready for his second appearance at the canine king-making event, the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show (Feb. 11, 12 at New York's Madison Square Garden). At his debut, in 1955, it was Barrage who caused one of the show's great upsets. He defeated his celebrated father, Ch. Bang Away of Sirrah Crest, holder of more best-in-show titles than any dog, and was named the best American-bred in the show. It was a respectable evening's work for a dog barely out of the puppy classes.
His moment of triumph was, however, missed by his new Washington, D.C. owner, Mrs. Jouett Shouse. She was bedridden with dengue fever. In fact, Mrs. Shouse, through one stroke of bad luck or another, has never seen her dog win best-in-show, which he has done 19 times. Also on his record, in two and a half years of showing, are 59 breed bests and 54 group awards plus innumerable specialty awards.
Second-largest category of dogs registered with the American Kennel Club (more than 3,000 a month), the boxer is America's favorite large dog. A boxer is often used as a guard dog, but he should at the same time be gentle and intelligent enough to tell a neighbor from a night prowler. Gentle does not, however, imply timid—as seems to have been the case with Actress Marie McDonald's boxer—a canine Ferdinand who just sniffed at two abductors.
This was unpardonable conduct, but boxers do, in general, like and trust people, and they themselves are trustworthy. As a result, more are being used as seeing-eye dogs, particularly for children. Besides, they learn well and have the memory of a quiz panelist. "But don't spare the rolled newspaper and spoil the dog!" warns Mrs. Leonard Lowy, a longtime breeder. "A boxer is a big dog [average 23 inches at the shoulder] and should be made to know immediately where he fits into your scheme of things. He is a vital, energetic dog and, if not discouraged, would be on the piano, the coffee table and your lap. He adapts readily and happily once he knows what is expected."
The first boxer, the founding dog named Flocki, was registered in Germany in 1895 and looked not unlike an oversized Boston terrier. The breed was originally developed for bull baiting and boar hunting, its role in the latter being to grab the boar by the ear and hang on until the hunter arrived with spear. Less sanguinary tasks included herding, and today in small European towns, they still pull milk and coal carts. This sight often enrages those American travelers who believe a dog is a cut above having to work for a living, for in the U.S. the boxer rarely does.
When at home on the Shouses' Virginia farm, Barrage likes to take to the woods for a day's squirrel hunting. But he returns willingly to his show cage and the series of strange hotel rooms which he shares with his handler, Jane Kamp. He responds wisely to show situations—an atmosphere which gives some of his canine competitors the shakes. He is completely unconcerned on the bench but, once ready to enter the ring, summons the slice of ham that seems buried just below the hide of all top show dogs, and struts before the judge and crowd.
"Barrage is a real he-dog—that's what he is," says Mrs. Shouse. "He is all male. He has confidence and walks into the ring looking as though he expected to win. He has a tremendous personality and, with this, all the qualifications necessary for a top representative of the breed. And I say this objectively," she added, "because I didn't breed him. His breeders, the Mori Greiners, have the right to be proud."
Barrage is not the first boxer or the first champion that Mrs. Shouse has owned. "We always had dogs," she explained, "but, you know, they were just dogs. Then, in 1937, Mr. Shouse and I were in Marienbad, Czechoslovakia and there was a circus." For Mrs. Shouse, that casual afternoon at a circus was to make a big difference in her life. One of the attractions was an act with 22 boxers—11 on each side of the ring—playing a game of basketball. The Shouses left the circus determined to buy a boxer—and did. A second was purchased the following summer in Austria, a brindle bitch named Iller von Zwettlerheim who, in less time than it takes a boxer to shake its docked tail, had earned her 15 championship points. Mrs. Shouse was launched into dogdom.
Although she was importing and breeding boxers before they became as popular as Presley records, it was Herbert H. Lehman who was the real pioneer boxer showman. He took up boxer breeding even before he took up politics. Last week in his Park Avenue study, surrounded by china statues of boxers, he was reminiscing about them: "At first, no one thought the dogs were good-looking. Seems funny when you think how popular they've become. Of course," he added, "the breed has changed a lot, too. What I thought was a top dog then would probably not get anyplace today. Boxers are more refined—less heavy than they used to be. Mrs. Lehman and I bred them for about 15 years—from 1912 until I went into public life. Our Dampf von Dom was the first American boxer to become a champion—that was in 1915. I think the thing that has always endeared us so to boxers is their wonderful disposition with children. The only boxer we have in the family now belongs to my grandchildren in Cleveland. In all our experience with the breed we only found a very few that were untrustworthy."
Then, a few years after the Lehmans stopped showing their dogs, the breed found a new sponsor, Mr. and Mrs. John P. Wagner, then of Milwaukee, now of Chicago. "We've been in boxers since 1932," Mrs. Wagner explains proudly. "Originally, we were in great Danes, but when Mr. Wagner got tuberculosis in 1931, we decided to get rid of the dogs while he was in the hospital. When he recovered, we thought we wanted some dogs around, and so started with boxers."