In a world of subprime-created mansions and similarly oversized egos that can soar into the clouds, perhaps Madison Square Garden’s newest champ is a sign that there is still some virtue in keeping two (or four) feet planted firmly on the ground.
While it was a week of mostly discouraging news and distressing economic setbacks, a happy surprise arrived in the form of a 15-inch beagle named Uno. He won top honors at the famed Westminster Kennel Club dog show at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday.
My grandfather, whose 114th birthday would have been tomorrow, bred, raised and showed beagles for many years as a hobby. I still have his prized collection of Hounds and Hunting magazines going back to the 1930s. We had several beagles when I was growing up. They never seemed to stay around for very long and usually ran away. One was hit by a car. That was my first childhood experience with mortality. In adult life, I moved toward Irish setters and have owned four. You might say they are a little more high maintenance than beagles. Looking back, I think the challenges of their training made my grandfather’s choice seem like model students.
Try as much as he and other breeders did, and travel to as many shows as they did, beagles never seemed to make it into the big leagues. What you saw was what you got; you could not turn a beagle into a topiary with a few clips here and there. No fancy blow-drying could make a beagle’s fur fly with the wind. They were pretty much a down-to-earth breed and for that reason have never been the choice in the sophisticated world of the ever-seeking-to-impress yuppie.
But perhaps when an underdog like Uno can break the barrier, it is a signal that change is in the wind. It is an event that Barack Obama will doubtless view as a propitious augury for his campaign. It is tempting to speculate that his big win (Uno’s, not Obama’s) shows that after the meltdown from overly complex financial instruments that didn’t really pan out, when not even the geniuses who created them now seem to have understood them, the stock of the open, the transparent and the unpretentious is on the rise. In a world of subprime created mansions and similarly oversized egos that can soar into the clouds, perhaps Uno is a sign that there is still some virtue in keeping two (or four) feet planted firmly on the ground. Maybe Uno is the new herald for the return to common sense and principles like value, integrity and sound judgment, which seem to have been in short supply in boardrooms and legislative chambers in recent years. Perhaps, as the high cost of misapprehended risk has become so evident in recent months, there is a rising premium to be placed on what I like to call de-complexity. Even the name of this young hound is the very model of modern simplicity.
On the other hand, maybe Uno would feel uncomfortable being a poster dog for some cultural inflection point, just as my beagles seemed a little overly sensitive when my young cousins and I would dress them up in old pajamas during family occasions. Sometimes a dog is just a dog. And in a world that has grown terribly muddled by certain human efforts in the global financial market and elsewhere, that is the most reassuring reminder of all.
That’s a thought my late grandfather never forgot, and so the beagle’s breakthrough this week at the Westminster show is something of a birthday present for someone who never gave up on them, or on other virtues like hard work, humility and honesty for that matter.
Well done, Uno.