A Dog Named ” The Divine Miss M”

The fetching tale of a red-haired charmer
By Anne R. Smith, Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Sunday, February 9, 2003

At first glance, Emme seems an ordinary Doberman pinscher. She dances at leash’s end, eager for her walk — an excursion that will be twice as long for Emme as for her human mom, Eileen.

Eileen, you see, walks in straight lines.

Emme prefers endless wide-ranging loops.

As she circles, effortlessly prancing, alert to every sensation in the morning air, it’s plain as the nose on her face why so many dog show judges toss blue ribbons Emme’s way. And why her owner, Eileen Dohse of West Palm Beach, is upending her usually quiet life to take this high-energy red Doberman to New York, to give her the chance to compete with the best of the best at Monday’s Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.

It’s because Emme won’t take no for an answer.

“Judges like a dog that says, ‘Give it to me — I deserve it!’ ” Eileen is talking to you, but she’s looking at Emme. She’s almost always looking at Emme.

Eileen has five children, ages 18 to 31 (in human years), but even they understand that Emme is her baby.

“It’s not like a kid,” she says, loading Emme into her dog-friendly Trooper. “But close.”

Emme (pronounced like the Emmy awards) began filling up Eileen’s life almost three years ago. Eileen had seen Emme’s mother at dog shows and liked her. “If she ever has puppies,” she told owners Kim and Albert Medina of Miami, “I’m interested.”

She was already sharing her life with two Dobermans — a male that was then 4 and a 7-year-old female — both of whom she still owns. She loved spending time with them, but Emme was different. Born three years ago on Feb. 18, the flashy copper charmer came home with Eileen at 11 weeks and entered her first show at 7 months. From the moment she stepped into show rings, she began to win (she won her class that first day), and never slacked off.

Her full name is Champion Mikalay’s The Divine Miss M. (Emme is her call name, and, yes, Eileen admits she’s lovingly named for that “other flashy red bitch,” Bette Midler. She can’t help wondering whether, if she knew of her namesake, Midler might stop by to visit them at Madison Square Garden.)

Just getting everyone to New York for Emme’s first prestigious Westminster Dog Show has been quite the ordeal. Eileen isn’t a professional dog person. She’s a registered nurse who works 12-hour shifts at Good Samaritan Medical Center three days a week, leaving her weekends free to cart Emme to regional shows. Each step of the way to Westminster has been a learning experience.

First, there was the registration process. The one-day registration window was Dec. 6, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., when the first 2,500 entries were accepted. This year the window slammed shut at 9 a.m.; the show was full in record time. Eileen had entered Emme three times, hoping that one entry would arrive at the headquarters with the regular mail in the first hour. (Otherwise, tough luck. No e-mail registration is accepted, no personal couriers, no Fed-Ex, because the address is a post office box.)

Registration is required because only the top five dogs in each breed (based on showings at American Kennel Club competitions between Jan. 1 and Oct. 31, 2002) are invited to pre-enter. A total of 795 dogs (Emme not among them) were pre-invited; 634 were accepted.

Then there was the whole transportation issue. Eileen had hoped to send Emme on a plane, but the weather just wouldn’t cooperate. If the temperature drops below 45, it’s not risk-free to fly animals by commercial air. Eileen monitored the forecast all week and finally decided she couldn’t entrust Emme to the potentially frigid baggage holding area of a plane. Before dawn on Saturday, Emme hopped into a van belonging to longtime dog-world friends of Eileen’s from Miami, ready to hit the highways and byways of America.

Emme was accompanied by a health certificate from her vet (a requirement from the show for all entrants), grooming supplies, some show leads, her special fish-and-potatoes dog food, a vitamin/mineral mix, bottled water and an air mattress that fits in her crate.

Eileen stayed behind to work one more shift — because someone has to pay for all this. She and Emme’s regular handler, Linda Whitney, flew out of Orlando this morning. The two first-time Westminster attendees are staying at Hotel Pennsylvania, across the street from Madison Square Garden. There, at 11:45 Monday morning, in Ring 5, Emme will dance into the limelight, turn on the charm — and see if the judge can tell her no.

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