Successful photo shoots are minor miracles. So many things could go wrong: setups could get delayed, equipment might malfunction, or, horror upon horrors, models may successful photo shoots are minor miracles. So many things could go wrong: setups could get delayed, equipment might malfunction, or, horror upon horrors, models may successful photo shoots are minor miracles. So many things could go wrong: setups could get delayed, equipment might malfunction, or, horror upon horrors, models may exhibit signs of diva behavior! Luckily for Animal Scene, this month’s cover model is a sweetheart, with a playful, obedient disposition and adorable looks to boot!

Meet Aurelien Sweet Cookies, the Philippines’ top ranked French Bulldog (also known as a “Frenchie”) and charming canine companion of Melvin So. Aurelien worked the camera like a pro, posing on command, despite the contrast of the hot lights and cold air-conditioning, flashes of the studio lights which have disconcerted many other dogs, and even the influx of strangers of both (admiring) human and (wandering) canine variety.

“I chose to have a French Bulldog because they are one of the best companion dogs in the world,” shares So, who, in addition to Aurelien, owns several female Frenchies. “When I come home from work, they make my day by cheering me up with their clownish acts. I love their size and their funny faces. They can be mischievous but very affectionate. Like me, they also need a companion.”

Federation Cynologique Internationale (FCI, or World Canine Organization) breed nomenclature describes the Frenchie as a “sociable, lively, playful, possessive, and keen companion dog.” Its personable demeanor makes it irresistible to humans in need of a furry friend—in fact, the American Kennel Club lists the French Bulldog as its ninth most popular dog breed.

Lacemakers’ Legacy

Unlike other dogs—say, for example, a German Shepherd or a Labrador Retriever—which were bred with specific occupations in mind, the primary role of a Frenchie is to be a house pet. In comparison, the Bulldog, its distant relative from across the pond, used to be bred primarily for bull-baiting, a traditional English rural sporting activity involving attempts to immobilize bulls with the use of dogs. This blood sport was banned upon the passage in Parliament of the Cruelty to Animals Act of 1835, and alongside the Industrial Revolution, served as the two pivotal events that led to the breeding of French Bulldogs.

In “The French Bulldog” (2007), Muriel P. Lee traces the breed’s journey across the Channel and transition from bloodthirsty fighter to loyal lapdog. Following the bloodsport ban, bulldogs of smaller size gained popularity as pets in Nottingham, the center of the lacemaking industry in England.

And when the Industrial Revolution swept through the country, leading to the mechanization of many livelihoods—lacemaking included—the workers soon found themselves out of jobs and seeking greener pastures. This led the lacemakers to uproot their households and move to Chantilly and other French cities where there continued to be a demand for handmade lace. The dogs that they brought with them became the foundation stock of the French Bulldog, which soon found favor among Americans embarking on their Grand Tour of Europe.

These wealthy Americans brought the breed back home with them, and in 1897, the French Bulldog Club of America was established. It was in fact the dog’s American fans that would lobby for its distinctive “bat ears” to become a breed standard. (These upright, uncropped ears would distinguish the Frenchie from its rose-eared bulldog ancestor and from other bulldog and terrier hybrids, such as the popular American-bred Boston terrier, which traditionally had its ears cropped).

America’s fascination with the breed led to enthusiasts importing French dogs to improve their kennels. One notable example: Robert Daniels and his newly purchased sire, French Champion Gamin De Pycombe, were onboard the Titanic. Daniels lived to survive the ill-fated voyage, but his dog did not; his insurance company awarded him the then-princely sum of US$ 750 to compensate him for his loss.

Puppy Love

Like those turn-of-the-century American breeders, So is keen to improve his Frenchies’ bloodlines. “Breeding is something to be planned well. Like parenthood, one must take responsibility for one’s breeding: from puppy to adulthood and even beyond,” he says. “There must be a program that will guide you on the path each dog will take, whether that dog is a pet or a show dog.”

So purchased Aurelien from Joanna Dzikiewicz, a good friend and a breeder based in Poland. And it was love at first sight for owner and puppy. “When I picked up Aurelien at the airport cargo area, he was so handsome. I knew that he would do good in the ring. And when he started winning, I knew he was a good material for me to start my own breeding.”

So doesn’t consider himself a breeder yet, as he believes breeding should be planned carefully “…to improve breed standard and temperament; we always aim for, and wish that, our litters will be better than their parents. Plus, “I must find a good wife for my baby!”

Best of Breed

Aurelien comes from prime Polish stock: So shares that his sire is the international champion Guerlain de la Parure, whose stellar record includes international and multiple championships in Poland, Germany, and Russia.

His mother Quarelle De La Virreyna is also an international champion and a vice winner bitch in Crufts 2015. Among those in his lineage are Wham V. Fivelzight, Zenith De La Parure, and Montblanc Dell’Akiris, to name a few.

And although he’s a few months short of being considered an adult, Aurelien is already following in his dad’s illustrious footsteps. So recounts, “One of the best triumphs of Aurelien’s show career was during the Philippine Circuit International Dog Show 2015 held at SM Megamall last January (2015).

Considering that he was only eleven months old, I didn’t expect him to win much. But every day, for the next four days, he surprised us with his wins, including a Best Junior in Show.” Such a stellar performance for a dog barely older than a puppy! Aurelien racked up so many points during the Philippine Circuit International Dog Show that the Philippine Canine Club Inc, (PCCI) lists January 10, 2015 as Aurelien’s entry date into their Philippine Champions roster—and January 12 as his entry date into the Philippine Grand Champions roster!

His entry into their Hall of Fame list comes a few months later, on April 26, 2015. “Currently, Aurelien is the number one French Bulldog and one of the top winning dogs in the country,” notes the proud owner. Aurelien is also considered an Asia Pacific champion, having satisfied the FCI’s stringent requirements for attaining the title.

A Day in the Life of a Champ

What does it take to raise a champion dog? So is naturally reticent about Aurelien’s training, sharing only that grooming takes place days before the event and that Aurelien is given a special treat the day before. After his bath, he is alowed to stay in So’s room to relax all day. He is a bit more forthcoming about Aurelien’s daily routine, which begins with a wake-up call…his, not Aurelien’s. “He goes around my bed until I get up!” So laughs.

He then takes Aurelien out to do his business and for a walk to build stamina and keep his weight down, since Aurelien is a bit too fond of the food So prepares by hand. Aurelien gets a little playtime before breakfast and watches So while he prepares to go to work; he stays in his crib all day, but gets taken out for a walk in the garden every three hours (assuming it’s not too hot or humid). When So gets home in the early evenings, they do road work to keep Aurelien physically conditioned, after which he rests before being fed dinner. On Aurelien’s disposition, So says, “In the ring, he is truly a star, but during play time, he is a clown and gets along with other dogs easily. Honestly, his temperament is truly outstanding.”

If this sounds more like a family pet’s routine than a champion’s, perhaps it’s because So is not an advocate of tough love. “Lineage will give your dog an advantage but nurturing and conditioning them well, mixed with a lot of love, are very important factors in building up a Champion,” he shares.

Breed Info

PERSONALITY
Sociable
Lively
Playful
Can be possessive

OK FOR THE PHILIPPINES?
Frenchies are indoor dogs and they require air conditioning in warm weather. If you can’t afford air conditioning for a dog, you shouldn’t get a Frenchie.

GROOMING
It may be best to get a groomer for your Frenchie as s/he will need his or her teeth brushed regularly, nail trimming (as their nails grow quickly), ear cleaning, brushing, cleansing of
skin folds, and bathing. Be sure to check their ears for wax and debris buildup.

NUTRITION
The Frenchie is a small dog and should not be overfed. Whether you feed it raw meat, canned food, processed food, dry food, or a combination of any or all of the above, be sure to consult your dog’s veterinarian for expert advice. Always make sure your Frenchie has access to clean water; be sure to replace or replenish the water several times a day.

HEALTH
Frenchies need:

* Regular checkups (including dental checkups)
* All the required vaccinations
* Flea and tick control
* Regular exercise, but not during the hotter hours of the day. Avoid exercising them outdoors on humid days as they can’t handle humidity given their noses.Health concerns
* Because of their short faces and noses, they are less tolerant of heat, exercise, and stress (as these require increased breathing)
* Watch out when your Frenchie starts panting, gets overheated, breathes noisily, or begins to spit up foam; your vet needs to see him or her
* Avoid purchasing Frenchies with overly large “shoulders” and front legs. It may look cute, but these put stress on the dog’s muscles and spine, and may lead to painful hernias down the road which may require that your dog be put down.

WHAT ELSE SHOULD I KNOW?
* Frenchies are very intelligent, so expect him or her to find ways around any barriers you throw up to, say, food or their favorite toys!
* They don’t bark a lot but are still territorial.
* If you’re not home a lot, the Frenchie is not for you. They like being companions to people, and will become depressed or neurotic if left alone for long periods of time.

 

This appeared in Animal Scene’s November 2015 issue.