Take a bow!

Winning six awards at the Kennel Association dog show, Figo and his owner Manisha Wimalasekere have put in the hard work needed to be named ‘champion of champions’
By Rajitha Weerakoon

It was Haus Mailand Figo’s day at the 78th Championship show of the Kennel Association of Sri Lanka when the sturdy, commanding German Shepherd carried away six trophies awarded for the best categories. The show was held on March 4 at the Vihara Maha Devi Park.

Figo’s owner Manisha Wimalasekere was delighted that Figo outshone the best of the 100-odd canine competitors at the show. Figo’s loot for the day included the most coveted ‘ Best in Show’ title which he won for the second time, the first time being in 2008. He also won prizes for ‘The Champion of Champions’, ‘The Best German Shepherd’, ‘The Best Working Dog’, ‘The Best Imported Dog’ and ‘The Best Male Dog’.

Figo and Manisha (centre with trophy) along with KASL officials

Figo was well qualified to enter the ‘Champion of Champions’ category as only dogs who had already achieved championship status at previous dog shows are eligible for this segment. Championship status can be achieved by winning the Challenge Certificate thrice at dog shows under three different judges. What is required is the combination of a strong head, sturdy hind legs, hips and elbows and steady stride along with a macho anatomy and of course, discipline, intelligence and an amiable temperament.

Manisha has been devoted to dogs since the age of six when she won prizes for ‘The Junior Handler’ and ‘The Best Golden Retriever’ at the 1991 show. It was Mrs. Siva Obeyesekere, founder of the Kennel Association of Sri Lanka, who inspired her to continuously participate. With amazing dedication Manisha continues to set aside four hours daily – two hours in the morning and two hours in the evening, all seven days of the week to train her five German Shepherds. They need to be walked, cleaned and exercised which her trainer Prakash starts at 6 a.m. and once again at 5 p.m. As diet is vital, they are fed with vitamin-packed dried food with tuna fish added for taste.

Her love for German Shepherds is a family legacy. Since she was a toddler, she listened intently when her grandma Eva spoke of how in the 1950’s her grandpa, Francis Atapattu, would drive from Kandy with his German Shepherds to participate at dog shows. His German Shepherd Pasha was a constant winner at shows, which were held at the Colombo Race Course. Old albums with photos of Pasha posing with his trophies are today family treasures. Since her return from the College of Wooster in the USA with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in 2006, Manisha has taken part in every dog show. Last year, her German Shepherd Voneche Imogem or Imy was chosen as “The Best in Show”. Manisha believes that her lucky charm is her mother Kokila and her aunt Sujeewa and she is extremely fortunate that her husband Hasith and her in-laws are great dog-lovers as well. Hasith has accompanied her every year, early on Sunday mornings when dog shows are held, to lend her a hand and her friends make up the cheering squad as they know that dog shows are the closest thing to Manisha’s heart.

Asked why the dogs’ aristocratic-sounding German names are maintained, Manisha says that she keeps the dogs’ family name as only dogs of pedigree can participate at dog shows. The dogs arrive in Sri Lanka along with their export pedigree and when applications are submitted for participation at dog shows, five earlier generations of the family tree are checked with the respective overseas Kennel Clubs.Manisha plans to breed only German Shepherds and is studying the genealogy of dogs, focusing on complementing the lines of Figo’s father Baru Haus Yu. Her efforts, she says, will bring good dividends as intelligence and good temperament come with good breeding.

The standard of German Shepherds, according to Manisha, is high in Europe, India, Pakistan and Malaysia. The Kennel Association of Sri Lanka, now headed by Mrs. Nela de Zoysa, a dedicated dog-lover and excellent organizer, is attempting to elevate Lankan standards to international levels. She is already in touch with the world’s main kennel body - the FCI and also the Kennel Clubs of India, Pakistan and Japan.

‘The Sieger Show’ held in Germany is the largest German Shepherd only show in the world and it is here that the standard of German Shepherds is the highest. Stefano March, a breeder of German Shepherds from whom Manisha imports her dogs, arrived in Sri Lanka this year to watch Figo’s performance and assess and evaluate standards here. The Best Indian handler of German Shepherds – Rajiv was also amongst the visitors at this year’s Kennel Association show.

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