Moore alum Sally Fischel’s latest piece of artwork likes to dig in the dirt and have his tummy tickled.
“A Scottie is nothing if not a sculpture,” said Fischel of her Scottish terrier show dog, Briar. Briar, whose registered name is Fireheart’s Thorns N’ Roses, recently earned an award of merit at the Westminster Dog Show, held February 11 – 14 in New York City.
In dog language, that’s a big deal.
“It’s huge because his handler (co-owner and breeder Marianne Melucci) was the only amateur in the ring, everyone else was a professional handler,” Fischel said. “The award of merit is kind of like an honorable mention or runner-up; at a show as prestigious as Westminster, it’s an incredible honor that Briar was recognized.”
Fischel, who lives in Holden, Maine, graduated from Moore in 1966 with a degree in what was then called Advertising Arts, now known as Graphic Design. She says Briar is a work of art, and she relies on her training from her first-year 3D Design teacher, George Sklar, to make Briar and his non-show companion Ruffian look their best.
“I truly conjure up my inner ‘George’ anytime I’m working on either of their coats,” she said.
Fischel got her first Scottie dog, Jiffy, as a teenager.
“As soon as I was out of school and able to have a dog, it was always Scotties,” she said.
She picked Briar out of a litter nearly four years ago.
“I chose him as a puppy when he was 5 weeks old and way too young to know he was a star,” she said. His mother was not only a champion show dog, but also a model for Martha Stewart’s winter clothing line for dogs.
Briar has been ranked as one of the top Scotties in the country.
“He’s like a fine piece of art – a balanced picture, structurally sound with sloping shoulder, short back, musculature on his hind end. That’s where Briar gets extra points,” she said. Briar is a country dog who gets his great muscles from going snow shoeing with Fischel, following behind in her footsteps.
Fischel says showing is important because it’s the best forum for breeders to see the finest stock and improve the breed in the next generation.
“It’s not just vanity and ego,” she said. “The reason it’s important for a dog to have a powerful hind end or breadth of chest is because it’s a working dog.” Scotties were bred by farmers to help get rid of badgers, foxes and other vermin by going into their burrows and digging them out. Those distinctive Scottie eyebrows are kept long to protect their eyes from their prey. That massive jaw is intended to grab prey and hold on til the end…form follows function.
Fischel says there’s a lot of artistry in taking care of a show dog, from grooming to understanding what the judges are looking for in the ring, and her education at Moore comes in handy in the dog show world.
“George Sklar taught me to see three-dimensionally, the art and proportion, and to see the form,” she said. “I can keep Briar in coat while he’s waiting for the groomer to come back and touch him up. I credit George and a lot of my teachers for developing that eye.”
Fischel has been retired for a few years from her graphic design career, but says Moore plays a role every day in her active lifestyle.
“Every piece of my being has been touched in some way by the College,” she said.