Teresa, Nelson and Walter walk into a kennel

(Editor’s Note: For many years, the late Topeka Capital-Journal Outdoor Editor Jim Ramberg and his good friend columnist Dick Snider covered the newspaper’s fiercely competitive “Dog of the Year Contest” with equally competitive annual newsprint faceoffs. Here is the 1990 version.)

Quality canine shines over Topeka … again

By Jim Ramberg
July 8, 1990

Let’s face it. Everyone gets old. Some do it more gracefully than others.

Look at Nolan Ryan, for instance. A class act, still throwing a 90-mph fastball.

George Foreman, that roly-poly fighter, isn’t going around singing “Yesterday.” He’s knocking the stuffing out of fighters half his age.

And Mick Jagger, the little English wimp, is still cavorting around on stage at the age of 50.

Of course, you have people who old age effects in a negative way.

They become mean spirited, cranky, vindictive. What’s worse, they get confused and often get their facts wrong.

Let me give you an example.

There’s this guy who writes a column here at the paper. This columnist. (his name sort of rhymes with Back Slider) lashes out at everyone and everything. He has attacked the legislative pension fund, the Expocentre, even (I’m not kidding) his own family.

In one of his latest columns, he attacked the Capital Journal Dog of the Year contest!

Anyone that knows anything about the contest, knows it’s completely above board. This aging columnist (his name rhymes with Bic Lighter) I’m talking about thinks it’s rigged simply because my black Labrador, Stonewall, has one it nine years in a row.

Hey, anyone ever hear of coincidence?

That’s the thing about coincidences, you know. A coincidence is an unusual occurrence, but they happen all the time.

This ancient columnist (did I mention his name also rhymes with Trick Spider?) even went so far as to claim I was the judge.

I know, I know. Ridiculous. Even delusional.

The contest judges change every year or so. Past judges have included Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela and Walter Cronkite.

How fair can you get, huh? My only personal participation in this honest contest is accepting the modest entry fees, which range from free drinks, wanton sexual advances and desperate pleas, not to mention the odd threat or two.

Fair is fair, and that’s the name of the contest.

Stonewall and the columnist even share a lot of similarities, so it’s hard to understand why the guy is down on him.

For instance, Stonewall’s muzzle is gray. So is the columnist’s I keep mentioning. Stonewall will sometimes scratch himself public. So does that columnist. He is at times forgetful. (talk about forgetful, the columnist often forgets how many strokes he takes during a golf match.) Stonewall has a tendency to drool. Yeah, you guessed it, So does …

Anyway, back on the subject of old age. Stonewall’s chances of repeating were admittedly slim this year. He spent most of the last hunting season working on his memoirs.

Oh, he got out a few times and performed flawlessly. But between appearing at supermarket openings and autograph sessions, his time in the field was limited.

Plus, Katie, the English Setter owned by. F. M. (First Mate, my wife) had what appeared to be a lock on first place. Earlier this year, Katie was selected by Hills Pet Products to grace a pair of billboards on the approaches to Topeka.

Maybe you’ve seen the billboards. They show Katie with her head stuck in a bag of dog food (the better to hide the crazed look in her eyes, if you ask me, But that’s another story).

Katie and FM bordered on the insufferable.

Then… the phone call came.

I can’t reveal the exact nature of the call. Don’t try to make me.

Oh, alright. Does the name Steven Spielberg ring a bell?

That’s all you’re getting from me.

Don’t ask me how Stonewall pulled off this coup.

Maybe it was his new agent.

I know how Charlie Brown must feel, living with his dog, Snoopy. (I refuse to comment on the rumor Stonewall is being offered his own comic strip, too).

Anyway, this sudden elevation to new heights in a new career so impressed this year’s completely honest, impartial, fair judge (who graciously took time off from the U.S. Supreme Court bench but asked not to be named because he’s afraid that columnist might attack him) that he chose Stonewall for an unprecedented 10th Dog of the Year title.

Amazing, huh?

The old champion took the news in stride.

That was, after all, the 10th year he’s won it.

He blew through a field of over 60 competitors this year, the most entries the Dog of the Year contest has ever had.

It was a fine field, too. Competition was fierce and entries were better than ever.

Obviously, the state of Kansas, particularly Topeka, is home to some of the best dogs in the world.

But the contest came down to the top dog and Stonewall won again.

Apparently, Stonewall is the dog of the ‘90s.

Not to be confused with a certain columnist, who is reportedly in his 90s.


Deceiver and his dog can’t cover their tracks

By Dick Snider
July 13. 1990

This was intended to be another objective rash, rational discussion of the preposterous, irrational, absurd, unreasonable, extravagant, and unmerited special legislative pension plan, But I feel compelled to skip that this morning and consider, instead, the recent dog of the year contest, winner Stonewall and the perpetrator of this shameless scam, Jim Ramberg.

This is like calling an officer of the law away from the hot pursuit of a modern-day Dalton gang and sending him to settle a domestic dispute. But somebody who marches under the banner of this newspaper has to do it, or will all be justly branded as flimflammers, who go along with his pure chicanery.

In case you don’t know, the contest is conducted annually by outdoor writer Ramberg. He is the sole judge, and his dog, Stonewall wins every year – 10 years in all.

Ramberg and the contest remind me of my favorite outdoor story. It has to do with hunting, and it is a true and honest account of what happened, something you have no right to expect from Ramberg, or anybody heartless enough to lead your dogs down the garden path.

My story takes place in Oklahoma, naturally, and let me add that down there, any conductor of a crooked contest would be ridden out of town on a rail, after first being tarred and feathered. It is an experience that prompted one victim to say, “if it wasn’t for the honor of it all, I’d just as soon have passed.”

There was a time when Jenks Simmons of El Reno was tops in his field in the state and his field was coaching basketball and playing practical jokes. His high school teams won a lot of titles, and his jokes are legend, like the time he shot a horse.

A friend called Jenks one time and said he’d like to come up to El Reno and go hunting. Jenks said he’d arrange it, and then fate conspired with him to give the visitor and experience he never forgot.

When Jenks phoned a doctor to ask permission to hunt on his farm, the doctor asked a favor. In return. “We’ve got an old horse out there,” he said. “The kids have ridden him for 20 years and he has been a wonderful pet, but he’s going blind now and keeps blundering into fences and I wish you would put him out of his misery. None of us has the heart to do it.”

Jenks agreed he would perform the unpleasant task, but he didn’t mention it to his hunting companion. They were tramping through the fields when they topped a small rise and saw the old horse standing there.

“You know,” Jenks said to his companion, “I’ve always wanted to shoot a horse.” He walked up to the poor beast, raised his gun and fired. The horse rolled over dead.

Jenks then turn calmly to the horrified visitor. “You know something else?” he said, “I’ve never shot a man before it either.” It was reported that the man spent his final years, a nervous wreck, lecturing in favor of gun control.

It is time for Ramberg to reform, too. His latest bamboozlement is his weakest and has about the same ring of truth as George Bush’s statements on taxes. He stumbled through a few hundred words of double talk and deceit, and then declared Stonewall the winner.

He said a U.S. Supreme Court Justice was the judge. Fat chance. Ramberg couldn’t get a county fair pickle relish judge to touch his contest. If he ever got a real judge involved, Stonewall would be sentenced to the glue factory.

Ramberg said past judges have included Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela and Walter Cronkite. It wasn’t easy contacting them, but I did it and asked them if it were true.

Mother Teresa said: “Bless you, my son, for exposing this sinful fraud. The forces of darkness are at work in this contest, and I would have nothing to do with it. I commend you for renouncing his evil. Go Intel Ramberg to sin no more, and also tell him that his dog it is an ungodly collection of fat and slobber.”

Mandela said: “There are few things worse than apartheid, but this contest is one of them, and I wouldn’t touch it. This is bias at its worst, a fraud that is a discredit to dogs everywhere.” Cronkite said: “I’ve traveled the globe in search of the truth. I know it when I see it, and I didn’t find it in this contest. It is a dastardly deed that has been multiplied over the years, and it may never be equaled in the outrageous annals of deception. And that’s the way it is, July 13th, 1990, and you are there.”

The gullible public ignores information like this, however, and continues to pull out all the stops in an effort to win what it somehow figures to be an honest competition. One woman wrote a very suggestive letter and enclosed a more than suggestive photo of herself in her all-out campaign for her dog. But despite solid backing for most every man in the newsroom, Ramberg ignored her.

A man nominated his dog with a storyboard that included 12 color photos with printed captions under each. It was not as convincing as the photo of the woman, but it was more than enough to beat Stonewall in an honest roll of the dice.

But that seems out of the question. Unless Stonewall is dispatched to that great kennel in the sky, he will go on winning. And when he’s gone, Ramberg’s wife has a dog, and a new dynasty is practically assured.

It’s a story that is getting to be as old as the one I told above about Jenks Simmons shooting a horse. The difference is, that might have happened, which is more than can be said about Stonewall winning a contest. That never will happen unless the contest is rigged tighter than the vote on the pension plan. We’re back to that.


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