Monte Carlo – Monaco:
In 2010 I was at the International Canine Championship in Monaco with my dog Llasha Pelito—Killa, we lovingly called her—who had the previous year given me the great joy of being the first female Peruvian Hairless Dog to win the Mediterranean trophy and who had just now done it again, becoming the first Hairless Dog to be crowned Champion of Monaco on April 10, 2010. Needless to say, I was beside my-self with pride for this little dog who represented Peru and her breed; more so knowing that this triumph would mark a milestone in the history of our only Peruvian canine breed. But I would never have guessed that this visit to Monaco would have for us another award that, although not officialized by a contest, certainly carried Royal weight.
We were walking around the contest facilities, Killa and I, looking for a way out to get some fresh air and enjoy the nice spring sunshine in Monaco. Those who have attended one of these events in similar facilities will know how complicated it is to find the right way and how easy it is to get absolutely lost and end up in the boiler room! Well, on this occasion Killa and I had some luck and we ended up finding a side exit that opened up to an empty little street, where a small parking lot collected the cars of the contest officials, and a park with olive trees inaugurated a beautiful prospect of the hills surrounding the Monegasque bay with its sumptuous houses that glow white under the April sun. The natural landscape brought back memories of my childhood home and the gardens of Lima, of the fig tree with its delicious aromatic fruits that came from the Peruvian Government Palace and we had inherited from my great-grandfather, and that, like the olive trees of Lima, had been brought there in the 1530s by a woman from Seville who is recognized as the founder of the “Lost Orchard” of the Holy Conception Monastery and for introducing a great variety of European flora to the City of Kings (Lima) and, thus, Peru in general.
I took a puff from my e-cigarette in celebration of how happy I was and I let Killa happily sniff the grass in the perfect park of olive trees that was there just for her. Suddenly, I heard a somewhat age-broken voice exclaim with enthusiasm:
“That little dog is a Peruvian Hairless!”.
I wheeled round, quite surprised, because it’s not as common as the reader of a blog about Hairless Dogs may think, perhaps, to hear that people recognize the breed in the street. My surprise would only increase when I saw the person who had produced the exclamation: a very old woman opening the passenger door of a luxurious black car, leaning on a cane, halfway out of her seat, whom I immediately recognized as Antoinette Louise Alberte Suzanne Grimaldi, Countess of Polignac, Baroness of Massy, sister of Prince Rainier III, and Princess Consort of Monaco—as well as President of the Monaco Humane Society of Animals and the Société Canine de Monaco, and, of course, unequaled cynophile!
If you doubt the title… the one of “unequaled cynophile”, that is… I will say that Her Serene Highness the Princess Antoinette of Monaco at some point had over 400 dogs at her property in the locality of Èze, in France, very close to the Monegasque border. In addition to being sponsor to at least one house for dogs and cats, that we know of, based in the United Kingdom. Born on December 28, 1920 in Paris, she was the eldest sister of Prince Rainier III (who ruled the Principality of Monaco for almost 56 years, more than 30 of them with Oscar-winning American actress Grace Kelly as Princess Consort of Monaco) and aunt of Albert II, the current Prince of Monaco. At 30 years of age, she assumed the Presidency of the Société Canine de Monaco, having already been President of the Monaco Humane Society, as I mentioned a moment ago.
All this I already knew; I also knew that, as expected, she frequently went to canine competitions in Monaco, so I was not at all surprised to find her arriving at the facilities of the International Canine Contest where Killa competed. What did surprise me was that HSH Princess Antoinette of Monaco, at age 89, would approach Killa without ceremony and rather like someone who sees a cute puppy and cannot help but crouch down to pet it. Actually, with a sudden agility that left me speechless coming from a woman of her age, she played around with Killa, happy to see a dog of such a unique breed and, moreover, to have it all to herself, to the point of asking me for the strap to walk the dog a little while.
There is something that the presence of a member of the Royalty produces in one that can only be expressed as a “tense and respectful reserve”. And, of course, whoever knows a dog knows they usually don’t believe in solemnity… but not so a Peruvian Hairless Dog: they are a completely separate creature. Looking down I smiled again with pride to see that Killa received the petting of the Princess and the words of tenderness she offered with a thanking movement of her tail but, otherwise, was absolutely still, proud, with her chest thrown out in front of her as if saying: “I’m a princess too, you know? A Moche princess!”
Of course, HSH Princess Antoinette of Monaco knew of this breed through her long career in the international canine world and therefore recognized the Hairless Dog’s long and uncertain path and, above all, the ancestral and historical value that it carried with it. Nonetheless, this was the first time that a Peru-born Peruvian Hairless Dog was presented in a championship in his country and, undoubtedly, the first time she had the opportunity to welcome it there. So, in addition to petting and congratulating Killa, she told me she was pleased to receive for the first time a specimen of a country as far away as Peru.
In that chat we had outside of the International Canine Contest in Monaco, HSH Princess Antoinette of Monaco not only recognized the Peruvian Hairless Dog for its physical attributes but also, and above all, for its behavioral qualities.
“Rather than for its own qualities, I appreciate the dog more for the qualities of its master,”
said the Princess, referring to the fact that the good behavior of a dog has as much to do with rearing as with genetics. She also told me that her mother, Princess Charlotte, was a big fan of the dogs, too… perhaps even too great of a fan, to the point of appearing “more interested in their dogs than her children,” she told me, with somewhat of a smile.
This brief encounter between a European Princess and a Peruvian World Champion and the great respect the former showed for the Peruvian Hairless Dog was one of the cornerstones that vehemently set me on the path of revaluing this dog. Even then it made me understand that this dog was very much loved internationally by the few people who knew of it. It was therefore well worth it to make everyone know of it and value it; especially in its own country, where even today it is necessary to continue investing efforts in the movement to popularize this breed and get it to receive from the authorities the respect it deserves.
Almost a year after the meeting that I mention here, on March 18, 2011, HSH Princess Antoinette of Monaco died at the age of 90. That she was a rather controversial figure is undoubtedly true, and that in the place of power and abundance that was bestowed upon her she will have set her efforts and placed her signature to very many things in life is certain, but that she is above all remembered for her great work in favor of animals and, specifically, dogs is undeniable. After her death, the position of President of the Humane Society and of the Société Canine de Monaco was assumed by her daughter, Baroness Elizabeth-Ann of Massy, who in this way continues today with the work of her mother and grandmother.
A little over a year after the death of the Princess, my own dear Killa died in Paris on September 8, 2012. She too is remembered for the great work she did for her fellow canines, especially the Peruvian Hairless Dogs, whom she always represented with great pride and much success in the world.
In many ways this last event, the loss of two of my beloved dogs in 2012, as those who are already regulars of this blog know, was another great cornerstone that set me on the path toward working for the revaluation of the Peruvian Hairless Dog From the context of this work is that the films about the Peruvian Hairless Dog that I have produced in the last years have been born; films that in some way also serve as a tribute to these great dogs who represented their race so wonderfully in to the world. Furthermore, with some happiness I recently learned that the “Princess Antoinette Park”, a municipal park on the boulevard Jardin Exotique, is dedicated to HSH Princess Antoinette of Monaco. And that, in addition to offering multiple activities to families and the entire community—including Monegasque dogs, of course—the park is dedicated to the sacred olive tree… a detail that undoubtedly made me think of the small and pleasant coincidences of life that brought me having a chance conversation with the Princess of Monaco, one afternoon in April 2010, while she was playing with my little dog Killa, World Champion of her breed, in a small Monegasque park where olive trees grew.