Melbourne Downing enjoys the dog days--the days of 0...


April 05, 1992|By Mary Corey | Mary Corey,Staff Writer

Melbourne Downing enjoys the dog days--the days of 0) judging dogs, that is

Melbourne T. L. Downing spends his days counting the teeth of Dobermans.

It's a professional hazard when you're a renowned dog judge who determines whether man's best friend will wind up in the winner's circle or the dog house.

"Dogs are like people. No two are alike," explains Mr. Downing, 79, who lives in Dulaney Valley.

He'll prove that point Tuesday when he participates in the American Kennel Club's National Invitational Dog Championship at the Baltimore Arena.

With a mother who bred Pekingese and a father who bred German shepherds, Mr. Downing says he was born into the dog world. He bred pug dogs and ran a kennel but turned to judging after getting married in 1938.

"My wife wasn't as fond of a dog kennel as I was," says the father of two, who also practiced law and ran a construction company.

Thirty-one years later, he became qualified to judge all breeds. The sport has its perks, especially when competitions take place in Sweden, Australia or South America.

Despite his training, though, he's learned to avoid turning a critical eye toward friends' house pets -- even if they insist.

"With some people," he says, "you get less response criticizing their kids than their dogs." Can't draw a landscape to save your life?

Angela Franklin has news for you: You can learn.

"It's a myth that artists are born. We work at it," says the enamel artist and instructor at Morgan State University.

Through her art-for-all message, she has enticed a diverse group of students -- including English, biology and math majors -- to pick up a paintbrush.

"I always tease them that they're repressed artists anyway," says Ms. Franklin, who is in her 30s and lives in Southwest Baltimore.

Her own artistic life began in her mother's garden, where she would sit for hours drawing flowers.

Known for vibrant colors, long titles ("Thank You for Introducing Me to Joy, It Really Did Come in the Morning Time") and feminist themes, she has had shows in Baltimore, Virginia and North Carolina. Ms. Franklin recently received perhaps her greatest honor -- a piece has been accepted into the National Black Arts Festival in Atlanta this summer.

But don't expect that to change her work ethic: "I always tell my students, 'Art is my vocation, not my vacation.' "

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