Now, I'm no dog show veteran, not by a long shot. We've been showing dogs only for a few years now, and lightly at that. Our local AKC club president has been a member of the local club for two decades now, and likely has been showing for far longer. Some of the judges at our show this weekend were so old I'm sure they've forgotten more about showing dogs than I know.
Still and all, I saw and was taught some neat things this weekend while helping our local club put on the annual AKC show, and I want to share, limited experience notwithstanding.
I think the first thing I learned is that a dog show is a lot more fun when you're not showing a dog there. *lol* The fight for a place to set up, the constant worrying about time and preparation and grooming, all that is gone, not to mention the worries about showing well, placing, so on and so forth, so you can really enjoy everyone else suffering. You get to wander around freely and critique other dogs. Since I was working as part of my club I was expected to be there until the very end, so I got to watch the Best In Show, which we never stuck around for when we attend show events ourselves since it's usually late in the evening and after a day of stressing over a hot dog all you want to do is go back to the hotel room, order room service and turn in.
Our club also sponsored an Obedience event. Now, don't expect me to get into the minutae of Obedience because I can't. Won't even try, but what I saw was an astounding amount of training, patience and skill in these dogs. All sorts of breeds--herding dogs, a Papillon, a tiny black poodle, Labs, Dobermans, the works took part. The requirements were astonishing--the dogs were required to follow a regime as rigorous as any military drill--sitting beside their owner at attention, 'heeling' at varying paces, doing tasks like jumping over hurdles and fetching back little plastic dumbells at a single command, no more, all off leash, all that was something to watch, but then it got serious. After a bit the dogs were expected to find just one dumbell out of a whole pile of them, then bring it back to their master. The only indicator that this one out of ten was the right one? The owner handled it. No more.
When I watched all the dogs sit and the owners not only cross the ring but leave the arena for a full five minutes, THEN I was flabbergasted. To watch a Doberman sit like a black and tan concrete statue for five full minutes waiting for his master to re-enter the room was something else. To watch a whole line of dogs do it was a whole new level.
There was the tiny little girl, a wisp of a thing who might have been all of eight handling a full grown Poodle was a treat as well. A standard Poodle is one seriously big dog, clown-like haircut notwithstanding. When this tiny waif would kneel down to place the dog's enormous feet she'd literally disappear behind her charge, and it would take both of her hands to move the feet into place. The judge was enormously patient while the ant hustled the elephant.
Naturally on the flip side there was the inevitably, tragically comic sight of a near-apoplectic, sweaty-faced four hundred pound man laboriously waddling around the ring holding a leash that looked like three rayon threads woven together, at the end of which was a tiny Chihuahua. The dog couldn't have weighed more than three pound in toto, attitude included. I'm betting the corpulent owner could have eaten the thing on a bagel in one bite. Watching that pair mince around the ring was worth gales of giggles.
The neat thing I got to see was the braces. It's rare but you can show two dogs at once, in a brace. A single leash with a "Y" at the end and two collars, and in those collars a pair of dogs, preferably as closely matched in size, colour, stride and cholera as possible. The first contender was a brace of Beagles, two smallish gold and white critters who seesawed back and forth around each other like they were in orbit together. The truly neat brace was of Bulldogs. Two perfectly matched white and brindle behemoths, thick and swarthy, walking in near-perfect precision. They walked so closely that at times your eyes were confused into believing that their legs were synchronized.
I spoke to the owner/handler later--come to find out the two were a VERY rare creature indeed--a set of twins. They'd been raised together, never separated, and now they make a visually identical pair who move like one dog, circling, stopping, everything performed like they were sharing one brain. Which they may have been. Still, it was a very interesting thing to watch, and they deserved the awards and lauds they received.
Entirely off the dog path but equally neat to me was getting to use "The Governor's Room." We'd set up the hospitality suite for the judges there, lunch and drinks and so forth, but the neat thing to me was the rows and rows of photographs and drawings of every governor of Louisiana. I'm betting we've got just about everyone else beat in that department--the first governor's likenesses were drawings, and the governor's reign was dated 1699. A French nobleman if there ever was one, and the next thirty or so followed that French lineage--gorgeous finery giving way to Napoleonic uniforms to armour to finery again, finally seguing into suits and ties. Very neat display indeed.
There was more, naturally. There always is. Getting to visit with the judge whose memories ran all the way back to when he was eight, working his first job as car-wash boy at his father' Esso station, when gasoline was 11 cents a gallon. Meeting the raw food diet folks who had a gorgeous pair of red Dobermans; the male was named Remington, and they called him "Remy" just like we call our Remington. Funnier yet, they were from Houma, LA--my birthplace. Helping to sell catalogs was fun; meeting people, talking briefly, telling them with sure enthusiasm that I hoped they enjoyed the show--pride in the fact that I wasn't an employee of some company. No, this was our club's show, and therefore MY show, so the enthusiasm and the wishes were as authentic as it can be. Selling raffle tickets for the 50/50 raffle, helping make the club another few dollars. Getting to make a few short announcements on the truly massive coliseum loudspeaker system. It all added up to a truly entertaining weekend.
The best part, tho, wasn't the group "Whoooooo!" at the end but the fact that I kept getting texts all day today--the Missus was in McKinney, TX with Sheba and Belle. Sheba earned her QC ("Qualified Courser") title and ran her first lure coursing trials, placing third out of a group of eight Borzoi. The best news, however, came from Belle. Our dear sweet fat Belle, our Swedish Dumpling carrying ten pounds or so of post-partum weight and minus most of her lovely hair coursed to a win -- Best In Breed, a four point major! Now all she has to do is win a few more points, all of which can be minor events and she'll have earned her Field Championship and she'll be a "DC," a Dual Champion, our goal from the very beginning. I was more excited about that than today's Best In Show!
And now I cannot WAIT for next year's show.