Blogger’s Stakes: Or, how I blew my first competition

I’m back from the whirlwind week at the world’s biggest dog show, and I am POOPED. There could have been five of me running around and I still don’t think I would have scratched the surface. But today, I want to share my favorite experience from the AKC/Eukanuba National Championship, the Inaugural Blogger’s Stakes.

During the afternoon light check before the Saturday evening events, the bloggers were invited into the main arena for a mock show. Each of us was provided a stellar show dog, courtesy of a generous attendee who was OK with a novice giving their dog a go at greatness.

Some of the bloggers have shown dogs in the past, and others, like me, were utterly clueless. Someone handed me a leash and said, “Here you go. Now go show the dog.” As a newbie, I may perhaps have chosen a different venue for my very first attempt at showing than a national event, but that’s OK, performance under pressure is a good thing.

I looked down at my cohort, who turned out to be Surfer Girl, the number 8 lab in the country. Of course I immediately fell in love. We bonded instantly as only kindred spirits can.


Surfer Girl had already had a long day in the ring behind her, and she hadn’t eaten yet, so the fact that I had some treats in my pocket was of immense interest to her (ie, she was a lab). “She’s good,” her owner said. “Just run as fast as you can. She knows what to do.” So this is all I knew about showing a dog when I entered the ring: Hold the leash on your left and run. As it turns out, though, there is a bit more to it.

The first thing you do is get in line, and everyone takes a lap around the ring while the judge gets a first look.

It was fairly obvious about two seconds in who had done this before.

We got back in line and the judge took a stroll down the lineup. “Ma’am,” he said- the first of several times I would get ma’amed- “I need to see the dog’s head, not her butt. Thank you.” Well, NO ONE TOLD ME. Personally, as a veterinarian, I find the rear end examination very telling, but that’s just me.

When it was our turn to get examined, Surfer Girl walked up and obediently put her front feet on the white line like she was supposed to. This is where she is supposed to stack, ie, stand nicely.

But she decided to take a seat instead. “Stand up!” I pleaded as I saw the shiny shoes of the judge heading our way. She ignored me.

“Ma’am,” the judge frowned, picking the dog’s hind end up while shaking his head. At this point, aside from someone developing a spontaneous pyometra I could miraculously cure in the next 30 seconds, I sensed my championship dreams slipping away.

I was so excited her front feet were where they were supposed to be I wasn’t really on top of the rest of it. This showing thing is a lot harder than it looks. I have a new respect for show dog handlers.


Then we did our little run up and down the carpet, and as promised, she was perfection. You can see the chairs behind us under the jumbotron where we got to sit for the actual evening events. Cool, huh?

I don’t know if dog shows have any judging criteria like diving or figure skating, but I do think we deserved 1) artistic points for matching so nicely and 2) difficulty points for me running with a lab IN HEELS without doing a faceplant. I’m just sayin’.

Well, obviously that didn’t apply in this particular competition. What you are looking at is the rueful look on my face as the judge skips over us in his first cut.


Let me clarify for the record that almost every single person MADE the first cut. Except for us two. It wasn’t so much a “pick the best” as “cut loose the ballast”, I guess. And do you see a pattern here?


As I looked over at the other sad reject, the Chessie, I began to harbor a secret suspicion that perhaps this judge has a bias against retrievers. I don’t know this for a fact, you know, I’m just speculating. Perhaps he was bitten by one as a small child. No matter. In the spirit of sportsmanship, one has to roll with the punches.

Eventually, the honors went to the lovely Diane of ToDogWithLove, who was showing a Havanese named Cosmo. She also, in a strange coincidence, owns a Havanese named Cosmo. Sometimes the stars align and things are meant to be.


And you know, Surfer Girl is exactly who I would have chosen to show anyway, so yes, things worked out as they should. Surfer Girl didn’t seem to hold my lack of handling talent against me, so I can’t be anything but happy.

surfer girl and Dr v

Photo courtesy Dave Myers, Shaggy Dog Photography

Besides, it was worth every salty tear for this one shot. My hair NEVER does that.

But if I am lucky enough to do this again someday- I’m taking it. Watch out, world.

Thank you again, so much, to the entire wonderful team at Eukanuba, Iams and Natura for inviting me to this event. In the middle of this massive show, where everyone had 50,000 really important jobs to do to ensure the show ran smoothly, every single person went above and beyond to make sure we bloggers were taken care of and enjoying this celebration of dog-dom. Which, as you can tell, I did.

Filed: Blog, Picks of the Litter Tagged: , , ,
  • Sue W.

    Spectacular. I would have tripped over the dog, so you’re a winner in my book!

    • I came awfully close. Thank goodness she was an experienced dog!

  • Lisa W

    The retrievers win for cuteness — that counts for some of us!!! So glad you had a good time.

    • Retrievers – as you well know- are tops in my book! ๐Ÿ˜€

  • What a wonderful experience! And I died laughing at your telling of it. (Proud former-Lab owner here, I truly admire your ability to run with one while in heels!)

    • I was really worried when she started jamming along! Thank goodness there were no major injuries.

  • Anonymous

    You and Surfer Girl both LOOKED adorable. That should have given you the major points you needed to put you over the top. ๐Ÿ™‚ Both of the “rejected” retrievers would have taken best in show in the looks category, for sure.

    • Why thank you, Tonya. I thought the retrievers were robbed. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Tamara

    Clearly, the dog show ring has some areas in which they could improve their judging…doggy butts are of great interest to those who matter ;o) Good job, Dr. V. You and Surfer Girl looked fabulous!

    • Exactly! I thought I was being helpful.

  • Jeanne

    i’d have placed you first just for running in those heels! damn, you must be good! for future reference, never show in heels – go for flat, sneaker like things. and that food/bait that you had? put it in front of their face and they’ll do anything…and they know what they should be doing. don’t let them fool you. but at least you had fun, which is the most important, and often hardest part, of showing!

    • Next year- if I am invited- I definitely think I should go for more traditional handling attire.

  • While you may have “lost” I think it’s quite telling that in every picture Surfer Girl is looking at you. Clearly she was as smitten with her situation as you were. Kindred spirits, indeed.

    • Looking at the food in my hand. ๐Ÿ˜€ Totally kindred spirits.

  • Anonymous

    You were indeed robbed! You deserve it for running with a lab in heels, no question. On the upside, I don’t think Surfer Girl was crushed by the defeat. She looks pretty darn happy in that “sad resignation of defeat” picture.

    • She saw the treats. LOL But really, she was fantastic.

  • Marzecms13

    You’re all winners in my book !!!

    • Aw, thanks Dad. ๐Ÿ˜€

  • Geez, I had no idea what was going on at the front of the line! Thanks for the entertaining recap and the mention! I’m still waiting for my big trophy. ha ha! I DO agree you should’ve gotten points for your outfit. NEXT year I plan to dress to show, NOT like I just stepped out of the agility ring!

    • Hey, it worked for you. ๐Ÿ˜€ At least you got a button, right? All I have are sad, sad memories. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Laura in KY

    Great storytelling paired with great photos. Love it!

    • Thanks Laura! Jen at Eukanuba sent me the pics, thank goodness.

  • Jen

    Hey, do what you know, and if you don’t know it, fake it! You looked great, anyway!

    • Thank you Jen! ๐Ÿ˜€

  • You did your best and had FUN! That is what dog shows are about dog and handler creating and bond and having a blast. You looked great and added the element of bad dog showing shoes too. Cannot wait to see the BLOGGERS compete next year.

    • Maybe London can show me how it’s done! ๐Ÿ˜€

  • Everybody has a first show, and its thew ones down the road that get ya. As a young girl (13) I was showing a rough Collie who decided that he could get the bait out of my wrap-around skirt himself, and well………. he untied my skirt and I flew my colors that day! I was sooo embarrassed, but it was sooo funny I think everybody was trying to pick themselves off the floor from laughing so hard, they didnt even see my colors! Anyway, we cried we laughed so hard, and its a favorite memory I have from ” those were the days” at least I still love showing my dogs, I just always wear pants now. :@)

    • Oh my gosh- I can’t imagine! UGH! Well, sounds like you recovered beautifully.

  • I competed in Junior Handling as a teen with the Canadian Kennel Club and I’ve gotta say, showing a seasoned dog is SO much fun! They get so animated and they really know what to do. I think Surfer Girl is gorgeous and you two make a great pair!