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.
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.