As you might remember, I spent a week in Orlando last month at the Celebrate Dogs event for the AKC/Eukanuba National Dog Show, which will air on ABC on February 2. There’s a ton of events that comprise the show, but for me personally, the most fun I get to have is on Saturday night, when the invited bloggers go onto the main floor of the arena during the evening sound check to have our very own pretend-but-still-majorly-intense dog show, otherwise known as the Bloggers Stakes.
If you weren’t around last year, this post isn’t going to make any sense unless you read last year’s post about my inaugural dog competition first. Go on, I’ll wait.
If you’ll recall, I left last year’s Bloggers Stakes with a sour taste in my mouth. That metallic tang, that salty taste that might be blood- it was defeat. And I didn’t like it. So when I heard this year there was to be another iteration of the Bloggers Stakes, well, I was determined to put in a better performance than the year before. Especially when I heard Jen and Vicki from Eukanuba whispering in the back room about some sort of Major Award. I wanted the major award. I didn’t even know what it was. Pride demanded it.
I did lots of things to prepare. I asked my friend Susi, a dog show veteran, for handling advice. Jimmy Moses critiqued my outfit (an experience I won’t soon forget, but don’t worry, we got that on video.) Clint Livingston told me how to walk and suggested I ditch the heels. If you don’t know the dog world, don’t worry, I didn’t either, but that would be the equivalent of me saying I showed up in a locker room and got Tom Brady to show me how to throw a football. Those guys are a Big Deal.
So this year, yeah. I wanted it. I wanted it SO much I even borrowed a pair of Toms from Susi so I would have appropriate flats, because as we all know I don’t own any on my own.
And there was just one last thing I needed in order to have this thing in my pocket: the right dog. I had no idea if I would be stuck with the same judge again, but just in case, I had already figured out the guy had a thing against retrievers (I know, right? Don’t get me started) so I would need something else. Hmmm, I mused, how about an Afghan hound?
They always do well in these shows, those elegant, hairy sighthounds. Something about their fur flowing in the breeze seems to irresistible to a certain type of person, so I figured, well, that’s as good a dog as any here. With a little help from the Eukanuba elves, I secured the services of Dustin, a beautiful beige and grey pup with just the right amount of mischief in his eyes and the perfect Tim Burton-y curlique of a tail.
I was lucky. His breeder Jennifer showed up with him early enough for us to bond. It is very important that my dog and I have a good rapport. She was even kind enough to give me some tips on proper running technique, which with an Afghan is absolutely essential. If you don’t look like a Pantene commercial out there, forget it.
And I was ready. I had my flats, I had my sedate outfit, and I had, what I hoped, was the perfect dog. Now all I needed was a judge who agreed for victory to be mine.
As we headed out onto the floor of the AKC/Eukanuba National Championship for the evening soundcheck, I was admittedly nervous. The competition would be stiff.
And then I had my first wrinkle in my finely laid plans.
Oh, great. This guy again. The surly judge from last year was putting in another term as our official judge. My worst nightmare was coming to fruition.
Be cool, I said to myself. You have a Jimmy-Moses approved outfit and an entirely different dog this year. Maybe things will go better.
So we did our bit, you know, running around in circles and all that jazz. Dustin, true to form, ran like the wind, so all I had to do was keep up. And seriously, he was a glorious dog:
I actually prefer running with the big dogs to walking with the small dogs, because you get this canter going and you kick up a little breeze zipping around the arena. It’s actually pretty fun. And then we presented ourselves for judgment.
Dustin was the perfect schmoozer, leaning into the judge and putting on his best suck-up face. I was worried the effort would be a little too obvious, but it seemed the judge was in a better mood this year and didn’t seem to mind. He glared at me only once, but then he reached down and petted Dustin on the head, a strangely jovial move on his part.
We had done our best. There was nothing to do now but watch the rest of the competitors.
It was time for the first cut. I held my breath. Surely, the judge must realize the specimen before him.
We made the first cut.
We ran around the ring again.
Within short order, it was down to just two: Dustin, and Preston from Preston Speaks. I knew this one would be down to the wire. He’s got the heart of a lion, that one. Tenacious. But then again, so am I.
We ran around the ring again. By now I was getting tired, running on adrenaline and the sweet crisp scent of victory just beyond the edge of my grasp. We were close, so close.
The judge stood there. He pondered. He hemmed and hawed for a moment. “Ask to win,” Susi had suggested at one point, and I’m pretty sure I did. I might have even said directly, “I want to win.”
And guess what.
What you see up there in my left hand is the massive pink rosette we won, Dustin and I. By that point I’m already clutching it hungrily to my chest like Carrie Bradshaw at a Jimmy Choo sample sale. MINE! HA HA! Victory is mine! And it was all achieved through hard work and dedication!
What was being said up there is not something I’m going to get into, because it’s not in any way relevant, but the judge and I have patched up our differences, I think. For the most part, though I still take offense to his opinion on retrievers.
I had but a few moments to savor my victory with Dustin before Jennifer, the lovely woman who bred him, came back to retrive him. I thanked her, and she smiled and said she had a lot of fun. As she and Dustin strode off into the afternoon, I thought perhaps I saw her linked arm in arm with a person who looked suspiciously like the judge, but then I put it out of my mind.
Wouldn’t that have been a funny coincidence.