Roger and I don’t have children. We have dogs. We have chickens. We have projects. We have different activities. We have fun. Never before have we taken the dogs to a dog show, but when our friend Ann came to visit from Taiwan with her six-year old daughter Luna, the local village dog show seemed a fun way to spend an afternoon.
“Everyone’s a winner!” has got to be the theme. It’s a village dog show, not Crufts. It’s a fundraiser, so I’m feeling relaxed about Millie and Sam’s performance. Still, to up our game, I give them both a little brushing before we head out for the afternoon.
Scanning the village green, we see some friends, a handful of dogs, and the day ahead looks relaxed. There are several categories, and I start our day by entering Millie in “Best Dog Under 18 Months.” Millie is friendly when greeting the judge who looks at her teeth, eyes and ears. Millie doesn’t jump up, but she doesn’t stand up either; instead, she snuggles into the judge for a little cuddle. I feel my heart swell with love for our little dog and think, “Way to go Millie, that’s how to score points with the judge.” But, when we go to do the required walk around the ring, Millie jumps up on me, tangles my legs and we are nothing less than a disaster. I console myself: “It’s just a village dog show.”
There are several dog breeds and sizes competing. The people – known as handlers – also vary. Some of these people hold the leads up straight and do a little trot with their dogs, just like they do at Westminster. Who knew we were supposed to do that? I notice a woman providing treats as she moves through the ring, which borders on treasonous cheating if you ask me. A feeling of competition is seeping into my relaxed approach and I’m questioning our game plan, or lack of one. Why did we go first? I should have observed, taken notes, copied a few of the more seasoned competitors. Should I have spent more time teaching Millie how to walk while attached to the lead? Why are there suddenly so many dogs in this competition? Still, Millie is cute and well behaved, so we’re surely in with a chance.
That is, until a butterfly makes itself known.
The judge has now met all the dogs, she looks around at each of the competitors. Several are sitting up straight, looking directly at the judge. One handler, adjusts her dog’s front legs and tail. I’m trusting our honest, down-home approach will prevail and Millie will walk away with one of those ribbons. Before making her final decision, the judge scans the ring giving each dog one last look. When the judge considers Millie, she turns her head and looks AWAY to watch the butterfly. What is she doing, trying to blow her chances?
Evidently yes. Moments later, the first dog – a handsome and well behaved retriever – is called to receive his award. Then the next dog, and another until all six places are awarded. Mille, still watching the butterfly, is blissfully unaware of defeat.
All who meet Millie say she is beautiful and well behaved. Such unsolicited endorsements have us believing she must be exceptional. As Millie and I exit the ring with the other losers, I’m convinced this entire village dog show is rigged. How could so many people who meet Millie be so wrong? Still, it’s a fundraiser, and part of that word is FUN, so we press on.
Next up, Sam. I enter him in the “Best Re-homed” category. He’s clearly going to win something having had an unknown and difficult start before he landed on all four paws with us. I look around, and there are just two or three rather average looking dogs in the ring. My competitive nature in full swing, I tell his back story to the judge. “He was scheduled to be put to sleep when we rescued him…. scar on his side body…took him a while to gain in confidence….” Lilly well and truly gilded, I’m feeling quietly confident.
But horror of horrors, what was a ring of four or five dogs, is now about fifteen! Where did all these other dogs and their handlers come? Can you enter the ring once the competition has started? Isn’t there a cut off? And what’s with this little dog wearing a sweater to cover up its skin condition from being in the pound? Where was that three-legged dog hiding? And the one with the missing eye? Still, we were in with a fighting chance.
Sadly, not. Sam didn’t win anything. We have two dogs who haven’t claimed even 6th place. Deep breath. Notes to self: It’s a fundraiser. Bigger purpose. It’s not about the winning, it’s participating that’s important.
Next category: “Best Dog Over 7 Years.” Since Sam can’t walk well these days, we stay in place and pay another pound coin to enter this round. No need to repeat anything to the judge as she has just heard it all. Now gone are those other rescued dogs with harder-luck stories than Sam, replaced by a range of dogs over seven years old. Unlike Sam, the other competitors easily walk and stand. At this point, I too am watching a butterfly and resolved to having donated another pound to charity when Sam receives second place. Second place!
Before I know it, there is someone asking me all sorts of questions about Sam. What’s going on, am I being interviewed? No, Sam takes another prize! “Oldest dog in the show.” Well I’ll be damned, my old boy dog just jumped ahead in the medals table.
Resting on our laurels and crafting a strategy to build on our successes, we sit out a few rounds: best pedigreed sporting dog, best groomed, and best movement (This is about gait, not poop). Up comes, “Cutest Eyes” and I enter Millie. She takes second place! We’re on a roll now, eh? She next takes a respectable fifth in “Pedigreed Non-Sporting”. I don’t even know what this category is about, but who cares, two dogs, four ribbons and I’m feeling proud, proud, proud!
I was wrong about everyone being a winner. We tasted loss and it wasn’t as sweet as the rosettes we received which will soon find their way into a box. With or without these ribbons, Roger and I know our dogs are best in show. And in my hot pursuit to have our dogs reign supreme, we supported a local charity.