Friday, March 16, 2012

Dog Show *clap,clap* Dog Show *clap,clap*

Every year just before St. Patrick's Day, one of the largest dog shows in the country blows into Louisville, Kentucky. It's four days and several different breed and kennel clubs' worth of canine madness. My Airedale rescue, Airedale Terrier Rescue and Adoption, always has a booth in the foyer where the public buys tickets to observe the event. We rarely earn much money for the group, but the point is really to increase awareness. We are almost always flanked by Brittany Spaniel rescue and Golden Retriever rescue, and the last couple of years, No-Kill Louisville has been directly across from us.

I've been at this show since I was a child, and I've handled a couple of dogs here as a favor to someone who was jammed up scheduling-wise with her contract dogs. By way of explanation, a contract dog is a dog a handler is paid to show by someone else; frequently, these folks have their own dogs and stagger the ring schedules in order to make sure that they get shown as well. The contract dogs, however, are a professional handler's bread and butter, so if the show is running behind schedule and things start to overlap (which is common), their personal dogs don't always make it into the ring. Because this happened a couple of times while I was in college and the handler in question knew me and knew that I knew how to show a Smooth Fox Terrier, she grabbed me as I passed her in the grooming area and begged me to take her dog in for her while she showed a contract dog in another ring.

I loved this dog. His call name was "Decker". Decker was a beautiful little black-and-white Smooth Fox from amazing lines, but he did, if we're being honest, have a slight 'Roman nose', a small bump on the facial plane following his sinuses about halfway from his nose to his eyes. It wasn't too bad, though, and he was otherwise a very nicely put-together dog. He had come to know me when I attended a very small show in Lexington where I ended up helping out by taking him into the ring. Louisville, however, is a totally different ball of wax.

Because it's a huge show and follows closely after Westminster on the show circuit, there are some pretty high-profile handlers and dogs in attendance. The competition is fierce. With Decker trotting gaily along in front of me, I went into the ring against two legendary handlers, one of whom is probably the single most-famous owner/breeder/handler in the history of Smooth Foxes (at eighty-plus, she will be in Louisville handling her own dogs this weekend)- and I was scared. to. death. The great thing about show dogs, though, is that they know what they're doing even if you don't. He did his thing, we got clobbered, and that was that. At least he wasn't a Lakeland, because Bill Cosby (yes, that Bill Cosby) owns the most successful string of Lakelands ever and they are shown at Louisville. They are rarely defeated in the ring.

If you've never seen the movie Best In Show, you should watch it. It captures the zeitgeist of the fancy quite accurately, and with a great deal of insightful, wry humor. The quirks portrayed in the movie are exactly why I wasn't interested in continuing training as a handler. I love dogs, but I'm a pure hobbyist. I can't take the cattiness and pressure, and frankly, a lot of people are either aloof or crappy in how they treat their dogs.

So anyway, if you'll be in Louisville on Saturday or Sunday, head over to the Fair and Exposition Center and stop by the booth. We'll be right out front between the popcorn guy and the ticket window!

No comments: