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What are we doing here?

September 5, 2011

Countless people ask me about the dogs, dog showing and what it is all about.  Do your dogs do tricks?  Do you win money?  Those of you who show dogs know the questions.  We often roll our eyes as the nice people walk away. 

I have been thinking about the eye rolling we do ever since I got sucked into watching the show “Toddler and Tiara” while I was in a hotel room last month.  Yes, I watched an entire episode and it almost felt like I was watching porn in a hotel room “thank goodness no one can see me watching this”  As the show went on and the hair got bigger and the makeup got thicker and the Mom’s got crazier I kept thinking “what the hell are these people doing?”   Then I had one of those moments…….

I have a $400 blow dryer, I just calculated almost $700 in entry fees for 8 dogs shows, my dog wears a shiny blue lame coat to keep her hair straight, I spend $30 a night to park in a parking lot and I have better dog show clothes than work clothes.  My vacation days are taken up traveling to exotic places like Hobbs, NM or Sierra Vista, AZ or the truly exotic Roswell, NM to spend a weekend walking, brushing, washing, blow drying dogs for a 10 minute show that nets me a scrap of ribbon and hopefully the most sought after points towards a Championship.   So I guess it would be fair for the Toddler Moms to ask “what the hell are those people doing”  and I should not roll my eyes, or at least not too much.

I am convinced that dog shows started in a bar, gentlemen having a post hunt adult beverage started to compare their dogs and pretty soon because we are humans and can’t help ourselves it became a contest.  Then it became about breeding better dogs.  Good dog men (and women) were already doing their part before the contest started but once there was a prize, whoa doggy!  here we go.

There are lots of places in the dog game, all the wonderful performance venues, the original jobs of dogs, hunting, herding, tracking, guarding etc and then of course our made up games that most dogs love, Agility, Obedience, Rally to name a few.  There are also Freestyle i.e. Dancing with your dog, Disc dogs, Dock Diving dogs, weight pulling dogs and dogs that star in Youtube videos surfing or skateboarding.  People love it, dogs love it and most of the GP (general public) can understand it but let’s get back to the Fancy.

Most people don’t understand the Fancy (that is what we dog show folks call it)  To me there are two parts to a dog show, the DOG and the SHOW, pretty simple right?  Not really,  we dog show folks aren’t even sure half the time what is going on in the Fancy.   After those old gents in the bar started their competitions it was because they were trying to breed better dogs.  A dog with a better nose, a dog with a better run, a dog who could herd sheep or a dog who could bring down a stag or even better dog to sit sweetly in his wife’s lap and catch the fleas off the Mrs.   They had a purpose, better is better and should be rewarded, other people then wanted to have some of the “better” so they bred their dogs to the “better” and they became better.  There was a purpose, old Spot could hunt the neighbor dogs into the ground so all the hunters wanted on just like him.   Makes sense when you put it like that right?

Fast forward to the present, the Fancy is now just that, Fancy,   Dogs are bred for physical appearance and hopefully temperament.   I have cow dogs and there isn’t a cow anywhere around my place.  I like the way the Cardigan Welsh Corgi looks, they are short and bossy and I like that but lots of folks think they look like a cartoon character.  I love the look of the German Shorthaired Point, a classic dog but guess what? I don’t even own a shotgun so it must be their looks and temperament that attract me and I am betting that many other people in the Fancy feel the same way.  

Most of us are no longer in it for the historical purposes as were the old gents.  We are in it for a lot of reasons, we love dogs, we are competitive and some of us are just down right crazy (thinking about the those Toddler Moms again).   

Up a paragraph or two I said there are two parts to the dogshow, The DOG and The SHOW.  Now the DOG part is the core, I like to think I’m in 75% Dog and 25% show.  I live with my dogs, I love to hang with them and they are my “kids”  I hate placing them when my dog show dreams for them don’t come true even knowing that they normally have an even better life when they go to their non show dog home, I struggle with the balance between spoiled pet and pampered show dog.    I like dogshows, I take great pleasure in showing off my dogs.  I like the exotic places and camping in the RV in a parking lot with 40 other dogshow gypsies.  I like the competition but mostly I like being part of the Fancy.  That part of belonging to a tribe of people who love the same thing.  I generally hang out with the DOG people much more than the SHOW people. 

The 2nd part of the dogshow is the SHOW and you can’t have a show with out show people.  They make us better, they make the DOG people work harder because you can’t win if you can’t beat the SHOW people.  The SHOW people are not just the pro handlers but the great owner handlers, the backers, the great groomers all the folks who love the competition and the thrill of winning.  They are the 75% SHOW and 25% DOG, these are the folks who if they had fallen into tennis or growing orchids or having their toddlers in tiaras are going to be good at it but they had an affinity towards dogs and we are lucky to have them. 

The ones we are not lucky to have are the 100% Crazy people.  These are the ones who lie, cheat and steal to win.  They are the black mark on the Fancy. They are the ones who don’t really care about the dogs. They aren’t truthful about their dogs and they aren’t truthful in their dealing with people.  They try to cut corners and the win is the most important thing.  These are the people the rest of us need to beware of and not fall for their smoke and mirrors game.  They are like a fad diet, people know they are too good to be true but are so desperate for the success or acceptance that they throw down their money and most get what they pay for….crap!   Real dedication and hard work is what success is made from so watch out for the Fancy Shylock and reward the “better”.  These are the crazy people who end up on the reality shows, I’m sure most of the parents of the pageant kids are perfectly normal folks who have a good time with their kids like my friends at the dog shows a little weird to the outside eye but the crazy people are the ones who make normal people roll their eyes.

So I ask the question again what are we doing here?  I know what I’m doing, I’m going to enjoy my dogs and my friends,I’m going to do my best for the dogs,  I’m going to work hard and play fair.  I’m going be nice to new people and not roll my eyes too much and I’m going to try my best to be a good competitor and be happy when I win and gracious when I lose and remember that the dog that goes home with me is the same superstar I came to the show with. 

How about you?

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