Monday, November 27, 2006

Thank You For Playing Our Game

South Windsor Kennel Club, 11/25 - 1st, 12-18
Springfield Kennel Club, 11/26 - 2nd, 12-18

There are lots of things I truly enjoy about conformation showing. I've run into people I haven't seen in 10 or 15 years. I get to hang out with my friends and their dogs, have some fun at ringside, and maybe go home with a ribbon and/or a point. It also never fails to impress me how easy it is to enter a conformation show. Unlike agility or herding trials that fill up months before the actual event, you can call up the show superintendent the morning of the closing date for a show and still get in. (Okay, invitationals and Westminster don't work exactly that way -- but practically all the other shows do.) Compared to herding trial entries at $60+ a pop, show entries are Bargain City.

All the same, I'm more comfortable doing performance events. When you show in a performance event, of course you can shoot for a placement and High In Trial, but you are mostly competing against yourself. You always hope to qualify, but the better you do, the prouder you can be of achieving a personal best that day. At some trials, everybody qualifies. At some trials, no one does. If you qualify in a performance event, no one else can take the Q away from you. You might not place, but if you qualify, you still win. A CD with three 170 scores is exactly the same as one with three 200 scores -- it's still a CD.

That's the thing about conformation events that I find hardest to adapt to. You can do your very best at everything, from training to conditioning to grooming to presentation -- and still, you can get dumped by a judge who simply likes another dog better than yours on a given day. You can actually lose at dog shows. That's a hard realization if you're not used to it. A couple of my friends have a great phrase they use to describe those days: "Thank you for playing our game."

These Springfield shows were the biggest all-breed shows we've ever entered. It seemed like a good idea at the ime -- majors both days and a chance to see and be seen around Beardie folks who don't normally visit much farther north. A bunch of my friends were going, so there'd be fun and fellowship -- and cider and cranberry bread. There would be lots of vendors, and plenty of shopping for everything from raw knuckle bones to agility equipment. What did we have to lose?

Well, I guess we had the dog shows themselves to lose. Neither of the judges really paid much attention to Dinah this weekend. Dinah herself looked lovely, behaved nicely for Kathy, and moved beautifully in the ring. This happens more often than not at large shows, but I had kind of hoped for at least a glimmer of recognition from either one of them. At least one friend's beautiful little black girl Spirit went Winners Bitch on Friday, and Dinah's buddy Traveler took Best of Breed on Sunday.

Kathy told me afterward, "I'm sorry we couldn't have been more successful." She has nothing to apologize for, though, and neither did we. We acquitted ourselves well enough out there among all the heavy hitters, and some people whose opinions I value got to see the little princess in action. I had kind of dreamed of her getting her first major at this show, but there will be other majors and other shows. Judges who won't put up anyone from the Puppy class aren't that much more likely to do so from the 12-18 class -- so we'll just pay our dues until we move to the Open class.

Next weekend's Fitchburg shows are the last ones for the year -- and for us, for the season. The show season in thsi latitude doesn't really start up again until next spring, except for a couple of shows in the middle of January and February. I'm looking forward to being able to take a break from showing, actually. As fun as it is to go, it can get to be a grind when you're going to a couple of shows a month, leaving four days a month in which to have a home life.

Not that we're going into complete hibernation or anything. Dinah and I can still go to handling classes just to keep in practice. I've also entered Seamus in three rally trials in March and April, so we're shooting for our Advanced title. We have a lot of training to do between now and then, but we're looking forward to it.

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