Monday, May 14, 2007

A Good Weekend for a Butt-Kicking

St. Hubert KC, 2nd in Open
Windham KC, 2nd in Open

Too bad it was our butts getting the kicking (again). There's never any shame in losing to Cocoa -- she's an outstanding girl, and I love razzing her owners and getting razzed in return. We call each other The Competition (in suitably hushed tones), and we mean it as the highest of compliments.

Cocoa's owners have put a very high-powered handler on her, and she got her first major at the Trenton shows last weekend. (That particular handler could show a cat in a dog-show ring and the judges would still pick him -- but I've never heard him say a bad word to or about anyone, and he always has kind words for anyone who manages to beat him in the ring.)

Ah, but if you have to pick a day to get beaten, pick a day like Saturday. The weather was perfectly sunny and not too hot. The fairground site was small but well situated, and the entire place gave off the air of being cheerful and laid-back. There were only a few vendors, but they and the local greyhound rescuers were congenial and chatty. Everyone seemed to be in a good humor, from the handler relaxing with a beer in an easy chair next to his leviathan-class RV to the ladies selling dog toys and chewies. A nice Corgi person handed me his card and announced that his club was holding a herding trial over Labor Day weekend, and to email him for directions.

Kathy and I decided to try an experiment. Conventional wisdom says that a dog being handled in the ring by a handler (or anyone not the owner) will not behave or focus if the owner is standing where the dog can see/hear/smell Mommy or Daddy -- so usually, the owners are advised to stay as far away from the ring as possible. I've done my share of hiding these past few months.

I wondered whether Dinah might not fare better knowing where I am so she wouldn't have to continually look for me, and so she'd cooperate with Auntie Kathy in the ring. Since I've been on a mission to find and correct things that might be hurting Dinah's chances in the ring, I asked Kathy whether she thought Dinah might be more relaxed with me around. We decided to find out.

Kathy walked Dinah to the ring, while I followed. The judge was running quite a bit behind, so we took up a spot near the unused ring on the opposite side of the tent. I took Dinah's leash and sat on the grass with her, while Kathy picked up her armband, watched the judge, and chatted with the other handlers. Dinah just relaxed, and didn't appear at all anxious.

When it came time to get into the ring, Kathy advised me to position myself near the stewards' table so Dinah would face forward while looking for me. At least she wouldn't be pointing her butt into the ring trying to peer behind her to see where I went.

Fo whatever reason, it worked! Dinah never even bothered seeking me out. She maintained her focus in the ring, moved beautifully, did everything Auntie Kathy told her to, and didn't fling her feet to the four compass directions while gaiting. Even though we lost (again), Kathy reported that Dinah was much more relaxed in the ring and behaved nicely. So much for conventional wisdom.

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