Friday, December 07, 2007

Newbie's-Eye View: Welcome to the Show!

My friend Tracey is probably the closest thing I have to a mentor in the . I'd joined the club shortly after I acquired my first (and thus far, only) show dog, figuring that the best way to understand how shows work is to get inside the machine and help run it. She has patiently explained all manner of things to me over the past couple of years, from the history of the club to the joys of finding a show sponsor.

While I rode down to the show this morning, I emailed her to tell her where I was going and what I was up to. She responded, "If you haven't been there before, you are in for such a treat!"

She's right -- and if you haven't been to the cluster before, you're also in for a treat. You're even luckier if you're going to the show on Saturday or Sunday, because all the best spectator events and exhibits are happening at the weekend shows!

So Where Do I Start?

Once you enter the show through the lobby, the first thing you should do is to look to your left and greet the nice club members sitting at the table with the show programs. The programs contain just about everything you might want to know about events at the show, including a map of the area, listings of all of the exhibits and demos and their times and locations, and extensive listings of all of the dogs showing in the breed, obedience and rally rings -- plus where and when each of them is showing. If you're here to see a particular breed or event, you'll want to dog-ear the Index of Breeds page near the front of the program and refer to it often.

It's not mandatory that one buy a program at a dog show -- there have been many shows where I've forgotten or haven't had time -- but the monies raised by program sales go back to the clubs to help them fund other activities -- such as the next dog show. Buy a program from the club table and consider it a good-karma donation. You'll make good use of the information it contains.

Next, locate the map in your show program. (I have the Friday program, and they all vary slightly, so sorry that I can't give you exact page numbers.) Dog-ear that page, too.

Look on the left page of the map, where it says Hall A. If you haven't strayed too far from the club table yet, you're already in Hall A.

Stuff You Need

The very first place you'll want to go is to the Pedigree booth. The nice folks at Pedigree have a huge black-and-yellow booth you can't miss, and the booth features all sorts of nifty things such as the computerized Dog Breed Finder. If you're wondering which breed of dog might be a good match for your household, give it a try.

I asked one of the women running the booth what sorts of questions the Pedigree folks were getting from newbie visitors to the show. She replied that many people ask about adoption, since Pedigree sponsors the Adoption Drive. (I can't even look at those commercials without sniffling every single time. I always want to pick all the dogs who say, "Pick me!".) She went on to say that many people also asked about canine nutrition and about selecting the right breed of dog for one's household.

The Pedigree booth hands out beautiful, ginormous plastic bags with some samples of their products inside. If you're planning to do any shopping at the show or pick up any literature, you'll be very, very glad you visited Pedigree first. (My three dogs were thrilled that I visited Pedigree first. The bag I received had samples of their products, including Marrobone biscuits -- a long-time major-league favorite in our household. When I brought my bag home tonight, my entire four-legged fan club mobbed the bag and demanded that I release the Marrobones held captive inside.)

Got your bag? Good. The next place you should go is to visit the booth not too far from the Pedigree booth. No matter what you'd like to know about purebred dogs, dog sports, show rules, laws affecting dog ownership, how to get started in dog showing, or dog events for kids, the AKC is your resource. The booth has the Beginner's Guide to Dog Shows, which explains a lot of the terminology and how dog shows work. This Guide might be useful for decoding some of the language in your show program (plus there's a picture of Beardies in the show ring on page 13!). The AKC booth also has Getting Started brochures on a variety of topics, coloring books for the kids, and publications covering almost any dog-related topic plus AKC magnets, bags, poop-bag carriers, pins, and a variety of stuff for sale. there's so much information available at the AKC booth that you're going to be very glad you stopped at the Pedigree booth first for one of their bags!

I was able to visit for a bit with Lisa Peterson, the AKC's Director of Club Communications. Lisa writes the Ask AKC column in the . She generously loaded my hands with copies of all of the introductory brochures AKC had available for newbies, including the Beginner's Guide I just mentioned. She'll be able to answer questions you might have on just about any dog-related topic. Tell her I said hi!

(Silly me -- only after we talked, and after I came home and went to the , did I realize that her breed is Norwegian Elkhounds. My uncle and cousin showed Elkhounds for years, and my cousin is still a head honcho in Elkhound circles -- I believe she's held office in both the parent club and in the Norwegian Elkhound Minutemen Association.)

Okay, I Have My Bag and My Information. Now What?

Still with me? Now it's time to go off and enjoy the show! Here's just a partial list of the things you can see and do at the Bay Colony Dog Show while you're there:

Find out where and when the Meet the Breeds exhibit will be. The booths will be staffed by various breeds of dogs and their people, and the people will be happy to answer any questions you might have about their breeds -- plus you get to visit with some beautiful dogs! If you're looking for a particular breed or type of dog, or if the Pedigree Breed Finder turned up a breed you might not have considered before, but might be a good match, this is your chance to go and meet some representatives of that breed.

Go watch the agility trial. Agility is a fast, exciting dog sport, and it's almost as fun to watch as it is to participate. This is a can't-miss!

Go shopping. Oh, the shopping! If there are dog lovers on your Christmas list -- or if there are dogs on your list -- you'll be able to find something for everybody at the many booths around the show. I indulged in a bit of "mercantile therapy" and crossed a few names off my shopping list while I was there.

Definitely go visit the public education booths in Hall D -- you can find them against the wall with blue backdrops. You can visit with various representatives from breed rescues and get to meet some rescue dogs -- especially little Denver the Old English Sheepdog puppy, his mom Martine, and Grannie Annie from New England Old English Sheepdog Rescue. There are also two lovely Great Pyrenees who are Delta Society-certified therapy dogs, a beautiful lurcher (greyhound mix) who looks as though she stepped right off a medieval tapestry, several lovable Goldens, and a group of 4-Hers who are raising funds to help victims of the California wildfires.

While you're at that end of the building, watch some of the obedience and rally trials. Some of those dog and handler teams make the sports look easy, but trust me -- a lot of work went into looking that smooth.

If you're at the show on Saturday, try to see the Rescue Parade in Ring 14 at 1 PM. Little Denver the Sheepdog will be there along with some of the other rescues from the booths, and the MC for the parade is none other than the . Ask Dog Lady is a hilarious question-and answer Web site about dogs, life with dogs, and suchlike. I'm just sorry I missed her by coming down on Friday. Enjoy the festivities for me!

And of course, check your program and go cheer on your favorites in the breed rings!

All Right, Already. Can We Go Watch the Show Now?

Sure. Just a few things about watching the conformation showing, and I'll let you go.

Remember that Index of Breeds page in your program, the one I suggested you dog-ear so you could find it again quickly? The few pages immediately after it in your program are what's called the Judging Program -- and they're intended to let you know where and when a certain breed is showing, how many dogs of different breeds are showing before and after that breed in the same ring, and the name of the judge.

A note about times in dog-show programs: All of the ring times you see are start times for everything happening in that ring, not just the one breed you might be looking up in the judging program. For example, suppose that you come to the show on Sunday to see the Miniature Poodles. You check your judging program and see that they're on in Ring 10 at 10:30 AM, so you hustle on over to Ring 10 and you see Silky Terriers in the ring, not Miniature Poodles. Don't worry -- just recheck your judging program. 10:30 is the start time for the ring, but after the judge is done with the Silky Terriers, he has Shih Tzus and Yorkshire Terriers to judge before your beloved Miniature Poodles come into the ring. Just wait; they'll come.

When the Mini Poodles come into the ring, flip the pages in your program until you come to the Non-Sporting Group breeds. In a show program, the breeds are listed in alphabetical order within their respective groups. Under each breed listing is a list of all of the dogs in that breed who are entered at the show. You can identify which one is which by the handler's armband number. Boys show first, then girls, then Best of Breed.

Well, I've talked enough, and you now know what you need to know to get started. Go have fun and enjoy the show!

Later on, I'll post a chronicle of my own adventures at the show. There's just so much to say, but you go have your own adventures first. We can talk about mine later.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Newbies on the Road!

Yes, I know I haven't finished my post about Thanksgiving weekend, but I'm still not feeling too terribly thankful about it. I promise I'll get there. Let's just say that as season finales go, ours ranks down there with the last episode of "The Sopranos," only Tony at least got some crummy onion rings before the lights went out.

Anyway... A couple of weeks ago, I received an email from Julie Dennehy, the principal PR person for the . Turns out she reads this blog, and was wondering if I would like to attend the show and blog about it from the newbie's-eye view. (Hi, Julie!) The resulting article will appear here on Dog Show Newbie, and there'll be links to it from the Bay Colony Web site.

I thought about Julie's invitation for a few minutes, and then fired back a reply: "Weather permitting, count me in!". Julie mentioned that there would be a photojournalist from one of the South Shore papers down there taking candids, and that the members of the Ladies' Dog Club (hosts of the Friday show, which is the one I chose to cover) were wonderful to work with. We swapped phone numbers and contact information, and we're looking forward to meeting up down there at the club table.

(I might have mentioned that I've always had a soft spot in my shriveled little heart for the Ladies' Dog Club, ever since my very first Beardie got his first placement at one of their shows when he was a puppy. Dinah and I had a great time at their shows in Wrentham this past year, too.)

The next thing I did was ping Kathy, who asked, "So do you think you're going to do it?" I responded that I would, if Mother Nature made it possible.

Anyway, I'm looking forward to my very first blog post as a member of the (cough) press! If you go to the show, or if you just enjoy it vicariously through my blog post, please ping Julie and let her know. If she gets a positive response, this could be the start of a pretty nifty tradition!