Saturday, December 20, 2008

Belated Report from Bay Colony

Quite a lot has happened since the Bay Colony Dog Shows on December 4-7. Since then, we've endured a couple of snowstorms (including the one currently falling out of the sky) and an ice storm that left us (and 220,000 of our neighbors) without power, heat, or Internet connectivity for five days. More on that later in my other blog.

Anyway, I did in fact make it to the Eastern Dog Club show on Sunday the 7th. Julie, owner of the PR firm for the cluster, met me in the lobby, showed me the coffee, and briefed me on the order of events. We passed quickly by the Beardie ring, only long enough for me to spot my friend Joanne and her puppy-boy Jack.

The Cluster puts on a fabulous buffet luncheon for the judges/stewards/show staff. Julie very kindly obtained a lunch ticket for me and introduced me to members of the clubs.

My task this year was to serve as MC for the Rescue Parade. Some of the local shelters and breed rescue organizations exhibit at this show, including NEOESR. The Sheepie contingent included my little buddy Denver and his mom Martine, Charley-girl, her Shih-Tzu mix roomie, and their mom Sandy, and Niles and his mom. We also had several German Shorthaired Pointers and one Wirehair, a Pom, a Lurcher, and a host of other happy dog/owner teams.

It took me a few attempts to get the microphone situated for optimum listenability (now I know why singers look as though they're swallowing the things), but Julie managed to keep me from getting too confused and tongue-tied. We offered up a couple of trivia questions for the audience (next time I'll come prepared) and handed out goodie bags to the people with correct answers.

During the parade, I read a brief biography of each dog as penned by the adopter, and people applauded as the dog/owner team took a victory lap around the ring. Some of the dogs' stories were genuinely heartbreaking, but all looked fit and happy in the ring -- and some came dressed for the occasion. We invited members of the audience to come in and meet the rescue dogs after the parade was through, and many of the dogs were surrounded by adoring fans.

We had to clear out fairly quickly so the Meet the Breeds event could set up in the same ring, but everyone left the ring happy -- and some with fans trailing behind. I hope that we can draw a good crowd for next year's parade in Providence!

The Official Real Thing!

Murphy's Laws Pertaining to Dog Shows

Little disclaimer here: This came from one of the dog showing email lists, and no one there knew who originally wrote it. If I ever find out, I'll post the attribution here. If you wrote it, please drop me a note so I can give you the proper credit. In the meantime, thanks to whomever came up with this in the first place!

1. After trying forever to obtain that elusive second major, you have no problem getting the third major the next day.

2. The Novice people who enter every show and drive 8 hours even if you show at 8am will not show up on the day that it is exactly a major.

3. If you try to build a major, the stuffer will win.

4. Your dog needs a major to finish. You drive 12 hours to a 3-day circuit to discover the superintendent erred in the count and you are one short of a major--and of course your dog is WD. You go home, as the next 2 days are not majors. You get a call Monday morning. The super erred again. The following 2 days were majors and your dog would have probably won, as the judges were great for him.

5. The day you leave your mud boots home because it is the middle of a drought, there will be 12 inches of rain.

6. Although every dog show has dozens of vendors, the day you forget your tack box will be the day the vendors have no show leads.

7. If you go to the trouble of checking out of the hotel before you show, you will not win breed.

8. If you don't check out of the hotel before you show, you will win breed and there will be no time to go back and check out before the group.

9. Your National is always scheduled 2 days ahead of your most promising puppy's 6-month birthday.

10. Your dog will totally blow coat one week before the National, and after you have paid for hotel, airline, banquets, etc.

11. The day you say, "If Buffy doesn't do something today, off to a pet home she goes!", she wins a 5 point major. Of course she never wins another point and all the pet homes have fallen off the face of the earth.

12. And, we all know about the now neutered puppy we sold as a pet and the littermate we kept as a show prospect...

13. If your dog does better as a follower, you will always be forced to be first in line.

14. And of course, if your dog does best at the front of the line, someone will have already beaten you there.

15. The judge you didn't enter under because he hates you/your dogs/your new hair style/whatever draws an overload and your favorite judge in the entire world picks up the overload.

16. Whenever the group judge is one that adores your dog, the breed judge will be the one that told you to pet your dog out. But, if you don't enter, refer to rule 15.)

17. A particular judge always puts up the dog for Best of Winners unless YOUR dog goes Winners Dog and there is only a major in bitches.

18. When you enter a small show that normally has no Specials, 5 of the top 10 dogs in the country will be there.

19. If you do win an easy breed at PoDunk, NoWhere, you will then learn that a dozen top dogs and their handlers have flown in from the furthest corners of the country and they're all in your group.

20. If you win the Group, you will discover that the BIS judge's all time favorite dog has just won its group and the BIS judge has already given it several BIS.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Ta-Daaaaa! Sound the Trumpets!

Here she is, the New Champeen Herself...

Photo by Ashbey Photography.

The look of relief on Kathy's face pretty much says it all, doesn't it?

Although we don't have the official certificate from AKC in hand just yet, she is listed on the AKC Web site as CH Breaksea November Storm, so we're free to bandy the title around when entering other AKC events and stuff now.

Her breeder's comment echoed my own thoughts when she saw this photo: "She's grown up all of a sudden, hasn't she?" Yes, our little girlie is growing up! Not so long ago she couldn't buy a glance from the judges, but this year she started to come into her own and is looking like a young Bearded Lady. It helps that she's losing the "cotton-head," too. She still looks mostly presentable between crate and ringside now, instead of looking as though she hadn't seen a brush all day.

All in all, it's a nice way to finish out the year for 2008. We traditionally hibernate from Thanksgiving until Opening Day at Fenway, so now we can spend the winter training for other things and thinking about finishing up in Canada and UKC next year.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Newbies on the Road (Again)

You might remember that last year at this time, the PR firm for the Bay Colony Dog Show invited me to come down to the show for a day and blog about it. Julie, owner of the firm, put up lots of links to my blog post and invited me back to do the same honors for this year.

This year's shows run Thursday, December 4 through Sunday, December 7. Monica Collins, the Dog Lady of Ask Dog Lady fame, is the MC for the Rescue Parade on Saturday. I'll be holding the mike for Sunday's parade. Kind of a bummer that Monica and I won't be in Ring 2 together, but we're hoping people will have a good time. Bless Julie's heart -- she mentioned that we'd be on hand to meet fans! Now all I have to do is get some (grin).

A brief but thankful shout-out goes to Holly Sherburne of Downeast Dog News for including a blurb in the December issue!

If I understand correctly, the Bay Colony Shows will be leaving Boston after this year -- at least for a while -- until renovations to the Bayside Expo Center are completed. According to Julie, next year's shows will take place at the Rhode Island Convention Center on December 3-6, less than an hour from Boston (and less than 15 minutes from my home town) and with indoor parking. I had heard rumors for the past year that the shows were headed to West Springfield and the Big E, but they're staying in the east. Good news! Not that we don't have some recent good memories of the Big E, but folks from the Boston area can still conveniently drop by the shows.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Long March

South Windsor Kennel Club, 11/22/08
1st/WB/BOS, 4 points
Springfield Kennel Club, 11/23/08

It's over. The Long March is over. I still can't believe it!

Now presenting... CH Breaksea November Storm HIC CGC (AKC certification pending)!

The big event took place on Saturday in Springfield, of all places. After our heartbreaker of a weekend at this cluster last year, I wasn't sure what to expect for this year. Probably half of my older blog posts contain complaints about showing in Springfield. The Better Living Center is large and noisy, and dogs who have shown all summer at the outdoor shows sometimes need time to get used to being indoors with the acoustics, the hair dryers, and the rubber mats. Still, that's where the majors are, so that's where you have to go...

I don't mind telling you that I'd been on edge since sending in the money for this cluster. Even with Lesley's kind offer to bring two bitches, plus Deb bringing Diva, there were no guarantees that we'd have enough entries -- and if we did, that all of them would show up. You never know until you get to ringside and count noses. (Lesley is one of Trav's breeders. A while ago, she offered to help build a major by bringing one of her girls and a puppy girl who is full sister to Trav. Majors aren't that easy to come by in New Jersey these days, either.)

Fast-forward past all of the anticipation to ringside on Saturday. All 7 of the class bitches showed up! At least the problem of adequate numbers was solved. Everybody needs majors.

I spotted Karen Bowens and her sister Gail with Joel and another of the class bitches. "You guys are a long way from home," I said. "Hey, we have to go to where the majors are," replied Karen.

We had known for a while that the judge forbids the use of bait and toys in the ring to get dogs' attention. This wasn't a big deal for Dinah, who only baits when she feels like it anyway -- but the multiple signs saying "NO BAIT OR TOYS IN THIS RING" must have discouraged the habitual bait-throwers at the show. We haven't had too many real bait-hurlers in the Beardie ring when I've been there, but I've heard stories about spectators receiving flying liver surprises when passing by. Good for the judge!

Handsome Joel took Winners Dog -- no surprises there at all. Joel is just a week or so past turning 2, and he still has an adolescent coat of many colors -- but he's a beauteous boy, and Karen handles him nicely.

Deb was worried about how Diva would react at this huge, noisy indoor show. Diva was mighty unhappy at the last two outdoor shows, and made that plain when trucks rumbled by on the highway or golf carts rolled past the rings. She acquitted herself pretty well indoors, though. Aside from a little "where's Mommy?" behavior, she seemed much less nervous when she entered the ring and had a job to do. Kathy reported that she settled in a little. With time and practice, she will learn to settle in the ring -- even if she has to show indoors to avoid the motor vehicles. Diva ended up taking 2nd in 12-18, but not Reserve -- but that doesn't reflect the progress the little girlie has made. She'll get there.

The Open Bitch class was over before I knew it. Dinah showed well and didn't appear to miss the lack of bait. The judge carries a little buzzer in his pocket that he uses to get the dogs' attention, and she gave him the right reaction there, too. (I didn't hear the buzzer, but Kathy told me about it later. It didn't appear to scare any of the Beardies, even the ones with some noise issues.) The judge wasted no time in putting Dinah first. Karen, who had been showing an Open Bitch, called congratulations to me as she exited the ring.

The steward indicated Kathy and asked me, "Are you two related?" I said that we weren't, but apparently we've been showing together long enough that we've started to look alike.

Next thing we knew, Dinah had taken Winners Bitch. Lesley's girl Fanny took Reserve. "We were cheering for you!", she told us.

Could it be over that quickly? Did Dinah really take the 4-point major? Gail came up behind me, put her arm around my shoulders, and told me that the major had held and that Dinah was finished. Dinah took BOS to Sparky and Joel took BOW, so Joel benefited from the 4 points in bitches and finished too. There were many hugs and high-fives all around. "She even looks different now that she's a champion," Karen told me.

Deb remarked to Kathy that I didn't look particularly excited that Dinah had finished after all this time. The truth of it was that I couldn't get over the shock -- we've been trying, and trying, and trying for ages now. The first emotion I felt was relief, and the second one was joy. Both came long after plain and simple amazement, though.

I'd be lying if I said I didn't have any idea that Dinah might finish at that show. I had a bottle of champagne and some plastic cups in my backseat, but didn't bring them into the building for fear I'd have to carry them back out untouched. Dinah got her reward for a great performance, though -- she got to wrestle with Her Trav. We opened up the champagne, and followed that with wine and lunch at the tavern on the grounds of the Big E. Greg, who had a half-bottle of champagne at home, toasted the new champion over the phone.

The only disappointment of the whole day was that Val, who has been a constant with help and encouragement throughout the Long March, couldn't be there. She'd dropped a tile on her foot, bruising it pretty badly, and didn't feel quite right hobbling around the show wearing one shoe and one slipper. (Yeah, excuses, excuses!) Pat and Trav came on their own and set up with Lesley and Sue, so he had some prep help -- but Val didn't get to see the Princess finish. Pat called her right away to tell her the news, and she called me and posted the news to the BCCME email list.

My friend Elizabeth emailed me to congratulate me and added, "And she finished in her natal month. Now she can be Breaksea November Champion."

Newbie Tricks

Kathy has a new client now, sort of. She showed Lucy the Cavalier in Fitchburg, and reported that Lucy squeaked for her mommy the whole time she was in the ring. Her owner got her groomed with Kathy's help, and handled her herself. While Kathy, Deb, and I were watching Cavaliers, a Great Dane owner Kathy knew came up to us and mentioned that for practice, she had entered her bitch in Novice, Am Bred, AND Open classes in all three days' worth of shows. Talk about getting some handling practice! Of all of the newbie things we've done and heard about, that has to be one of the newbie-est!

Nose Count, Redux

After Dinah finished, some of the owners of the other bitches came over to ask me whether I would keep Dinah in the class the next day or move her up to BOB. This is another one of those situations where you're damned no matter what you do: either you stay in the classes and risk taking another major away from someone else who still actually needs one, or you move up to Breed. If one other bitch doesn't show up, then you've broken the major for the remaining bitches.

Our friend Kandis was planning to show one of her bitches on Sunday, so the number of class bitches remained constant even after Deb and Diva headed home. Kathy checked with her to make sure that she was still planning to come, and then we decided to move Dinah up to Breed early on Sunday morning. We still had 6 bitches for a major, and Dinah was out of the way.

Lesley and her puppy Callie took the points on Sunday, so the little girlie is off to a good start. Callie isn't a flashy bitch, but she's nicely put together and moves beautifully.

We Were That Close (Again)

In her debut as a special, Dinah very nearly got the breed. She showed the best she has ever shown, possibly. The judge realllllly liked her, enough so that he took Kathy aside later and told her that he thought Dinah was absolutely gorgeous, and would have given her the breed if he hadn't liked Sparky's front just a little better. Kathy was very satisfied in knowing that she got to make Cliff sweat a little in front of Sparky's owner. :-)

The part of the show that Dinah liked best was getting to play with Her Trav. No matter where we were at the show, the second she glimpsed him, she HAD to go see Trav! I asked him if he had anything to say and he told me "Arrrrrrr."

Shortly after the Beardie judging was over, I ran into Barb Rimoshytus and Rio. She congratulated me on Dinah's finish, and reported that Rio was still chasing his one last major. He had gone Reserve that day, and she'd been hoping for those last 3 points. They'll come. Rio's a beautiful boy, and he will shortly live up to his registered name of Brookfield's Slam Dunk. Just you wait!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

All Right... I Said I Wouldn't, But...

Charlie thinks a Beardie would make a great First Dog!

It's been almost two weeks since President-Elect Obama's public Election-Night promise to his daughters to get them a puppy, and the swell of opinion on the subject shows no sign of lessening. Every dog blogger and his littermate has had to weigh in on the subject -- not to mention all the journalists, political bloggers, armchair politicians, and practically anyone else with a mouth and an opinion. The Ambassador from Peru has offered a Peruvian Inca Dog (hairless) to the soon-to-be First Family. I'm sure that hundreds -- thousands -- of other people have been offering up candidates for First Dog. The offers range from people promoting shelter dog adoptions to fans of some of the other dog breeds who have already graced the White House. Enough, already!

I really thought I would just keep my mouth shut and blog about something else, but I've even been receiving emails from people I know, and whom I don't know, asking whether I could find a rescue Beardie for the White House.

On the plus side, Beardies do have hair rather than fur, and they thus produce a lower level of dander than many other breeds. I wouldn't go so far as to call them hypoallergenic, but a well-kept Beardie has played less havoc with most of my dog-allergic friends and acquaintances than have other dogs.

Does this class them with other dogs rumored to be better for allergic individuals, such as Poodles, Bichons, Soft-Coated Wheatens, and even (may the heavens rain down fury on those "breeders'" heads) Labradoodles? I don't really know. Only Malia Obama, her parents, and her allergist will know for sure.

Even the hairless breeds, such as the Chinese Crested, Peruvian Inca Orchid, Xoloitzcuintle (don't ask me to pronounce that! -- otherwise known as the Mexican Hairless) -- produce saliva. If there are allergens in saliva, then very sensitive individuals might not suffer all that much less with a naked breed. Please forgive me, all of you who own them, but they're just not all that much to look at.

One thing is definite: In order to have a Beardie in the White House, you must be possessed of one hell of a sense of humor, and lots of cleaning supplies besides. Imagine a happy, muddy hairball bouncing all over visiting dignitaries, counter-surfing at state banquets, and leaving miles of muddy pawprint trails through the Lincoln Bedroom, down the halls, and onto the papers on the desk in the Oval Office. Only the British Royal Family, with the Queen's pack of Corgis, would really appreciate the humor.

Not that a First Beardie wouldn't make a great asset. The dumbass TV presenter who got a chunk taken out of his hand by Barney the Scottie (smartest and most articulate member of the Bush family) deserved everything he got by swooping down on the dog, but had there been a Beardie on the scene, the talking head would simply have been covered with mud and had his microphone slurped off instead.

If I had to make a choice for First Breed, I'd recommend a Standard Poodle. They're intelligent, athletic, very trainable, and can be great with kids when bred, raised, and trained properly. They're also not yappy. Their coats are classed among the less allergenic, which means that they might be suitable for Malia.

All the same, I have to smile when I think of what the White House would be like with, say, half a dozen Old English Sheepdogs barreling down the halls.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Proud All Over Again

I've been sitting at home, feeling sorry for myself because everyone else is out at the BCCA National in California, drinking Sonoma County cabernet and having a grand old time -- while I'm freezing here in New England. It isn't the first, or fifth, or fifteenth, or fiftieth time I've wished that I'd had the available cash to take Dinah out there and show her to Wendy Hines. Bess and Travis will just have to uphold the family honor for us.

The one bright spot is if I hadn't been stuck home this week, I wouldn't have been here to pull the latest issue of the Bearded Colleague (the BCCC's quarterly magazine) out of the mailbox. This was the Specialty issue, so it brought back some nice memories of August in Gananoque all over again. I'd taken out a nice little black-and-white brag ad for Dinah's two Canadian wins this year, and Lois (the editor, who also owns Seamus's litter sister Kyla) did a fabulous job with it.

Dinah's BCCC win photo (photo by Kathleen Schaffer of Pup Art):

The part that I've been waiting for is the judge's commentary on her various placements. Here's what she had to say about Dinah:

Breaksea November Storm: 1st in Open Bitch. Quality bitch of the style I like, beautiful feminine head and expression, she is completely balanced combining strength with quality, shown in good coat and condition, her free flowing movement impressed me, I felt she was worthy of Winners Bitch.

Another sweet and completely unexpected surprise was the note of congratulations that Seamus's breeders added to his mom Maxine's ad in the Colleague. Not only did they congratulate Conor for his BOW/AOM at the Specialty, but they also congratulated Seamus for completing his APDT Rally Level 1 championship (RL1X) back in September. I have to admit to getting a little choked up. We expect Dinah Moe to get the glory when she does well, but it was genuinely touching for Seamus to get some too.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Up Close and Personal

Our show photos from the Harvest Cluster arrived in the mail today. The Lovely One has never looked lovelier. Ta- daaaaa!

Here's the photo from Saturday's show. Judge: Vincent Grosso. Photo by JC Photography.

And here's Sunday's appropriately seasonal photo with judge Larry Stein. Photo by Perry Phillips.

Monday, October 13, 2008

This Just In: Lightning Does Strike Twice

Palisades Kennel Club, 10/11/08
Winners Bitch, 3 points, First Major

Garden State Bearded Collie Clan/Ramapo Kennel Club, 10/12/08
Winners Bitch, 2 points

Kathy said it first, but I was thinking it. Neither of us could shake the feeling of deja vu, the sense that we'd been somewhere before.

When we went to Canada for the BCCC Specialty in August, I was convinced that Dinah wouldn't win the show for a second time. It wasn't due to any lack of confidence in The Lovely One or in Kathy's handling -- only that the odds of her winning twice at the same show seemed pretty remote -- and at a national specialty, even less likely. Was I surprised to be proven wrong!

Likewise, Dinah went WB at the Garden State Bearded Collie Clan's Regional Specialty last year. (Blog post is here.) It was a beautiful Indian Summer day, we had a great time, and I'd already found a soft spot in my hard little heart for that show. When the time came to enter for this year, I not only wanted to go right back to the GSBCC Regional, but I was psyched to enter on that Saturday and make a weekend of it this time.

Even though the GSBCC Regional didn't have enough bitch entries for a major, the Saturday Palisades show did. I tried not to care about that part too much. Majors have a way of breaking your heart if you let them, after all.

We had a good crew coming: Jake (as a special this year) and Diva, plus Kathy's Newfie Casey and client Newfie Clarence. Kathy recruited Joanne (one of the juniors who helped us out at that show last year) to come back and lend a hand. Sadly, Jake had forgotten to bring most of his coat, so Deb and Kathy agreed to pull him from the show and let him serve as a cheering section for the grrrls.

After our embarrassing loss at Westchester, I asked Val (who is an animal communicator) what Dinah was thinking. Dinah replied that she wanted to have fun at the shows, and that she didn't enjoy showing when everyone was too serious. With that in mind, we let Dinah goof around with her buddy Jake as much as she wanted to. She didn't care to pal around with the Newfies, though -- she only had eyes for the Beardie boys.

Saturday: Strike One

On Saturday, Diva was entered in Sweeps before the regular Beardie classes. While Kathy took Diva into the ring, Joanne and I readied Dinah for later on that morning. (Well, Joanne worked on Dinah. I just kept her standing up.) This means I didn't have a chance to watch Diva show, so forgive me if I get her placements wrong. I'll correct them once the results are posted.

Anyway, Kathy, Deb, and Diva returned with a third-place ribbon, a puppy toy, and a check for something like $5.27. Now Deb can answer "Yes" the next time that anyone asks her, "Have you ever won money at dog shows?" Diva can take that $5 and change and parlay that into a little shopping spree for puppy toys.

Thanks to Joanne's expert grooming, Dinah looked her loveliest for the regular classes that day. She was one of two Open Bitches, and took First... and then before I could draw breath again, she took... Winners Bitch!

I didn't even dare react. Everyone under the grooming tent was asking the same question: Did the major hold? In New Jersey, you need 7 bitches for a major.

When the ring steward (who was quite a character -- ask Kathy!) verified that yes indeed, the major had held, I was still too surprised to react. After all this time, expense, and heartache... could Dinah really have picked up her first major? Weren't majors something other people's dogs got and not ours? Surely there was some mistake. People must think I'm the coolest character at ringside, but I'm not. I'm just holding my breath the whole time, and for so long that I forget to let it out again.

Woohoo! It was indeed Dinah's first major. My friends under the tent congratulated me, including Karen Bowens, who has handled Dinah in the past and who had the other Open Bitch. I told her that I was sorry that Dinah didn't cooperate for her at Westchester, but it makes for a good war story. Dinah didn't get BOW, but we didn't care. We had our major anyway. We took our picture with the judge, and returned to our grooming area happy.

Dinah won some pretty decent swag, too: an engraved cast pewter medallion from the Palisades KC, plus a dog toy and a decoupaged treat jar from GSBCC.

It was a pretty good day in Newfie-land later on, too. Kathy's boy Casey, who has been waiting to grow up a bit, took BOW and the available 2 points. He really looked wonderful out there, and behaved nicely for Kathy.

Clarence acquitted himself nicely for Joanne, considering that it was his first show. Kathy and Joanne had raised blisters on their scissoring fingers trying to find a show dog under all that hair -- and they succeeded. Although Clarence was a tad dubious about this weird new sport, he behaved well enough to take his class and go Reserve to Casey.

Kathy, Deb, Joanne, and I held our post-show celebration at a Tuscan bistro not far from our hotel. If you're ever in or near Newton, NJ and are looking for some amazing Italian food, go to the Tuscan Bistro on Route 206. We raved about the place all during and after the meal. If we show there again next year, we are definitely going back there for an encore dinner!

Sunday Classes: Strike Two

Maybe it's because I've had a lot of practice at not getting my hopes up, but I had long been convinced that Dinah wouldn't be the judge's type. Larry is one of Traveler's breeders, and Trav is a very different type of Beardie from Dinah. (This is why Val didn't enter the shows. Both Bob, the sweeps judge, and Larry are two of Traveler's breeders.) Larry has never met Dinah or Kathy, even though his wife Angela has.

We've known since the entries closed that the show wouldn't have a major for bitches, but if Dinah went BOW, she could get the major from the boys' entry. The odds weren't really in our favor, but it made for a nice dream. Imagine finishing out there among friends, in the Indian Summer sunshine?!

Diva took Second in Sweeps, but was not happy with the golf carts trundling past the ring. Deb worked on desensitizing her to the ambient noise of dog shows by having her stay by the ring for a while, getting used to the various sights and sounds.

I barely remember the class judging, perhaps due to oxygen starvation brought on by forgetting to breathe again. Angela took photos at ringside. I had my camera, but forgot to use it.

Everything I'd assumed about Larry's likes and dislikes were wrong, wrong, wrong. He picked Dinah for WB! He also picked handsome Joel, a distant relative of Dinah's from the Breaksea/Balidorn side of the family, for WD. Karen handles Joel, and I've liked that dog from the minute I saw him. He's not a British import, but he's the son of two British imports -- both beautiful dogs.

Sunday BOB: Strike Three

When Best of Breed finally came around, I could barely stand the suspense. I could barely stand up! If Larry picked Dinah for BOW, lightning might as well strike me on the spot. Nothing more fantastic, or unlikely, would happen that weekend. He gave both dogs a look that seemed to last weeks, and for an infinite minute there I thought he'd pick her for BOW. He did end up picking Joel, but we were that close. People came by later to say "We were rooting for you" -- including Karen. She showed Joel well and he looked great. Except that I'm biased, I might have picked him too.

Joanne came by with the armload of trophy-type stuff that Dinah had won: a papier-mache box, a hand-painted Lenox plate that just happened to be Val's work, and the First and Winners rosettes. Kathy handed me Dinah's leash. "Here. Let's make her happy; you can take her back to the tent." Larry had a pile of breeds to judge before we could get a photo, so our objective was to keep Dinah happy, clean, and cool.

GSBCC throws a terrific catered luncheon feast for exhibitors at its regional specialty. Karen's sister Gail was this year's host/chair. I fully intend to steal this idea for BCCME's regional, if we ever get around to throwing one. Kathy and Joanne had to eat and run to get the Newfies ready for judging and Deb needed to tend to Jake and Diva, so I ended up alone at the table about midway through my sandwich. I migrated to Lucy's table and started chatting with Joanne Williamson about regionals, nationals, and other scary subjects appropriate for Hallowe'en. Joanne's gorgeous puppy-boy Jack not only took Best Puppy at the regional, but he also ended up taking a Puppy Group 1 later in the day. I don't know how he fared in Best Puppy in Show.

Later on in the afternoon, it was the Newfies' turn to shine at their supported entry. Clarence looked and behaved even better on Sunday than he had on Saturday. Casey took WD and his very first major! Both boys won pottery, dog toys, and heaps of other goodies along with their rosettes. The weekend turned out to be a pretty good one for Kathy, as far as majors are concerned -- and she even got to bring one of them home with her dog! Woohoo! If I'm not mistaken, this brings Casey up to 7 points with one major. Dinah now has 21 points and one major.

Eventually, we took our pictures, packed our equipment and our swag, and headed for home. Unlike last year's trip home, we didn't end up stuck on I-84 for hours behind a traffic accident that closed the road. I'd like to think that the rest of this year's shows, like our ride home, are nothing but smooth sailing ahead.

More Belated Shout-Outs

We haven't posted anything to this blog since Westchester, but Barb Rimoshytus sent me this photo of Rio's BOW win from last month. He now only needs one more major to finish, just like The Lovely One.

Barb also reported that her Golden, Tazzy, completed his RN at the Golden Retriever Club of America's national specialty in RI. I reported this along with Seamus's rally-roo news on my other blog, but Barb and our cheering section visit this one. Tazzy finished the title with a perfect score and a second-place finish out of 65-odd Goldens entered.

Congratulations to Barb and both boys!

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Voila -- the BCCC Show Photo!

Thanks to Kathleen Shaffer of Pup Art for this screen-rez image. Kathleen took a gazillion really great shots of The Princess, and it was hard to decide which one to pick to send to everybody. I can't wait to get the prints into people's hands!

You can see all of the photos -- candids as well as wins -- on her Web site.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

No Joy in Mudville, But Plenty of Mud

Time for another chorus of that old song: Why, oh why, do we do this, again?

Of course we can't win them all. Ask most exhibitors and they'll probably say that their dogs lose more often than they win. Still, Dinah's been "pointed out" since last June, and we still just can't seem to get those gawdforsaken majors done. This means that aside from the Canadian and UKC shows, every single show we've entered since then has been a failed attempt at trying to get those majors. Every single one. Even when we've won, we've lost: someone doesn't bring a bitch entry, the major breaks, and we've taken two points from someone else who could really have used them.

We gave it another shot this weekend. I drove through friggin' Tropical Storm Hanna to the Red Roof Inn in Milford, CT on a day when I would much rather have stayed home with my sweetie and all my dogs, watching our Netflix rentals and making popcorn. But noooooo. There I was on friggin' I-95 in Providence, half-blinded and half-deafened by the rain pounding on my car, trying to get to the hotel so I wouldn't have to drive five hours to a show on show day. I got stuck in traffic behind one car crash, and passed a couple of others.

Not that we're afraid of a little rain, or even a lot of it. Dinah thrives in crappy weather. She loves showing in mud, and she doesn't care if her feet get wet. Maybe it's the British heritage thing.

We did have mud at the show. The rings were actually pretty dry, but there were some major mud grooves cut into the fields where vehicles sank a little getting into and out of the parking areas. We brought Dinah to the ring in boots.

All six bitches were in the Open class at the Tarrytown show, even the ones who were being shown by their breeders. It was a massively competitive class, with nary a bad one in the bunch. The usual "big hats" were there, plus a couple of the top breeder/owner/handlers. Every single entry was beautiful, impeccably groomed, and worthy of the major. The judge placed Dinah fifth out of the six. He wasn't grossly confused like the last judge we faced last time we tried for a major. It simply wasn't her day. Again.

Dinah just wasn't "on" today, and when you're faced with a lineup like the one we faced, it isn't enough just to go in there and look pretty good. You really have to shine -- but she didn't shine, and so she ended up in the penultimate spot in the pack.

There's no shame in being beaten by a lineup like that, but I just can't help but wonder if it will ever be our turn. I have a friend who finally just spayed her bitch at age 8 after failing to get her majors and finish her. She's a beautiful girl who just doesn't happen to like showing very much -- which is generally not Dinah's problem. I just can't see myself still trying to get those same majors for five or six more years, when a single show entry will be above $50 and entries will be down so low that it will take two male Beardies to make a major -- but the AKC will keep the number of bitches at six just to keep things interesting.

When I talked to Greg on the phone afterward, he asked me whether it might not be time to just give up. I couldn't give him an answer.

We're approaching the part of the year when we can pretty much count the number of shows we're entering between now and New Year's (probably two). Because winter comes early and stays late in this latitude, the new year won't start up for us again until next April. Come spring, we'll have a whole new crop of hot competitors to face. They'll all finish in 3-4 shows and we'll still be plugging along.

Kathy's trying to help strategize by creating the perfect conditions for Dinah to win. The show is preferably outdoors, not too hot, and she gets to play with at least one of her buddies. Of course we'll have Great Bait there, and we won't have shown her every day of a three-day weekend.

We have to keep hoping that day will come (actually, "those days", since we still need two majors) -- but when?

Friday, September 05, 2008

Here's the Princess!

Isn't she pretty? Not 30 seconds after she came home from the groomer's, she was outside in the backyard looking to expand on Charlie's Big Dig. Fortunately, we caught her before she could get started. We might have to show in the mud on Sunday, but I'd rather she stay clean for just a little while longer...

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Oh Canada! Part Quatre

Bearded Collie Club of Canada National Specialty, 8/20/08
Winners Bitch, 5 CKC points

Kathy and The Lovely One. Photo by Shane Peters.

My friend Val (Trav's mom) and I always have a great time traveling together. She's always laid-back and agreeable, and experienced at keeping drivers' attention during long drives. I'm generally happy as long as I can stop for coffee from time to time. It's a good thing we're compatible road buddies, since we've had our share of Bogus Journeys together -- but even then, we can never say we didn't have any fun.

After Boobyprize Rent-a-Car screwed us badly on the National Capital trip last year, we learned our lesson for this trip. I rented a Chevy Uplander from another rental company, and they actually had a vehicle available when we needed one. Although the previous renters had spilled fruit punch Kool-Aid all over the rear carpeting, the vehicle was spacious, quiet to drive, and not as greedy for gasoline as I'd feared it might be. Even the faint odor of fruit punch wasn't unpleasant.

Trav is used to having the entire middle floor area of a Ford Econoline van to himself. Dinah likes to sleep on her back in her crate in the back of a Subaru Forester. Even though neither dog exactly got his/her wish for traveling accommodations, we managed to get them, all their gear, and all of our gear into the vehicle with a few cubic inches to spare. Luckily for us, Kathy planned to bring her grooming table and EZ-Up. If we'd needed to stow Dinah's table in our van, we'd have been doomed.

Val had caught one of those vicious summer colds, and her ears popped every time we drove over a hill. She came armed with a battery of medications and great determination not to let a little thing like being sick prevent her from going on this adventure.

The trip out was mostly uneventful, aside from a stretch of driving through pounding rain while the sun shone brightly. We stopped for coffee and biology breaks, and yakked with Kathy and our respective family members. As Val and I usually do on long trips, we managed to figure out a scheme to save the world and made huge progress toward proving the Unified Field Theory. (I told you we travel well together.)

As we turned north at Syracuse to head toward Canada, Kathy called. "You never told me we had to drive over so many bridges!" Kathy and I have something in common: We're both a bit scared of heights, and neither of us likes to drive over really high bridges with views that go a long way down. Since I drove to Gananoque at night two years ago, I didn't see the long way down from either of the bridges. Kathy and Deb cursed me roundly for sending them on that route, and when it came time for Val and me to drive over those same bridges, I cursed myself. Val is not keen on crossing bridges high over water. She probably felt like cursing, too.

Since Kathy and Debbie arrived in Gananoque a couple of hours ahead of us, they set up camp for us behind the club tent near ringside. Their timing couldn't have been better, since the skies opened and rain pounded down just after they finished. Val and I ended up driving into Gananoque in the deluge, but managed to find our room next to Kathy and Deb and to get settled in.

After the long drive, Dinah and Trav were in the mood to do just about anything but settle in. They wrestled and bounced and played most of the evening. Now that Trav is an honest-to-goodness studmuffin, he tried getting a little fresh with Dinah in spite of Val's admonishments of "No butts!". It wasn't really Trav's fault, though. Dinah loves to lead him on, and kept getting him into trouble with his mom. Dinah also flirted with Jake right under Trav's nose. I tried to tell Trav that the Princess was a coquette, but all he said was "Arrrrr."

The next day was Sweeps Day. Since Fee was too young to come along on the trip, neither Val nor I had to show that day. We enjoyed a leisurely breakfast, lingered over coffee and tea, and negotiated the swampy ground as best we could to keep our dogs' and our feet as clean as possible. I'm a BCCC member, so I felt I had to open my big mouth in the club tent. "I'm not busy today. Do you need me to do anything?"

Next thing I knew, I was helping steward for the rally ring. That was fine with me -- I've never done CKC rally, but have done AKC and APDT for a while. The OB/rally judge, Michel Calhoun, is a hoot in the ring and just as much fun to steward for as he is to show under. The rally trial -- two of them, actually -- took many hours longer than anyone expected, and we ended up having to vacate the ring for Sweepstakes. In spite of the marathon, we had a good time. We handed out trophies and rosettes, swapped signs and reset courses, hunted for rocks to hold the signs down in the breeze, and kept traffic running as smoothly as we could. Rupert, Bliss, and Pippa (whom I think is Seamus's niece) all qualified twice. I forget whether Pippa finished her Novice title there. Her mom Ann and I have been threatening to enter a couple of CARO rally trials with Pippa and Seamus, just for the fun of it.

Meanwhile, back at our little base camp, Kathy showed Diva in Sweeps and didn't have much to say about it. I was just sorry that I didn't get to watch Lucy judging in the Sweeps ring. Sparkle Puppy, handled by her dad Jack, took 4th in the Junior Puppy Sweeps. Dinah snoozed on her back in her crate and didn't even miss me. She enjoyed having to run the Excellent course for the one Excellent entry during the Honor exercise. She doesn't really know anything about Rally just yet, but she knew what to do with the panel jumps.

The next day, Val and Kathy took the boys into the regular classes in the morning while I bathed and dried Dinah's "tidy whities." Val and I had given The Princess the famous four-step treatment before leaving Maine, so she just needed a touch-up on her face and feet. Dinah tolerated the bath well -- even though it came out of a cold-water hose -- but was less pleased about having to endure the blow dryer.

In Open Dogs, Trav made the cut and Jake took 2nd. Seamus's litter brother Conor took Winners Dog. Val had been recovering from her head cold, but the lack of oxygen while running around the ring made her feel faint. She said that she'd barely held it together while showing Trav, and that Trav had sensed it and started to act up a bit at the end. She ended up needing to get to a chair in the club tent, and some attentive folks put Trav back into his crate. Val recovered after sitting a bit, but regretted that her feeling faint out there might have cost Trav a placement.

The weekend was not entirely lost for Val and Trav, though. Quite a few people came by to talk to Val about Trav, and he already has at least a couple of potential dream dates lined up for this fall. Sometimes being seen is almost good enough.

Maryann and Cowboy, who will always be Cowboy Francis now that I know his middle name, had a wonderful time in the ring -- and looked it. I didn't know then that they had also earned a leg toward a Canadian CD on the previous day.

As I said in my post about the Great Lakes Regional, one of the games that all exhibitors play at ringside is Guess the Judge's Pattern. One of the major frustrations with the Great Lakes judge is that her judging was all over the place, and no one could figure out what the heck she was thinking. Anyway, our judge at the BCCC National was so consistent that she picked at least three pairs of littermates for her placements in various classes.

In the Junior Puppy Bitch (6-9) class, Maryann's Sparkle came in 2nd to her litter sister -- and the 3rd and 4th-place puppy girls were also littermates to each other. Maryann also showed Zoe in Bred-By and took 2nd -- so there was rejoicing to be had over in the After Dark/Cameron camp, too.

Deb had been feeling a little let down since Diva hadn't done anything in Puppy Sweeps the day before. I reassured her that Dinah hadn't done anything in Puppy Sweeps back in 2006, and look what happened to her in the regular classes! Anyway, Diva and her litter sister Hannah both placed in their class in Senior Puppy Bitch (9-12). Hannah took 3rd, and Diva took 4th.

In the meantime, Team Dinah sprang into action. It really does take a village to show a Beardie girl. Val stripped some extra coat from around Dinah's neck and shoulders to smooth her outline. Kathy worked on Dinah's head. I held the princess to keep her from sitting down. The scene reminded me vaguely of the beauty shop where the ladies flock around Dorothy before her audience with the Great and Powerful Oz.

Kathy wasn't thrilled about having to be first in line in the Open class. The first dog/handler team in line always has less time to get set up before showing than do the other teams. Still, Dinah was in a good mood and was willing to set up quickly. I made sure she could see me while in the ring so she wouldn't spend her showing time bending herself into a pretzel looking for me.

The Open class was as competitive a class as I think I've ever seen anywhere, with the possible exception of the Bred-By class at the same show. There were 13 Open entries, but only 11 actually made it into the ring. Some were finished AKC champions, and some (like Dinah) were works in progress. Still, there wasn't a one in the ring who didn't look beautiful and show wonderfully. It must have been a hard decision for the judge to make.

I took up a spot at ringside next to my friend Lois, who co-breeds with Seamus's breeder and who owns one of his litter sisters. Cathy, Seamus's breeder, sat in the screen tent behind us with Elaine, who owns brother Conor. "Oooh," Cathy breathed as the bitch judging progressed. "She really likes Dinah." The exhibitors showed individually, then went around the ring together. "She really likes Dinah."

The judge pointed to Dinah so quickly that I couldn't even react. I'm a delayed-reaction type anyway, and my only thought right at that moment was to help Kathy by taking the stuff she'd just been awarded off her hands. I crossed the spectator area to collect the first-place rosette, trophy, and bag of Royal Canin dog food. Maryann gave me a huge hug and said, "It must have been the Great Bait." She was semi-kidding, but I think it actually did help. Thus far, Great Bait is the only bait that Dinah considers worthy, and for which she'll actually self-stack in the ring.

Other helpful folks, in order to help Dinah stay interested long enough to get through Winners Bitch before taking a mental vacation, offered Kathy pieces of everything from homemade beef jerky to roasted chicken breast. Kathy quickly tried each one and kept the ones that Dinah seemed interested in.

Finally, it was time for the Winners Bitch lineup. Since Dinah was the Open Bitch, she remained at the head of the line, and the judge quickly went over the other class winners. They did one circuit, then another, then another. You could almost see the thought bubble over Dinah's head: "If they think I'm going around this ring ONE MORE TIME, they have another think coming." You could also almost see the corresponding thought bubble over Kathy's head: "Just a little longer. Just a little longer."

On the last circuit, the judge pointed to Kathy and Dinah. Kathy couldn't help a little jump in the air and a whoop. "Wow!" exclaimed Cathy from behind me. "Congratulations -- she really did like her!" Other folks called congratulations as I made my way -- still too amazed to react -- over to help Kathy. "I didn't do anything, " I replied. "All I did was give her a ride."

The judge chose Linda Teplin's Arwen for Reserve. Arwen had taken 2nd place in Open. There was much hugging and hooting and pounding of backs and shoulders. My friend Pat stopped by to praise Dinah and to offer congratulations. I'm sure I babbled out plenty of thanks, but it really is all a blur to me. All I could think about was keeping Dinah clean for photos and texting Gill Burfitt to let her know the news.

All the class winners from the day's showing lined up under the show tent for their turns with the judge and photographer. "Ohmygod," Val said when we entered the tent and took our place in line. "Do you get that, too?" She indicated the big honkin' trophy for Winners Bitch, a decorated silver cup atop a wooden pedestal that was (if possible) even bigger than the Stanley Pup that we'd won in 2006. I think all I said was, "Wow."

The photos are here, under Wednesday Ribbons, at the top of page 3. Ours are on order. Shane came over to congratulate everyone, and mentioned that he had some very nice photos, too -- some truly gorgeous shots of the Princess and Kathy at work.

Here's one he took of the two of them in the Open class:

Finally, I had the chance to give Dinah some water, and I was able to send an email to Gill and Jana and a post to Twitter. Gill must have immediately phoned Alan on the road, because thirty seconds later, I received a text message from him: "Do I hear that congratulations are in order?" An email arrived a few minutes later from Jana, and then pokes from my Facebook buddies who were also on the Beardie list and who had seen Gill's email or my Twitter update.

Dinah picked up 5 points as a result of going WB, which brings her CKC point total to 9. We need just one more point under one more judge to finish her in Canada. If only finishing in AKC were half this easy!

We also won two lovely wood-burned trophies that displayed some beautiful graphics of Beardies. When I spied the initials on the back, I sent a message to another Facebook buddy. She's a sculptor, so I knew she worked primarily in clay. "Yes, " she replied. "And they're clay, not wood. I just love the spirit of wood." Amazing! Honestly, I have the two trophies right here in the office, and there is no way I could have told that they hadn't come from a tree. The wood even has grain! Every time I pick one of them up, I'm impressed all over again. Clay! Wow! These are the trophies that we get to keep.

Because I joined the BCCC back when Dinah went Best Puppy in 2006, I had the member's privilege to take home the big honkin' trophy that Dinah had just won and to display it for a year, then return it before the following year's Specialty. This involved retrieving the trophy's packing box and all the padding, so I hoisted the trophy onto one shoulder and set out across the resort in search of the seminar room, where the trophies were stored. The news hadn't entirely sunk into my shocked little brain then, so I must have looked bizarre, wandering around in a daze with a ton of walnut and silver on one shoulder.

I ran into Maryann on the way. "Sucks to be you," she said. "Having to take home all those extra trophies and stuff." She had a small cache of loot from Sparkle's and Zoe's placements and Cowboy's CD leg and 3rd place, so she didn't go home empty-handed either.

The results and an online marked catalog are available on the BCCC Web site.

We decided that we needed to go out to celebrate, and we chose an Italian place not too far from the hotel. I had wanted to order a round of champagne, or something sparkling, for our toast to all of our winners, but we picked the one place that had nothing sparkling on the menu. (Maybe I should have ordered a round of Sprite, or something.) Other Beardie people streamed into the restaurant, including Debbie and Richard (Moxie and Rowdy's parents) and Jack and Maryann. They all kept trying to convince the waitress that I was paying for dinner, and when that didn't work, they tried to get her to believe that I was buying the drinks.

Val and I had thought we'd start the long drive home right after breakfast the next day. Since Dinah was WB, however, we needed to stay the next day for Best of Breed. Dinah had also planned to go home on Friday morning, it seems. She showed pretty well, but her mind wasn't completely in the game, and it showed. Seamus's handsome brother Conor ended up going BOW, and received an Award of Merit besides! We like to think that we're keeping things in the family. Sister Windy had been entered in breed, but Cathy had opted to come dogless to the show. Sister Kyla also remained at home.

Quite a few Beardies we know were there in the BOB ring, including Dexter, Chase, Rebel, Biff, Merlin, and Hart. Denzel, the handsome brownie who is Cocoa's and Qi's dad, took BOB. Rebel got an AOM, which was nice to see. His dad Ian was last year's show chair and had worked his tail off. This year, the two of them came all the way out from BC to show, only a few weeks after Ian had had surgery. The two of them looked great and deserved the kudos.

The drive back home was long, long, long -- but that too passed in a daze. We'd had to juggle some things around to fit in Dinah's crate so that she could sleep in it, plus leave some floor space for Trav -- oh, and fit in all of the loot that Dinah took home. We didn't see much of Dinah, and not only because the van was filled from floor to ceiling with stuff. She welcomed the chance to crash after the show, and slept all the way to Maine aside from the stops for biology breaks. We played with the radio, chattered, and stopped for caffeine and Mickey D's Plasticburgers. In spite of the long hours, the rain, the mud, the head cold, and everything else, we declared this trip to have been an Excellent Adventure.

Into each Excellent Adventure a little Bogus Journey must fall. Pat came down to our house to pick up Val, Trav, and all their gear. Greg followed me to the airport in my car to drop off the rental van. When I reached the drive to the airport, I saw that he hadn't made it through the traffic light at the end of the exit ramp. I waited, and waited. The cell phone rang. It turned out that the car had died right at the traffic light, and Greg had seen smoke pour out from under the hood. The fire department came, and determined that the smoke was actually steam. The car had probably blown a hose.

There we were at almost 1 freakin' AM after 8+ hours of driving, in the freakin' dark, at the end of a Turnpike exit ramp nowhere near anything but the far end of the airport, with a freakin' dead car. AAA towed it back to our local garage for us, and we took the rental home for one more night. It turned out that the car had a cracked radiator that just spontaneously gave out at the traffic light. So much for the convenient -- and much cheaper -- hose theory. I had to catch a plane to Minneapolis in about 14 hours, and I still had the rental that was due back in only 8 hours. Journeys just don't get much more Bogus than that.

Things did work out eventually. We returned the van. I made my plane. My car was fixed. I unpacked almost half of the stuff we'd brought home, including the Big Honkin' Trophy. Even my bag, which had traveled home from Minneapolis without me (more on my other blog later), turned up where expected and made it home safely.

It's really only dawned on me just how well Dinah did at the show when I had to explain the whole adventure to Greg while unveiling the Big Honkin' Trophy and giving it pride of place in the living room. Next year's show is likely to take place someplace in Quebec, which is about as close to right next door as it can be and still be on the Canadian side of the border. Val's already talking about going next year. I haven't broached the subject to Kathy yet. Before I do, I'll have to make sure we don't have to drive over any big old bridges.

Some Quick Shout-Outs

Congratulations to everyone who came to the BCCC National and brought something home! I hope a good time was had by all -- even the show committee. See you all in Quebec!

A Brittany friend from YCKC reported to me that Steph and Bowie of Run Bowie! fame finished Bowie's championship a couple of weeks ago. Congratulations to CH Bowie, who had to beat a bunch of his half-siblings for that first major. Steph, update your blog and tell us about the finish!!

Greetings too to Barb Rimoshytus and Rio the Papillon. Barb reports that she's feeling great after facing some health issues earlier this year. Rio hasn't been in as many shows this year as he has last year just because work, family, and life have managed to take priority -- but we hope to run into Barb and Rio sometime this fall.

My friend Monica of Ask Dog Lady wrote to report that she now has a weekly radio show! You can listen to a replay on her Web site, or catch her live on the radio in the Boston area on WCAP, 980 AM, on Wednesdays from 1-3 PM. Best of luck with the show! You guys really should consider doing a remote at the Boston shows this year. I'll be there to blog again for the show's PR firm. We can make a party of it!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Public Service Announcement: AKC New Exhibitor Mentors

AKC has launched a New Exhibitor Mentor program to help Dog Show Newbies to get started in the world of dog showing. As far as I know, all local kennel clubs have been asked to tap someone to serve as the local New Exhibitor Mentor. Here's the funniest part: York County Kennel Club's mentor is none other than yours truly.

The New Exhibitor Mentor page on the AKC Web site contains links to all of the AKC rules and procedures you'll need to know in order to get started. It also has a Web form that allows you to send your name and address to AKC, and AKC will return a list of mentors in your local area.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Feeling the Virtual Love

MB-F Virtual Dog Show, 7/14-16
1/W/BOB/Group 3

Just for chuckles, I entered the MB-F Virtual Dog Show last year, and was pleased when The Lovely One received a nice JPG certificate for Best Opposite. If I recall correctly, she beat 2 or 3 other class bitches, and the lone dog won BOB.

Of course, the minute MB-F announced this year's virtual show, I was ready to enter. I uploaded some new photos, reused an old favorite (the BOW photo from last year's Goshen show), and crossed my fingers.

On Monday, I received a barrage of InfoDog Winner emails: First in Open, then Winners, and finally Best of Breed. (The competition was two class bitches and one bitch special. There were no boys this year.)

Even though it's just a "pretend" show, I was still pleased. I was about to say that we haven't been feeling the love in the real shows this year, but then I remembered: Dinah's only been in three AKC shows this year. In two of them, she went BOS and would have had a major in one of them if everyone had shown up. I guess we're feeling at least some love -- just not enough to finish.

I sent off a copy of the BOB certificate (which Blogger keeps refusing to let me upload, or I'd show it to you here) to Kathy, to Dinah's breeder Gill, and to Jana, who owns Dinah's litter sister Buffy. They were appropriately pleased, even though we don't get any real-world glory for it.

Then, this morning, I opened up my inbox to find this:

This pleased me quite a bit. The Rough Collie and Aussie who placed ahead of Dinah in Group both had outstanding photos; I'd have picked them, too. The Group Fourth was the Canaan Dog, for those of you keeping score.

Naturally, I shipped that photo off to Kathy, Gill, and Jana right away. After that, I thought I'd check out the photos of the other group winners. I noticed a little icon just below Dinah's picture in the Group Results window. I clicked on it, and up popped this:

This appears to be a quality dog with a correct coat, however there is so much that a judge cannot do in this sort of competition. I wouldn't be surprised to hear that this dog has or will win big.

That, to me, was the nicest surprise of all. Dinah's was the only picture in the Herding Group that contained a judge's note, so it's nice that the judge took the time to comment. This one's a keeper, too!

The Virtual Dog Show is still in progress, by the way, and you may log in to vote for the dogs in the "fun" categories. I had hoped that my friend Patti would enter Clem and Cooper, but the "fun" show has no Beardies. Go and see the other breeds, though, and vote for your favorites!

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Oh Canada! Part Trois

Sarnia Kennel Club, 7/5/08
BOW/BOS, 4 points

7/6/08, RWB

The Lovely One and I took our friend Maryann up on her offer of crash space and dog handling over the July 4 holiday. We planned to drive out there, go to the Great Lakes Bearded Collie Club's regional specialty on the 4th proper, and then head into Canada to show there over the weekend. After the Sunday show, Dinah and I would head back across southern Ontario for home.

The wait on the Bluewater Bridge into Michigan took quite a while, due to the fact that it was a holiday weekend and they'd blocked off the middle lanes from traffic. I'm just a tad afraid of heights, so sitting several hundred feet up at a standstill wasn't really my idea of a good time. I did get a chance to watch the boats and admire the blue water, though.

Of course, of all of the US Customs agents working on the US-Canadian border between Ontario and Michigan, I'd meet up with the one agent in the entire area who hailed from Portland, Maine. He noted my license plate and asked, "What paht o'Maine ya from, deah?" We exchanged my passport and several "Wicked Good"s, and he gave me directions to the nearest Dunkin' Donuts before sending me on my way. Ayuh!

Maybe it's because she's been traveling since she flew across the pond at age 10 weeks, but Dinah has always been a terrific road-trip companion. She enjoys sprawling on the bed with me at Red Roof Inns. Let the boys all sit at home and eat nasty microwaved spaghetti in front of the tube -- our road trips are girl time. I brush her, we walk, we share the bacon from my BLT, we hang out... all we really need to do is braid each other's hair and paint our nails. If the hotel has wireless broadband, then we're all set.

Sad to say, we weren't nearly as good guests at Maryann's house as we were at the Red Roof. I try to be as low-maintenance as possible, but I failed to give Dinah a copy of the memo. Much to my shock, she marked in the house -- always on the white carpets. She got along well with Maryann's Beardies, but developed a major crush on the young intact male, and wouldn't leave him alone. Poor Chase just wasn't used to that kind of attention; he just didn't know what to make of the little hussy. Although she'd already been mostly past her last season, she decided to start back up again just for his sake. I ended up having to keep Dinah on a Flexi, even in the house. I think we ran through the entire stock of Nature's Miracle in the house while we were there.

Thanks to Maryann and Jack and pups for their sainted patience with us! I honestly wish we'd been a little more low-impact than we turned out to be, but we had a terrific time. Someday, when I win the lottery or the escalating battle against clutter, I want to have the same doggie setup in my house that Maryann has in hers.

Why, Oh Why, Do We Do This, Again?

Stick around dog showing long enough, and you're bound to hear that question asked, in tones ranging from gently bemused to agonized wailing. I know I've sung several choruses of that particular song. Think of it as the Being and Nothingness of the dog show set.

The GLBCC Regional was one of those shows that inspired choruses of that same song from most of the attendees, even some of the winners. This has nothing to do with the host club, whose hospitality was matchless, and who put together a nicely run show. It was great to run into people whom I hadn't seen in years, and to put some names and email addresses together with some faces. I even won one of the raffle baskets.

Amy, the sweeps judge, is an old friend, and it was a pleasure to see her there. She will make a wonderful judge; she was gentle yet upbeat with everyone in her ring, and appeared to be having a terrific time. Jack showed Sparkle to her in Puppy 9-12 and received a 4th-place rosette. Maryann says that Sparkle will have a great time going toy shopping with the $9.10 cash prize.

One of the advantages of importing a judge from another country is exactly the same as one of the disadvantages: You probably won't know what that judge is going to do.

For people concerned about possible political choices and "face judging," importing a foreign judge provides a little hope that all exhibitors can start out with an equal amount of consideration. On the other hand, you also won't have any foreknowledge of what characteristics that judge favors, or his/her method of working, or anything that can help you calculate your dog's chance of success.

Some judges are "head judges." If your dog has a nice head, you probably want to show to that judge. Some favor type over movement, and some favor movement over type. You know your dog better than anyone else, so your best chance of success comes when you show to a judge who prefers the characteristics that match your dog's good points. Even if you're showing to a "face judge," your best chance lies with hiring one of those faces to show your dog.

Let's just say quickly that most of us probably won't be jetting off to New Zealand to show to this judge any time soon. This even goes for some of the winners. It wouldn't do to talk smack about her, much as I'd enjoy it. She's entitled to her choices; it's just that none of us could discern the pattern behind them.

Anyway, no majors for Dinah. Why, oh why, do we do this, again?

Good Day, Eh?

Although we knew there'd probably be majors at the Ann Arbor shows elsewhere in Michigan, the logistics of getting there from Maryann's house were just daunting -- plus the road there was heavily under construction. We decided to show closer to home by attending the shows in Sarnia, Ontario instead. Not only was Sarnia much closer by, but we could enjoy the trip, show at the more laid-back Canadian shows, and maybe forget about Friday.

Maryann, Jack, Chase, and Sparkle made the journey in the famous Doghair-mobile. Dinah and I followed in my little car. I put on my shades and listened to podcasts. Dinah napped in her crate. The trip over was absolutely delightful; we passed through gently-rolling, bright-green farm country, rode a six-car ferry across an aquamarine strait into Canada, and breathed in the sunshine. I contemplated the glacial color of that water and tried to imagine how I could possibly duplicate it in oil paint, or maybe gouache.

I even ran into the very same US Customs agent from Maine whom we'd met on the Bluewater Bridge. He caught sight of my car and called out, "Hey, what paht o'Maine ya from?" -- even though he already knew the answer. I guess you can get there from here! (Old Mainer joke. You had to be theyuh.)

You have to love CKC shows. They're just so laid-back, with the same simple running scheme as UKC shows. Everything just seems more informal and personal. I even got to meet Mark of COLMAR Show Services, whose emails I've been reading since Dinah and I first went to Gananoque in 2006. He even brought his two little puppers along to the show, and a dish of little Zukes treats that you could offer to them if you wanted to be their Best Friend Ever.

We parked our vehicles side by side under some large shade trees, set up the grooming tables and a couple of chairs, and just worked out of our cars. The weather was perfect. We chatted with friends. All was well.

Dinah ended up going BOW and BOS to the handsome, charming, and huggable Hart, earning her her first 4 Canadian points (and you only get 5 for going BIS!). Chase went WD for his final 2 Canadian points, so he's now a CKC/AKC/UKC champion. Dinah was only too happy to give him a congratulatory love-tap with her front paws. Our good day at Sarnia helped clear our collective mood after the existential confusion of the Friday show.

On Sunday, the 2 available points were hers to lose. She was a bit burnt out from showing and didn't care who knew it. The judge really wanted to give the points to puppy Hannah anyway, so everyone managed to go home happy.

That's the thing about dog showing. One day you're in the dumps and wondering why you bothered to get up that morning, and the next day you're on top of the proverbial world. Those top-of-the-world days are the real reason why we're willing to endure those other days.

Shout-Outs and Stuff

Thanks again to Maryann, Jack, Cowboy, Chase, Sunny, Checkers, and Sparkle-Pup for putting up with us. I had hoped we'd be lower-impact guests than we turned out to be, but we did have a good time. We hope you did, too.

Another shout-out to Ashley in New Brunswick, mom to Sadie and Chester (one of Trav's kids and a handsome little brownie). I had no idea you read this blog, but I'm tickled to bits!

Kathy reported that our buddy Jake took two of the majors in Springfield to finish his championship. Way to go, Jake! Congratulations to him, owner Deb, and Kathy for handling him! (Must feel nice to be finishing SOMEbody this year, eh?)

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Public Service Announcement: Dog Shows on Jeopardy!

Make sure to watch Jeopardy this Thursday, July 3rd to catch the category “A Day at the Dog Show.” Video clues were filmed at the Silver Bay Kennel Club of San Diego, thanks to the assistance of Show Chair Jim Locke and AKC Field Rep Lee Herr. AKC provided AKC banners and information for the clues. There will also be a “Spotlight” segment -– a brief vignette about Obedience.

You can find out where/when the show airs in your market at:

Monday, June 23, 2008

Tempus Fudge-It

Last night I emailed back and forth with my friend Pat in Ohio. As with almost every conversation about show entries this year, ours turned to the fact that entry numbers are in the proverbial toilet. Pat's one of those real die-hards who is out there showing every single weekend, taking the old Monster Van as far as it needs to go -- even to the FCI World Show in Mexico last year. She bemoaned the fact that sometimes she'd drive hundreds of miles to find that no one else had shown up, or that judging programs would come back and the only entries would be her dogs. This in Ohio, convenient to just about every decent-sized show location between the two coasts, plus Canada!

Anyway, in talking to Pat it suddenly hit me that we haven't had a major in Beardies in the Northeast since last December's Boston shows. Small wonder the pickings seem so slim -- I'd say that going 6 months without a major would narrow down the field of possibility some.

Since my luck is my luck, of course there are majors for both dogs and bitches in Beardies over July 4th weekend, when I won't even be here. Apparently Linda was successful in recruiting a bunch of people to come to Springfield (ugh, Springfield) and show that weekend. But would they come to Maine to either of our supported entries? Nooooooo. So much for the "supported" part of "supported entry."

If You Can't Beat 'Em (Because There's No One to Beat), Steward For 'Em

BCCME's second supported entry of the year, at the Penobscot Valley KC shows, seemed like a sure thing to us. School would be out, it would be summer in Maine, the sun would shine, and the lobster would be plentiful (if not exactly cheap). We figured that the weather would be more predictable (by Maine standards, anyway) than it usually is in May. If enough people showed enthusiasm for that weekend, we might even expand to holding a regional specialty then in future years! We felt like real heroes for supporting our local kennel clubs.

In theory, it seemed like a nice idea. In practice, we ended up drawing only 4 class bitches, and Val and Pat and I were the only Mainiacs who showed up. I decided (yet again) to leave Dinah at home and go play ring steward for the weekend. At least Trav took BOB both days, which pleased Val and Pat.

After some initial confusion when the head steward assigned two stewards to the same ring, I managed to end up working a ring with Jean Fournier, who was charming, gracious to everyone, and a lot of fun to work with. After she found out that it was my second time running a ring solo, she continually encouraged me and gave me some tips to help speed things up and keep the ring running on time.

I had great fun working across the table from an experienced steward from the Vacationland club. As the day grew progressively hotter and more humid, we peeled off layers, fanned each other, and compared notes about freezing at Acton in May. We joked about the hot spaghetti, hot chowder, and hot coffee we had for lunch (but it was good, and free, and we enjoyed it thoroughly anyway). We fantasized about ice cream sundaes and trips to the beach. We hoarded hand wipes for our judges and shared the walkie-talkie. Other stewards dropped by to visit and to hand out numbers while we were busy directing ring traffic.

Ring stewards share a kind of camaraderie that's unique among groups of dog show attendees. Once you've been initiated into the club, you get to keep company with a friendly, funny gang of self-described masochists. The experienced stewards band together to help the fledglings, and come armed with a wealth of "war stories" and helpful hints. The venue may change, the hosting club may change, but the legion of stewards is always the same.

You can always spot a show that's chaired by a ring steward (Vacationland being a great example). The coolers under the ring tables are always stocked. Volunteers come by with hot and cold drinks, extra hand wipes, Band-Aids, and other necessities. Everything runs on time. If you're stewarding at such a show, it's easy to get spoiled by all the care and attention. This show wasn't such an example -- we were lucky to see a single hand wipe per judge by the time Sunday rolled around - but no matter. We survived, and Sunday's sandwiches were fantastic.

A Quick Shout-Out

Steph and Bowie of Run Bowie! fame were in my ring on Saturday at the Penobscot show! I'd been hoping to meet her for a while, and we finally ended up in the same place. The two of them worked together nicely in the ring from what I could see, and I hope they do very well at the shows this summer.

Road Trip Over Niagara Falls

This week, Dinah Moe and I get to drive out to Michigan for the Great Lakes Bearded Collie Club's regional specialty. My friend Maryann and I devised this plan last year after I set up her Web site. "Think about this, " she said. "Bring Dinah out here where we'll definitely have a major. I'll show her there, and then we can go show in Canada for the weekend."

It seems as though we've had this plan forever, but now it's actually time to make the journey. The car has been outfitted with new front brake pads (cha-ching!), and has just undergone its 150,000 mile checkup. The entries are in for the shows in both countries, and we're ready. We'll drive across New York, enter Canada right by Niagara Falls, and cross the bottom part of Ontario to reach the "thumb" of Michigan. All three shows are just a short commute from Maryann's house. Wish us luck out there!

Road Trip, Part Two - Already

Hard to believe, but we've also just started planning for the BCCC National Specialty in Gananoque in August. Kathy's coming up to show Dinah, Jake, and Diva, and we're already compiling our To-Do lists and our To-Pack lists. August seems like it's a long ways away, but July starts next week. What happened to the summer, and where was I when it started to whiz by?

Of course, I have fond memories of returning to the site of Dinah's first big win ever (Best Puppy in Show at a national specialty at her fourth show) -- but I'm also looking forward to seeing everyone again. It'll be even sweeter this time because I won't have anyone screaming at me. Seamus's breeder will be there with one of his sisters. Moxie's breeder always throws a margarita party in her hotel room, and maybe the lovely Miss Moxie herself will be there. Pat's coming up from Ohio with Merlin (her English import) and a couple of puppy entries. Val and Trav are coming along to split the expenses and share the fun, and we're hoping for a better journey than the one we took to National Capital. (I intend to rent a van from a more reliable rental company. Enterprise had its chance and failed miserably.) If we're very lucky, Dinah will step into the ring with a few Canadian points already to her credit. Trav will enter a show as a class dog for the first time since he finished.

Here's hoping we do well, eh?

Thursday, June 12, 2008

No Prizes for Beauty, But Pretty Durned Slick

My friend Ann, who has Brittanys (and a blog -- link to come later), sent me the link to today. Since I get my daily emails from Infodog, I wasn't sure I really needed another show information site... but I took a peek, just to satisfy my curiosity.

Holy Pup, what a great site! The design and user interface won't win any beauty prizes any time soon -- the looks are strictly Microsoft FrontPage circa 1996 -- but you can find, and sort, and save, and contribute to just about anything you could want. The list of Very Nifty Features is almost too long to mention, but I'll give it a try.

1. Everybody gets to play hurry-up-and-wait at one dog show or another. Just because your ring has a start time of 8:00 AM doesn't mean you do, especially if there are two breed entries of 25 dogs apiece before your breed comes before the judge. Showdays has a terrific feature that helps you calculate your actual start time, as opposed to your judging program's assigned start time.

2. Favorites, favorites everywhere! You can pick your favorite host clubs and sign up to get notifications when information on their shows is available -- and not just conformation and obedience, either. You can also pick rally, agility, herding, tracking, and other activities. ShowDays covers all of the show superintendents in all of the 50 states, so you can even put up all the specialties in your breed and get information.

3. Let's face it, there are only three types of dog show judges in the whole world:

  • a. Great judges. These are the ones who put your dog up.
  • b. Sucky judges. These are the ones who didn't put your dog up.
  • c. Judges you haven't shown to yet, but who will eventually end up as a. or b.

Showdays allows you to not only rate judges you've shown under and to see what other people thought (experts as well as regular exhibitors), but you can even pick your favorite judges and keep them on a short list so you can see where they'll be judging next.

4. Host clubs have lots of resources to promote their non-show events as well as their shows. There are forums, announcement boards, and even virtual "booths" where a club can promote matches, clinics, and so on. Our local kennel club's publicity chair is going to love that!

5. Entry Promises. They really should rename this Major Builder. Luckier people, who actually get majors in their breeds, can collaborate online with fellow exhibitors to try and build majors. Not that I mind asking around and then trying to guess who actually did (or didn't) follow through, but this feature could take a lot of anxiety and guesswork out of entries once enough people you know start using it for your breed.

I could go on and on and on, but just go have a look for yourself. The site supports itself by offering two levels of membership: Basic (free) and Advanced (paid). Really, how much fun can you have for $5 or less per month? That's still only two-thirds the price of Infodog, and you get to try out all the features for a month before you decide whether to commit.

Go on -- check out ShowDays. Tell the nice folks there that you heard about the site from Dog Show Newbie. I don't get any kickbacks for endorsing the site, but that doesn't mean I wouldn't accept any.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Public Service Announcements

The Lovely One Herself

Handling Class Update

Penny Cary is starting handling classes in Brunswick, ME at The Natural Pet on Pleasant Street. The next 6-week session starts on Tuesday, June 3 at 6:30 PM (no class July 1). Contact Penny at 282-7317 or at (new email address).

Sanctioned Breed/OB Match in Augusta July 19

The Central Maine Kennel Club is holding an AKC Sanctioned Breed/Obedience match on Saturday, July 19, at Union Park in Augusta, ME. The Mid-Coast Kennel Club will be at the match offering AKC Canine Good Citizen testing.

For more information, call Match Chair Jody Hansen at 622-9948 or email her at

Sunday, May 18, 2008

End of a Dream?

Kathy and I have been repeating a little dream of ours to each other for the past several months. We stopped showing Dinah for the year after Thanksgiving, since neither of us wanted to show in Boston and attendance at the other wintertime shows is light in a good year. We'd email the dream back and forth to each other and console ourselves with it when shows we hoped to enter turned out to be miserably low in entries, or when we'd return in despair from another doomed weekend in Springfield. The dream kept us going through the winter, and helped us look forward to the spring.

Here's the dream that kept us going for so many months: We had really, really hoped to finish Dinah at the Ladies/Framingham shows this year. Not only do we both have soft spots in our hearts for those shows, but they were almost always guaranteed majors. Last year, Rosie finished there with a Best of Breed and a Best Opposite to Trav with Kathy on the lead one day and Brian (our favorite junior) on the other. This year, we had hoped to make the same triumphant finish with Dinah there, and with most of my family and a few of my high-school friends at ringside to watch. After Dinah's two BOS/BOW wins in the rain a couple of weekends ago, our hopes were high. Kathy remarked after the St. Hubert show that Dinah looked more mature this year. We were ready to live the dream, out in the sunshine, with everyone there.

Val emailed us the bad news when she first saw the entry breakdowns. Only 3 class dogs and 4 class bitches -- at Ladies! Even if Dinah went Best of Breed over the three male specials (there were no bitch specials, either), there would be no way in h-e-double-hockey-sticks that she could earn more than two points at either show. Even the boys, who now only need to field 4 class dogs for a major, couldn't get that many together -- and for a show that everyone speaks of fondly.

It took me a few minutes to react. Could the dream be shattered so quickly? Could the one guaranteed weekend of majors in New England be so easily un-guaranteed? What could Kathy and I hope for now?

We knew entries were down; it's all anyone talks about at shows and show committee meetings these days. Most of us in my local kennel club don't yet know whether the club broke even, since our entries were down by 200-something dogs from the previous year -- and that even before the rain kept the spectators away. People have been talking about the decrease in entries for a year at least, since the unconscionable increase in gas prices has forced everyone but the oil company executives to re-evaluate their travel priorities. The fact that the economy is in the toilet hasn't helped. If you try the "Odds on a Major" function at the Infodog site, almost all of the shows within 250 miles return results of majors from 2006 and 2005 -- only one or two of those had majors in 2007.

But... Ladies! Surely we could have fielded enough dogs for Ladies! If we can't get a major together there, then where in New England will we be able to do it? The AKC did us no favors by not lowering the number of Beardie bitches needed for three points this year, but even if they had, what would the magic number be? We couldn't even find 5 class bitches. Could we get 4? Do I hear 3?

I don't want to have to face the very possible fact that there just might not be any majors for Dinah this year. She now has 16 points and still no majors. How much longer do we have to pour our time, money, and hopes into chasing the impossible? Even our least-favorite venue, Springfield, never holds any guarantees. Some shows will have the requisite numbers, but we've never done well there. Some shows will have just a couple of bitch entries one year after majors the two previous years. You won't even know until after you've flushed another $30 per entry down the toilet. That same $30 could buy us two runs at an agility trial, or a herding lesson, or even most of a tank of gas for my 5-year-old Subaru.

Kathy and I have been evaluating the other shows this year to try and determine where our next next chance is -- if it lies anywhere. We know we have to come up with another dream to replace the one that just disappeared. That's going to be the hardest part of all.