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.