Sunday, May 18, 2008

Flying Solo and My Bag of Rocks

Vacationland Dog Club, 5/17/08

Something strange is afoot in the universe. The world has tilted on its axis, and the stars are aligned in curious configurations. The weather at Vacationland this weekend is absolutely gorgeous, and it poured mercilessly on the York County shows. In a normal year, Vacationland is six inches underwater, and the mud in the rings has been known to pull shoes from exhibitors' feet. Apart from the Great Monsoon of 2005 (about which the club old-timers still speak in hoarse whispers), the YCKC shows generally take place in halfway decent weather. This year, everything turned upside down.

It wasn't because of the weather that I didn't enter Dinah in Vacationland this year. The chances of there being enough Beardies for a major -- or even one point -- hovered between zero and negative infinity. My friend Nancy, one of the deans of the local ring steward SWAT team, recruited me to join their ranks at Vacationland for my first solo adventure in stewarding.

Between them, Nancy and Susan (another long-time veteran ring steward) trained me to steward last summer. Nancy brought her famous "Ring Stewarding 101" class to one of our local kennel club's meetings, and then I observed Susan at the Topsfield shows after Beardie judging was done. I worked the ring with Susan and another trainee at the Lakes Region shows last July, and then worked my own ring at our club's fall B match. Nancy and Susan agreed that I'd served enough of an apprenticeship, and that it was time for me to run a ring of my very own. While standing in line to use a ladies' room at a function in Augusta this past winter, Nancy asked me to work a ring at Vacationland -- so the initiation began, and I received my ritual bag of rocks.

Nearly everyone who sees Nancy or Susan working a show ring remarks upon the cute bone-shaped stone paperweights they use to keep the various ribbons, armbands, books, programs, and other articles from flying off the table when the occasional breeze kicks up. Occasionally Susan has had to reclaim one of her paperweights from a judge who mistook them for trophies and was about to award them to a winner. Anyway, Nancy awarded me my very own bag of bone-shaped rocks as part of my stewarding kit. She arranged her stewards so that my ring would be next to Susan's in the event I needed expert help.

My very first judge was Ruth Zimmerman, who was unfailingly kind and encouraging to newbie stewards and exhibitors alike. Some of our breeds -- especially the toys -- had multiple dogs entered under one owner or handler, and we gave the exhibitors a chance to breathe between frantic dashes from the ring to switch dogs. Mrs. Zimmerman frequently gave me encouraging comments along the way: "You're really catching on," and "You're doing great at this." The show committee members came past frequently, offering up hot cups of Tim Horton's coffee and donuts. I owe Nancy one for pairing me with a patient and kindly judge for my first trip out -- and for making me my very own set of Official Stewards' Rocks.

After our duties were completed and our ring disassembled for Groups, I caught up with Val, Pat, and Traveler back at their booth. Val reported that Trav had seen me going back and forth to my ring, and had been concerned that I hadn't come in to see him. (Trav and I have a special relationship. We like to wrestle and talk like pirates together: "Arrrrrr. Arrrrrrr. Arrrrr.") I visited with Trav and reviewed his favorite letter of the alphabet ("Arrrrrr") before he went into the group ring. He made the first cut, but not the Final Four. I'm hoping he does better in Groups today.

I didn't have a lot of time to socialize yesterday, but Vacationland was just a nice, fun, intimate show with some very nice vendors. The show committee switched things up a bit by putting the show itself in the area where the parking had been in previous years, and putting parking where the show had been (and which we affectionately called "the swamp"). The rearrangement suited the show well, I think. The weather wasn't an issue this year and the swamp wasn't swampy, but the new layout worked nicely. I hope the club decides to stick with it for future shows if they go back to that venue. (Actually, I'm really hoping they'll cluster with our club at our site, but that remains to be discussed.)

Shout-Outs and Stuff

A quick shout-out to Steph and Bowie the Brittany: Did you guys make it to the show? I only saw two of my Brittany buddies there, but I was busy in my ring right up until the time Groups started.

Another shout-out to Barb Rimoshytus and Rio, whom I ran into just as Dinah and I were leaving the St. Hubert show in CT. Barb's been going through some stuff, so think good thoughts for her. Rio did magnificently -- I'm bad at quoting people, but I think he had at least one group placement that weekend. (Dinah got 2nd, not even Reserve. She was very, very uninterested in showing that weekend. Since she'd been showing the two weekends previous, she was feeling a little burnt-out. We had a nice little reunion with Auntie Kathy, Auntie Deb, Jake, and puppy grrrrl Diva, but that was about it. Dinah's never going to be one of those dogs on the dog show circuit, and that's fine with me.)

1 comment:

Steph said...

Sadly, I never made it up there... I just started a new part time job and of course they needed me that weekend *sigh*

We'll be at Ladies for sure, though!

Good luck trying to find majors :) There's only a 4 class brittanys on Saturday and 3 on Sunday.. no specials...