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.