Saturday, August 29, 2009

Nothin' Shakin' on Shakedown Cruise

Newtown and Great Barrington KC Shows
Springfield, MA
8/22 and 8/23/09
RWD (both days)

After the exercise in remedial humility that was our last trip to Canada, I drove home, swapped dogs, and headed out to Springfield for more. Sounds masochistic, doesn't it? It wasn't intended to be, but it makes one wonder sometimes.

This last pair of shows was intended as a get-acquainted trip for Badger. The B-Man hasn't seen the inside of a show ring since he left the Old Country, and he's never been subjected to the bedlam that is an AKC dog show at the Big E. To me, it was more important that he get to meet Auntie Kathy and get back into the rhythm of things before we start to expect great things from him. I also valued the bonding time we'd get to have together without interference from other dogs or humans. We hadn't spent much "alone time" together at all since we took the long drive home from Richmond.

(The B-man is Greg's favorite dog, and I practically had to pry Badge away from him to get him into the show ring in the first place. Those two get plenty of "alone time" together, mostly on top of Mt. Ossipee.)

The drive west was a bit challenging. The remnants of the hurricane that we'd heard about while I was up in the Maritimes had decided to pass through western Massachusetts at the same time I did. There were times along the Mass Pike where traffic slowed to 20 mph with a long line of hazard lights blinking. The rain just pounded down and made it nearly impossible to see, but there wasn't enough room for everyone to pull over... so we crawled instead.

Once we made it to the hotel, I took Badge to the Petco in the strip mall next door for a sterilized bone. (I usually prefer to give him raw bones, but I wasn't going to be cleaning carnage out of his beard the night before a show, thankyouverymuch.) He attracted every toddler in the place, who absolutely had to come and pet the nice doggie. I resisted the urge to check their hands for grape jelly before they petted him.

Note to all fans of the movie "Best in Show": Petco has Busy Bees in their clearance bins! If you, or anyone you know, needs a Busy Bee, they're on sale at Petco now for only a couple of bucks! Don't settle for a crummy bear in a bee costume...! Don't let your dog FREAK OUT!!

We had a good time at the show. Badge was very rusty at the whole process and didn't pay much attention in the ring. It's hard to tell anything when there are only two dogs entered, but Badge was still getting used to everything and really didn't have a chance to shine. The Dog Who Eats Everything wouldn't even sniff the bait in the ring, though he practically swallowed my hand afterward. The other dog was there and paying attention, so he took the one available point each day. Good on him -- he worked for them. Badge's Sunday performance was better, but still not great. He'll improve with practice.

The exercise was worthwhile, and we actually had quite the enjoyable time. We set up with our friends Lesley and Sue, who had Fanny and Cali along. (Roy was there too, but he was sequestered with his handler.) Fanny ended up going BOS to Roy, and Cali went BOW -- she only needs three points to finish (I think). My favorite part of the weekend was the bull session at the Red Robin after the show -- we definitely should do that more often!

Badge got to meet Auntie Kathy, and get used to the show routine all over again. Springfield probably wasn't the best place for his initiation, but you go where the shows are. The guy is a trouper -- after a while, he was jumping up onto the grooming table as he used to do back in Wales. Before we know it, he'll be the B-Man I remember showing back in the UK -- floating above the ground, looking alert and powerful. He took at least one Best in Show over there under a Beardie breeder-judge, and maybe he can do it again. Kathy said she really liked him and thought he should do well. We shall see.

Badge is a terrific traveler, just as his niece Dinah is. He is possessed of the same unflappable Breaksea temperament, and he sleeps on the hotel room floor just as he does at home: on his back with his feet in the air and a smile on his face. I never see him on the drive; he just conks out in the crate. (Dinah sleeps on her back in the car, too. Occasionally I'll hear a thump as she turns over.)

The B-Man's show journey will be quite a bit different from Dinah's. With Dinah, she and and I started the trip with a six-month-old puppy who was a terrific show prospect, handicapped only by a complete stumblebum on the other end of the lead (me). Kathy brought out that potential in a way that I never could have. In spite of all of the broken majors and crappy luck, she finished her AKC CH just after her third birthday.

With the B-Man, we're starting from the beginning with an adult dog (whom we hope will get his love of showing back soon). That's a good news-bad news proposition. He won't be going through an adolescent gangly stage, and he's already in coat. You need far fewer dogs to make up a major than you do bitches, so he just might have an advantage there. The bad news is that class dogs his age are practically nonexistent. In spite of the fact that he spent his formative years in another country, people who don't know his story might wonder what could be wrong with a six-year-old dog who hasn't finished yet. Hey, we'll see how far we can get before he qualifies for Veterans.

Our next show will be a different kind of "shakedown cruise." Dinah and Badge are both entered in the Garden State Bearded Collie Clan's Regional Specialty (one of my favorites). I've never had to juggle two dogs at a show before, so this should be an experience. At the very least, it should make for entertaining Dog Show Newbie fodder.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

O Canada! O Hubris!

New Brunswick Kennel Club
New Brunswick, Canada
Reserve Winners Bitch

The next time someone tells you that something is "as easy as shooting fish in a barrel," remember that sharks are fish, and that rubber bands don't really do a heck of a lot of damage.

It's my fault, really. Remember that tired-but-still-true saying about "Never assume...?" Well, I assumed. You can guess the rest.

We waltzed into a lovely local dog show in New Brunswick, Canada, and I simply assumed that we'd slay the available competition, pick up her very last CKC point, and waltz all the way home. It sounded so good in theory: we had two AKC champions (Trav and Dinah) and two 12-18 puppies (Chester and Fiona). The two adult dogs would simply beat the two kids in the ring and go home Am/Can Champions. Sounds good to you too?

Ah, we had it all planned. We'd take photos together, assemble a huge and fabulous ad for the Beardie Club brag rag, and have stories we could tell around campfires for years to come. We could even finish the two of them on the very same day! There was a liquor store just down the street. I could quickly nip out for a little champagne. Wouldn't it be loverly?

Then... reality decided to take things in another direction. Who invited reality to the party, anyway?

Val, Trav, and Fiona had gone to the shows three days ahead of us. Their plan was to show all six days of shows, finish Trav, and get some group placements. Dare we dream of Best in Show?

My plan was to bring Dinah three days later, pick up her last point on the first day, and see whether I couldn't leave her in the classes so Fiona could bring home a couple of points as well. How very gracious, n'est-ce pas?

Our kind and gracious hosts were Ann, Bob, and Ashley (Chester and Fiona's breeders). They did all the heavy lifting for us: they towed and drove the RV and camper to the site, set up the X-pens, brewed the morning coffee, and make what plans needed to be made. Ashley even arranged for a local junior handler to take Dinah in for me, and to bask in the glory of finishing a new Am/Can CH.

That, at least, was the plan, but plans do have a way of deviating from reality. I had forgotten to take into account some additional ass-umptions:

  1. Dinah and Trav are very different in type. Judges who like Dinah's type tend to ignore Trav... and the reverse is also true. The other two dogs, being Trav's kids, were also of his type.

  2. One of the judges had previously dumped Dinah for a puppy at one show last year, even before Dinah set paw in the ring. It's safe to say she's not a fan.

  3. When Dinah doesn't feel like showing, no one and nothing can change her little Bearded mind. When condition are (to her) exactly right, she's unbeatable. When things in Dinah-land are not to her liking, you can't get her to show with liver, toys, or a bulldozer.

  4. I may have been keeping this blog for a few years now, but in the ring, I'm still a Dog Show Newbie.

Trav acquitted himself very well in the ring, going Best of Breed all six days and picking up three Group 4s and a Group 3. He finished his Can. CH on the fourth day.

Things weren't as easy for Dinah, unfortunately. (They never are.) She didn't like the junior handler showing up 10 seconds before we were to step into the ring. She didn't like my grooming or my handling. She didn't like the bait. She didn't like the heat, or the slippery floor surface where the mats didn't cover it. In short, she didn't like anything about that week, and she was prepared to display that dislike in the show ring.

Remember the "fish in a barrel" part? We had figured that since Fiona plodded around the ring, head down, that all Dinah needed to do to beat her was to show up. Little did we figure that Fee would pick that week to decide that not only did she love showing, but that she couldn't wait to get into the ring! This was wonderful news -- but it could have happened at a better time for Dinah.

In the end, Fiona went Winners Bitch all three days. Dinah went Reserve all three days. No final point, no Can. CH, nothing. I was crushed. It had never once occurred to me that we wouldn't finish. There would be no pictures, no party, no nipping out for champagne. It's what I get for assuming.

We did have fun, aside from the showing part. The pups had a fun time hanging out together, and we had plenty of play time. Val and I tried to figure out how we could talk BCCME into acquiring an RV for the use of the Show Committee. Dinah loved sleeping in the camper, and managed to take up most of the bed by stretching diagonally across the middle and lying on her back. Our hosts were kind, helpful, and encouraging, and Ann and Ashley deserve a huge amount of thanks for patiently trying to guide me through my fumbling attempts to show Dinah on my own. (At least I know I can fit into my electric-blue linen suit again!) The Kennel Club's traditional corn and mussel boil was a hoot, even though the DJ played all of the biggest hit songs from the jukebox in Hell -- very loudly. I even won a Tim Horton's coffee card in the raffle!

After a long, discouraged, empty-handed drive home, I had plenty of time to get philosophical about what had just happened. At the border, the US Customs guard asked whether I was bringing anything from Canada back into the USA. I sadly held up my empty coffee cup and said, "This is all I bought. I didn't even get one winners ribbon." He waved me through.

I'll have to make plans to bring Dinah up there again and try one more time to get that one last point, but I'll be leaving my assumptions on this side of the border.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

But the Stories You Can Tell: Priceless!

This semi-oldie was gleaned from the BeardieList. I'm sure you can identify!

The Most Expensive Collar you ever bought? Why of course ..that very first show collar!

How it all began

In the Beginning...

You got your dog, a real show dog, and quickly realized that you needed the correct collar to show him on.

Which, in turn, led you to that wonderful buttery smooth three-foot leather lead.

At your very first show, you noticed that you just HAD to have the proper grooming supplies also.

  • Slicker Brush $9.00

  • Comb $10.00

  • Spray Bottle $4.00

  • Good Conditioner $15.00

  • Water Bottle $4.00

  • Pin Brush $15.00

  • Bait $10.00

  • NEW Collar (your dog has now outgrown that first one) $14.00

  • Chalk $9.00

  • Chalk Brush $15.00

  • Wella Kolestral $10.00


  • Bait $10.00

  • Dog show calendar $12.00 — don't wanna miss ANY shows now

By now, you're beginning to realize the back seat isn't a proper way to transport your dog.

  • Dog Crate for the car $80.00

At your very next show you, begin to feel a bit more confident and relaxed at dog shows. Borrowing and waiting to use your friend's grooming table is so inconvenient.

  • Grooming Table $95.00

  • Grooming Arm $50.00

  • Bait $10.00

You begin to start collecting dog show things: old towels, skirts with pockets, dresses with pockets, good comfortable shoes, rain gear, umbrellas, water jugs, etc. Price: At least $100.00.

Too many grooming supplies?

  • Tack Box for supplies, $50.00.

Good comfortable Camp Chairs $35.00 — we seem to be spending much more time at shows lately.

Suddenly you realize all of these items AND your dog don't fit in the family car anymore.

  • Used Mini Van $15,000.

Somewhere around this point you get tired of waiting to use your friend's blow dryer.

  • New blow dryer $150.00

  • Extension Cord for Dryer $15.00

  • Five-way plug for sharing electricity with your new dog show friends $10.00

  • New and improved dog show collar and lead $40.00

  • New type of improved Coat Conditioner $15.00

  • Bait $10.00

  • Your friend's favorite Shampoo and Whitener $35.00

  • New Comb and Slicker brush $25.00 (you lost the old ones at the last show)

  • Scissors $30.00 (kitchen shears just don't trim those pads right)

  • Muddy Show grounds..Roll up mat for covering ground $45.00


The hunt for majors begins.

After wasting much money on entries where majors didn't hold, you begin to get frustrated. You seek out and find that new male show puppy and a perfect match for your female!

  • Crate for new dog $80.00

  • Show collar and lead for new dog $50.00 (your tastes have been refined now)

  • Handling classes for new dog $40.00

The very first show teaches you that your minivan will not carry both crates and all your equipment.

  • Brand New Larger Mini Van $25,000.00

Now, having two dogs to show and get ready quickly teaches you a generator is required!

  • Generator $325.00

  • Two Dog Kennels for outside $1,000.00

Just gotta pick up one of those majors on your female Handler for those major shows: $200.00 (+/-)


Your new male is too young to breed.

  • Updating & Health Clearances on Female $200.00

  • Stud Fee $1,000.00

  • Progesterone Testing $200.00

  • Whelping box $250.00

  • Vet bills-x-rays, sonograms, well mother checks $400.00

  • Putting first aid whelping kit together $300.00

  • Vaccines for new litter $150.00

  • X-pen for puppies $80.00

  • Whelping pads, fleeces, toys for puppies, weaning supplies, etc $450.00

  • Baby Scale $45.00

  • Well puppy and mother exams $150.00

Spectacular puppy in litter will be new show dog. Immediately realize minivan will NOT hold three dogs and show equipment.

  • Motor Home or Full size dog show van $30,000 to $100,000.00! !!!!!!!!

You suddenly realize you are eating macaroni and cheese while your dogs are eating Human Grade Dog food at $55.00 a bag. Congratulations! You have now earned the title of "Dog Breeder!" Aren't you glad you are finally making those big bucks breeding dogs? So far you have invested $75,652.00 in showing your two dogs.

This figure does NOT include dog food, the initial cost of your dogs, entry fees, motel bills, general vet bills, toys and Many other ownership incidentals.

Your litter of pups yielded six puppies, you kept one and sold the other five for $500.00 each.

Congratulations — you just made $2,500.00 Breeding your dogs!

Now if you can just breed 30 or more litters, you MAY just break even with your initial investment of over $75,000!

Saturday, August 01, 2009

A Pleasant Surprise

Just received my copy of The Bearded Colleague, the newsletter of the Bearded Collie Club of Canada. Seems that The Lovely One is still the #7 Bearded Collie in Canadian conformation standings in terms of 2008 breed points, as reported in the July Dogs in Canada. Not too shabby, considering she only had two wins in Canada last year. They were just big ones.

The Colleague also contained the unfortunate news that the 2010 BCCC Specialty won't be on the West Coast, I'd been looking forward to going to Victoria again (this time, with all my clothing!) with Ann and Ray and their young brownies. The good news for us is that the show might return to Gananoque in 2010, since it can't be in Victoria. Gananoque has been good to us.

Warming Up for Summer (Finally)

Like the weather, it's taken us most of the season to get into the summer showing season. This is mainly due to the old budget; this life of leisure doesn't really support my hobbies or what few vices I do have. Kathy and I have been selective about our shows, but there are some coming up that we don't want to miss.

We decided to move Badger's AKC debut from Fitchburg to Springfield. Since Kathy's other class-dog client (a boy of Lesley's) wasn't showing there, we decided to take the B-man and go where the breed points are. I would much have preferred to show at Fitchburg, if only because I don't have to shell out money from my dwindling supply for a hotel -- but maybe we won't have to go to as many shows to finish Badge if we just go to bigger ones to begin with. All those little zero-point shows I went to with Dinah were wonderful practice, but they didn't help us very much in terms of competition.

Kathy's going to enjoy the B-man. That dog is a born show-off, and will happily show himself. Dinah's beautiful and can move when she wants to, but Badge is a complete and utter ham. He doesn't gait; he floats. It will be impossible not to look at him in the ring.

This makes for an August full of adventures. I've also been possessed of the crazed notion of showing Dinah up in New Brunswick a few days before Badger's debut in Springfield. Dinah and I get to share a camper with Val, Pat, Traveler, and Fiona. Guess how much sleep we humans will get with that crowd --!!

Even our September adventures are starting to take shape. The Garden State Regional, another show that has been good to us twice in the past, has been moved to a different club's show on a weekend in September. Kathy and I had concocted an elaborate scheme where we'd get Dinah, Badger, Jake, Diva, and at least one of Lesley's dogs (Cali) to the Regional and borrow one of our favorite juniors to help show. As things worked out, we are now minus Jake and Diva, and might not be able to get Joanne to the Friday show because of school. We do have more leisure time, and maybe room for Casey the Newfie to join in the fun now. I'll miss October at Ramapo and the lovely Tuscan bistro we discovered, but we must go where the specialty goes...