There's a reason why people save up most or all of their vacation time for the National Specialty. Sure, it's basically just another dog show — but what a dog show! How often do you get to see hundreds of dogs of your breed in one place, ranging from puppies to seniors, in all colors and coat lengths, from champions to rescued companions? You get to catch up with old friends, see grown-up dogs you met when they were just puppies, check out a future parent of your next puppy, see the big guns and brass hats up close, meet all your buds from Facebook, and get your hands on some very, very nice specimens of your beloved breed.
I try to get to the BCCA National most years, even if I don't bring a dog to show. It's just so great to reconnect with my friends, meet all the dogs, and enjoy what the show locale has to offer. Some friends of mine and I have a long-standing tradition (started at the 1997 Beardie National) of picking a gourmet restaurant in the area and spending one evening at a nice, civilized, off-campus dinner. Amid the excitement and near-constant activity at the show, this one dinner is an island of peace and conviviality over great food and fine wine. I still regret missing the 2010 National, but I'd just started a new job two weeks before the show and was still up to my eyebrows in mandatory new-hire training.
This year, my local regional club played host to the National. Hosting the show is actually a multi-year effort — we've been at it since our bid was accepted at the 2009 National. Here's where we held it...
That's The Colony Hotel in Kennebunkport, a lovely old resort hotel with a tradition of dog-friendliness. The staff couldn't have been nicer or easier to work with! They seemed as pleased as we were to see Beardies everywhere, from the private beach to the veranda overlooking the pool. Once the rain stopped, people and Beardies appeared all over the place, enjoying the view and the amenities.
The rain damn near killed us. It rained on the herding trials. It rained on the drive to and from the herding instinct tests, though the skies managed to hold off just long enough to do the tests themselves. Badger Blue Burfitt earned his instinct certificate, which makes him Breaksea Revolution, HIC.
(This photo actually comes from last year's English Shepherd Gathering. I don't know if there are any candids from this year's HICs.)
It rained on the obedience and rally trials. Dinah was having none of that sitting-in-the-puddles crap, so we blew our Beginner Novice debut rather badly. I ended up pulling her from Rally Excellent. She can do both in her sleep, but not on that day.
I was too busy toting barges, lifting bales, buying supplies, and so on to see as much of the Specialty as I would have liked. I missed the Welcome Party, all of the meals I'd bought tickets for, and a good part of the showing. At least working at the fundraising/logowear booth gave me a good view of the judging when I wasn't running around.
Dinah got a big honkin' rosette with all her titles on it for the Parade of Titleholders... but alas, she (and I) didn't get back to the ring in time to take part. It was the only time all week that she got any love of any kind while in the ring... but she looked lovely during Friday's best-of-breed judging. Kathy said that her head wasn't in the game, though — maybe it was a holdover from Tuesday's puddle-based trauma in that same ring.
All the rain and rushing about aside, though, it was a good week — and I'm both sad and relieved that it's over. I hope to go dogless to next year's National, hang out, see my friends, and see more of the actual show than I did this year. The National doesn't rotate back to the East until 2014, when it will take place in Gettysburg, PA. Dinah could show in Veterans by then (she'll be 8) — and we're already psyched for it!
Heartfelt thanks to everyone who played a part in the success of the 2011 Beardie National -- to the committee chairs, the conscripted help, the exhibitors, the event secretaries and judges, the shoppers at the logowear and fundraising tables, and anyone who volunteered to help out with anything. It takes a very large village to put on a Specialty, and we're all grateful.