When talking about spending my weekends at dogs shows, I often get the feeling that some of my "non dog
show" friends have a different impression of these "glamorous" trips.
When watching the televised Group competitions for Westminster, everyone is in suits and skirts, makeup
perfect, not a hair out of place, and not a single hair on their clothes. The dogs all sit happily on their grooming
tables or lounging in their proud owners' laps, perfectly groomed and smelling of perfumed coat conditioners.
The crowd watches excitedly in outfits and hats that racehorse owners on Derby Day would be proud of, sipping
martini's and champagne. When the placings are announced, everyone happily congratulates the winner,
owners and handlers are crying happy tears, the dogs appear to be smiling from ear to ear, champagne flows
and very classy parties commence. Um, sure, that's reality.
Oh goodness, where do I start? Let's start from the beginning with a simple weekend show. The glamor begins
several days before the show with touching up the nails with a dremmel and breathing in that sweet toenail
dust. And yes, it smells (and occasionally tastes) just like you would expect toenails that have repeatedly
walked through urine and feces to smell. Then comes the brushing and clipping of the coat. We can all imagine
it's cute and musical just like that scene from the Wizard of Oz when they are grooming the Cowardly Lion, but
ummm.... no. For starters, it's not until you get half way through that you remember your grooming shirt or
apron that is supposed to protect your clothes from the hair. By then it's too late, the flying hair and dander has
coated your face, your clothes, and has worked its way down into your bra, spurring some embarrassing itching
and scratching in front of the window where you forgot to pull the blinds. Your neighbors already thought you
were that crazy dog lady, but now they're certain you have an embarrassing rash. And let's not forget that by
the time you have bathed your third dog, you're having your own private dog-hairy, paw-printed, just plain
gross wet t-shirt contest. Oh yeah, still need to close those blinds.
So, we've spent our Friday evening packing, loading the car, arranging crates, loading dogs, and dragging our
poor little junior handler into the car at 2 am. Guzzle a disgusting 5 hour energy drink and we're off to the show!
30 minutes into a 5 hour drive, our little junior handler is hungry and wide awake. Okay, so we haven't even
gotten out of town yet, but we find a 24 hour McDonald's and grab just enough food to make us sick to our
stomachs for the remaining 4 1/2 hours.
One hour into the drive a dog pukes. Our little junior handler squeals in terror as the puke slowly oozes towards
them, across the blanket, through the crate door, and towards their McDonald's Cinna-bites. After a quick trip
to the side of the freeway, I emerge victorious with WalMart baggie full of kibble-slime and paper towels. We'll
just stash that bag and the pukie blanket in the trunk.... it shouldn't smell too bad. Did I forget to mention that
the dogs are farting about every 15 minutes in this very confined and unventilated space? So puke smell, fart
smells, and only 4 more hours to go.
Three hours into the drive and the dogs have decided they need to go to the bathroom. So in the dim light and
chilly air, you venture out with doggie bags in one hand, leashes in the other. Now I'm not saying time stands
still when you are waiting for a dog to do their business when the only urgency they feel is making sure they
sniff EVERY turd and pee spot at the rest stop, but let's just say it's like waiting for hair to grow. Twenty minutes
later, I'm marching across the parking lot with loaded doggie doo bags in hand, dangling in the wind. Okay, only
an hour to go. Oh phew, crack the windows again.
Part Two.... the Glamorous Show grounds!
The excitement builds as you near the fairgrounds! Just a few more exits.... and you cross your fingers that
your GPS has not led you astray.
As you pull into the show grounds you realize that the car right in front of you is the same one you have been
following off and on for the past 200 miles. You try to think back to whether or not you did anything
embarrassing in front of them because now you will be parking about three feet away from them and unloading
your car. When you both stopped at the same rest stop, did you scratch your butt as you walked by their car?
How bad WAS your makeup at 4 am as you passed them in the restroom? Did they see you singing at the top
of your lungs into a McDonald's straw in an effort to stay awake?
You wait politely in line to pay for parking.... yes, you get the privilege of paying to pull your vehicle through the
weeds and pot holes to park in unmarked spaces in a field which is what seems like few city blocks away from
your destination. If you are showing only one breed and the classes are not large, this equates to five dollars
for about forty-five minutes of leaving your car in a field, 20 minutes of which you spent unpacking and
negotiating the doo doo piles and grass clumps with your loaded cart and in your cute little flats. Five dollars
isn't much and the people who wave you in are always friendly (why wouldn't they be?), but this has always
been a favorite pet peeve of mine. Or is it because I'm usually pulling in at 7:30 am after a long drive and
hardly any sleep? Nah.
So by the look you get from the person in the car parked next to you, they either saw you singing or scratching.
I'm not sure which one of those is the more preferable. Oh well. You arrive ringside unscathed and with time to
spare. After picking up your numbers, there's the required eyeballing of the judge, trying to mind meld with
them and figure out what they're looking for. Oh good, this is the same judge from another show last year
where your dog had a nervous stomach and too many liver treats and relieved himself in a most unpleasant
manner during the down and back. It was more of a down and... wait stop, oh no not now, not here, oh my
gosh... and back. And grab the paper towels and Lysol... and down. Scoop, spray, wipe, spray, wipe... and
back. Now stack your dog and pretend none of that just happened. Oh yes, making that crucial eye contact
with the judge became very painful.
Okay, don't focus on the judge who witnessed one of your most embarrassing trips into the ring, focus on
what's around you. This is when you say hello to the other exhibitors you recognize, smile at those who rarely
give you the time of day, and shrug at the one who just shot daggers your direction. You don't recognize them
and wonder if it was meant for someone standing behind you or if you should be flattered that you were
threatening enough competition for someone to take notice. The thought makes you smile back, which serves
to tick them off and now you have made enemies with an absolute stranger over absolutely nothing. Mark down
two drama points in the mental scrap book (you pick up those points showing dogs whether you expect them or
At this point you take in the show grounds around you. A gentle breeze blows through an open door where a
woman is struggling to get in with a large metal cart stacked with about 18 little crates full of Chihuahuas
strapped precariously together. A few feet away a Great Dane lifts his leg on the garbage can and hoses it
down while his handler chats with a friend. The odor of pee is mixed with grooming products and only
overpowered in strength by the smell of wet dog hair. A cart rolls by with four stacked crates that have been
spray painted gold and decorated with velvet drapes, painted hearts, and brass name tags. You didn't see the
dogs inside but you imagine that "Mitsy", "Bitsy", "Precious" and "Ginger" MUST have a lot of poofy hair and big
glistening eyes. To the other side of the ring a dog just hacked up a foamy piece of bait onto the floor.
Moments later another dog walks by and eats it. Scattered applause erupts from the various rings, depending
on the breed, the hype, and the ringside cheering section for each particular dog. One group of dogs across
the building just keeps barking in a high pitched non-stop manner. Either the owner is missing in action or is
now deaf and has no idea the dogs are even barking. A large Saint Bernard casually brushes past and leaves
a slimy trail of drool on your pant leg. Yes, glamorous indeed. If you can't handle all of the above with a sense
of humor... dog shows are not a place for you.
|The "Glamor" Of Dog Showing
|Written by Jani Martin. Reproduction of this story
is allowed only with permission from the writer.
No permission is needed to link to this web
Part Three... The Show Ring! (under construction)
That grand moment has arrived where you walk confidently into the show ring with your dog strutting beautifully
beside you. There's not a hair out of place, not a speck of dust, not a smudge on the glistening white markings.
The two of you strut in, a picture of perfection.
Wait, what? No, that's not right.
It's right before you step into the ring that you suddenly see a spontaneous patch of dandruff emerge on their
perfectly groomed coat, which for some reason won't brush away. This is followed by catching a glimpse of
their profile where you spot three or four long whisker hairs that had somehow escaped your clippers last night.
Then as you step closer to the ring, there's the enthusiastic spectator who loves your dog so much that they
walk up and rub their not so terribly clean hands all over your dogs perfectly groomed face and chalk enhanced
markings, rubbing away that hard earned crisp appearance with every vigorous yet loving rub. Deep breath.
Look at your dog's sweet face.... they couldn't help themselves. Smile. Forgive. Move on.
Upon entering the show ring, you line up and begin to set up your dog for that crucial first impression the judge
gets from the first once over. Oh, they've already passed by while your dog was standing in an unflattering
pose? GREAT. Now for the first time around the ring. The handler at the front of the line turns back to you, half
of a hot dog hanging out of their mouth like a cigar, and asks if you are ready. You wonder what they would do
if you said "not remotely, can you give me about two or three minutes?". Or if you pulled a hot dog bun out of
your pocket and handed it to them in the ring. Oh this is not a good time for the mind to wander.
Once around and you're basically setting your dog back up on the other side of the ring. The judge is only
focused on the dog that they are currently evaluating but we all set up our dogs anyway just in case they sneak
a glance at them out of the corner of their eye.