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Dispatches from the Frickin’ Serengeti

Bearded Collie Club of Maine Regional Specialty/Supported Entry
(Ladies’ Dog Club shows)
June 1 & 2, 2013
Sweeps: 1st in 6-9. Regular Classes: 2nd  in 6-9 (Sat.) and 1st in 6-9 (Sun.)

Rowan's breeder, Laura, showed her in her 6-9 debut.

Rowan’s breeder, Laura, showed her in her 6-9 debut.

Seriously, the weather gods need to cut the good people in the Ladies’ Dog Club a break. Last year, their show took place in the midst of a monsoon. This year, the temperatures reached well into the 90s — which we haven’t seen in a regional weather forecast before or since. With the help of bazillions of bags of ice, fans, cool beds, big honkin’ tents with lots of shade, and Gatorade, we persevered…

Rowan’s breeder offered to show her in her 6-9 debut. The baby acquitted herself pretty well, for all that she was just 6 months and 4 days old on the day of the Regional. She behaved, mostly moved in one direction at a given time, and heartily enjoyed the fleece toy she won in her Sweeps class. (She also brought home a check for nine whole dollars. Now, when people ask me if we’ve ever made money at dog showing…) Her classmates in handling class and their owners would scarcely believe that the beautiful, reasonably well-behaved young lady at the shows was in any way related to the red-haired hooligan who appears in class every Thursday and navigates the ring without once touching the ground.

The kid cleans up good!

The kid cleans up good!

My friend Linda had her Havanese at the show: her newly-minted champion dog and her class bitch, and she needed an extra pair of hands in the Best of Breed ring when the girlie went WB. I ended up graduating from Havanese holder to Havanese handler. All credit is due to the dog for going BOS and BOW; I just did my part by staying upright on the other end of the lead.

Much later on, a bunch of us gathered in one room at the hotel and ordered take-out from a local Italian place. The food arrived, but without napkins, utensils, or anything else we might have used with the meal. The person who placed the order called the restaurant asking about the utensils (under the assumption that since the restaurant made plenty of deliveries to the hotel, they might bring some on the next trip). The person on the other end shouted, “BITCH!” and hung up the phone. Two hours later, a knock came on the door. It was the restaurant’s delivery guy, bearing a bag with three plastic forks inside. (There were five of us.) Can’t win ’em all, I guess. If you’re ever staying in Foxboro, call the Chinese take-out place instead. The food is great, the portions generous, and they can keep an order straight.

Regional Specialties are part dog show, part family reunion. The best part of such a show is seeing all the dogs’ family members together — puppies and their parents, littermates and half-siblings, little ones growing up, adolescents changing color, and the wonderful veterans. (I wanted to put Dinah in Veterans for the very first time, but she wasn’t in condition. Her boyfriend Traveler was there, though. His daughter Bonnie took the 5-point bitch major on Sunday. Traveler’s son Brae, who is Bonnie’s full brother from a different litter, went BOS both days.)

Thanks to everyone who came, showed, sweated, hugged their hotel-room air conditioners, and braved the local food delivery to come play with us. Particular thanks go to the kind folks who manned the club tent, the lunch buffet, and the raffle.

Now that this year’s shows are done, could we put in a requisition for partly-sunny, 65-degree weather for next year’s shows?

And… We’re Off!

York County KC of Maine (Southern Maine Coastal Classic Cluster)
May 19, 2013
Best of Breed, Beginner Puppy

rowan-gaiting-cropped

Little Rowan made her debut in the Beginner Puppy (4-Under 6 Months) ring last weekend at the local show cluster. This is my local club’s show weekend, and I was too crazy busy playing chief steward to be able to show her myself. Val offered to take her around the ring for me. (Rowan loves Auntie Val. She remembers that we’re all road-trip buddies.)

Rowan was the only Bearded Collie there, so all she really needed to do was show up and not go for anybody’s jugular — but we can now truthfully state that she went BOB her first time in the ring. She might have fared better than 5th in the Herding Group had she decided to go in one direction instead of heading toward all of the 16 compass points while gaiting… but it was her first show. We can cut her a break, and keep working in handling class. The judge got a kick out of her, Val got a kick out of her, and her buddies Storme the GSD and Darla the OES went on to get group placements (4th and 2nd), respectively. Rowan even brought her own cheering section!

Rowan even had her own cheering section!

Because Rowan will be all of 6 months and 4 days at her second dog show, this was her first and last appearance in Beginner Puppy at a show. She makes her “for reals” debut in the 6-9 Month class at Ladies’ next weekend.

A Quick PSA

Penny Cary’s Petiquette website is down, but she is about to start a new session of handling classes in Saco. Come be classmates with about half of the York County Kennel Club! Contact Penny for more information.

We Are Virtually Proud

InfoDog Virtual Dog Show
9/27 – 10/1/2010
Best In Show

Yes, you read that right. Dinah just received her first Best in Show as an adult, and her first in the States. (She was Best Puppy in Show at the Canadian National back in 2006 and had an AKC Puppy Group 2 as a puppy.) Okay, so maybe it isn’t a real show, since it didn’t involve grooming, gaiting, sweating, driving, or an expensive hotel stay. All the same, it’s a Best in Show, and we’ll take it.

If you’re not familiar with the Infodog Virtual Dog Show, it’s an online simulated all-breed show sponsored by show superintendents MB-F, Inc. It’s free to enter; all you need are a few nice photographs. There is also a “fun” section where you can enter candid photos of your dog in various categories. Yes, you may enter both sections.

In the dog show section, you may enter with just one show-side photo of your dog, or you may upload front, back, and right side photos and even a video of your dog gaiting. (We have an assortment of very nice stills, but no video.) In a way, this forces you to select from among the piles of posed and candid shots you own to find the ones that would look good to a judge who cannot actually touch your dog or watch the gaiting around the ring. The breed, group, and Best in Show judges’ bios are posted as the show opens for entries.

Judging proceeds the same way as it does for any other all-breed show: first the class dogs, then the class bitches, then Best of Breed. Infodog even has little “animations” of the dogs’ photos going around the ring to “applause.” When your dog wins, you receive an emailed certificate showing the photo, the win, and a rosette. Judges are allowed to post evaluations of the dog they’ve judged, and some do take advantage of that. I’ll never forget the evaluation we received the first year we entered (2008): “This appears to be a quality dog with a correct coat, however there is so much that a judge cannot do in this sort of competition. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that this dog has or will win big.” Well, we’ve done okay since then.

This year Dinah, being a special, started off in BOB. Okay, so there wasn’t a lot of competition in breed this year, since there were only three Beardies — but still, she won and advanced to Group.

Last year, she didn’t place in Group, though she’s had a Group 3 and a Group 4 in the past. There were some very nice competitors out there. This year, though, was different…

The same lovely blue merle Aussie and some other group competitors from the last were there again this year, though there weren’t any Collies. It might be just a virtual Group First, but it was Dinah’s first! I was too busy to read email this morning, so I missed the email with the Group 1 inside. Dinah went on to BIS without me.

At lunchtime, I received this in email:

It took me a minute to react (as it usually does) — and then it hit me. Judging was over. There were no additional rounds to advance to. Dinah had not only won Best of Breed and defeated the other dogs in the Herding Group, but she had also defeated the other group winners! Sure, this is how every all-breed dog show works, and people whose dogs are multiple BIS winners are probably used to this… but all the same, it’s our first BIS, however virtual. Maybe a real one is in the cards for someday… most likely, not.

Anyone can enter the Infodog Virtual Dog Show. Get your photos together and come join in the fun for the next round!

O Canada: the Road Trip Movie

Bearded Collie Club of Canada National Specialty
8/11 and 12, 2010
Badger: 4th, Veteran Males 7-9

Judge: David Hyde. Photo by Garth Gourlay.

In a way, Val and I needed to go to Fredericton to prove to ourselves that not all car trips turn into plots for horror movies. Our trip to Minnesota was so Edvard-Munch-The-Scream horrible that we still have PTSD flashbacks from it, and I never did finish my blog post about it from last year. (I might still do that someday, but it would probably end up within the chronology of this blog and pass, unnoticed, into the Collection of Things Best Not Mentioned. Either that, or someone like Rob Zombie will pick up the option for it and turn it into this generation’s version of The Exorcist Meets Sybil. Yes, it was that horrible. Worse, even.) Anyway, we were overdue for one of our own road trips — so off to the Maritimes we went. We baked in the heat, we got wet in the rain, and we encountered giant spuds on the roadside… but we did have a pretty good time.

When Dinah picked up her last point in Fredericton, I said, “Pack your bags – we’re heading to Belleville!” We’d entered the National two days before, simply because entries closed before we could make it to the Maritimes. If we hadn’t had such a nice trip to Fredericton and back, we might not have gone at all. The very idea of long car rides still makes us both cringe.

So there we were: the two of us plus Kathy with Dinah, Fiona, and Badger — all packed into a rented Ford Econoline van, eager to prove to ourselves that not all trips have to be Trips From H-E-Double Hockey Sticks. The construction on the way there, plus the traffic through Montreal, made the drive up a Trip From Heck, but we survived. If not for the fact that most of New Hampshire, Vermont, and Quebec appeared to be under construction, we might have made the trip in 9 hours instead of 10 1/2.

The Ramada in Belleville was lovely, with a nice big flat area perfect for showing — and right by the water for scenic show pictures. We arrived late enough in the week so that we missed having time to explore the hiking trails, but that was unavoidable. Next time, for sure!

Here’s a view from Val’s and my 4th-floor balcony:

Badger and Fiona, the class dogs, showed on Wednesday, with the boys showing first. Badger was first up on the table:

He’s essentially retired from showing, but he still loves to show off occasionally. I brought him along mostly so Kathy would have enough dogs to show, but he cleaned up nicely and looked great in the ring.

Badger ended up taking 4th place in Veteran Males 7-9, which was a pleasant surprise. There were 6 dogs entered and 5 showed up, so he wasn’t last in the class. Not bad for a retired guy. He still gets his spot in BCCC history now.

All the weather forecasts the previous week had promised us lovely, 60-degree days and 40-degree nights with a chance of rain on Friday and maybe Thursday. None of us — especially the hairy members of the entourage — are huge fans of very hot weather, but Kathy probably dislikes it the worst of all of us. She’s the one who has to dress up and run around in the bright sunshine — while wearing a suit and pantyhose. Can’t blame her there. Anyway, the weather forecast lied. By the time we made it to Ontario, it was just plain baking hot. We ended up having to soak chamois cloths to put over each dog before showtime. Luckily, we had electricity available so we could plug in our big fan, and we ran the batteries in the crate fans until they begged for mercy. Dinah relaxed on her waterbed, but Badger just didn’t care for his. He stood it for the car rides, but asked to be placed in a crate without the bed — and then dug up the fleece bed so he slept just on the plastic pan on the bottom. Silly old bluey.

Next, it was Fiona’s turn to shine in the baking hot sun.

The Open Bitch class was massively competitive, and Fee acquitted herself very well. There wasn’t a bad-looking girlie in the lot. I’d moved Dinah up since she finished in Fredericton; otherwise she’d have been in this class, too.

The judge had pulled out his first picks in the ring in Open Bitch, and then he looked back and looked Fiona over again. He pulled her out to join his other picks, then moved her up to third place. For a moment, we thought he would move her up more, but he seemed content with his choices as they were. Third place at a National is still nothing to sneeze at, and it gave people a good look at Fee.

Thus encouraged, we celebrated with a room-service picnic and high hopes for Best of Breed. If David had liked the B-Man, then he would love Dinah, right? Dinah had been Best Puppy at that specialty in 2006 and Winners Bitch in 2008. With a winning streak like that, she should come home with something very nice from out of the Specials class, right? Even if she didn’t take Best of Breed or Best Opposite, even an Award of Merit would have been cause for a victory banquet at Big Daddy’s BBQ, home of the all-you-can-eat lobster dinner.

Of course, the big game that everyone plays at dog shows is, “What does the judge like?”. Some like good movers. Some like nice heads. Some don’t show any pattern to their choices. Everyone scrutinizes the judge’s picks and tries to determine the pattern (if any).

It rained in the early morning hours before the show, which to us was an encouraging sign. Dinah loves to show in wet weather; as Kathy says, “She’s a mudder.” It remained cloudy at showtime, which was a vast relief to everybody sporting sunburns from the previous days of showing.

There were so many entries in Best of Breed that the judge brought everyone in, then allowed the bitches to leave the ring so he could judge all the dog entries first. He would make his cuts, then dismiss the dogs and do the same for the bitches.

By the time dog judging was complete, the atmosphere had started heating up again. I was disappointed that Dinah wouldn’t get to show in the rain. Sure, she gets horribly messy, but she plows through the muck and water with such joy that you’d think she actually loved to show. She doesn’t really — she likes it okay, but she doesn’t love it. Still, add water and she’s a happy camper.

Finally, the bitches were called in. Because Dinah had moved up from Open just the day before, she was placed last in line. She had plenty of time to get bored and fidgety back there, and she made Kathy work to keep her focused. All the same, she looked lovely.

She moved nicely, when it finally came her turn.

We were surprised and disappointed when she didn’t even make the cut, but she simply wasn’t David’s cup of tea — nor did she feel particularly motivated to make him change his mind about that. David appeared to prefer bigger, longer dogs. Dinah is long enough, but he liked them really long. Badger and Fiona are both longer than The Lovely One. She’s also a little girl, and he didn’t put up any little Beardies in any of the classes. Anyway, we sadly left the ring and started packing up. Dinah’s winning streak at the National was no more. No AOM. No all-you-can-eat lobster.

The top honors eventually went to two deserving dogs: Arwen (whom Dinah has beaten every other time they’ve been in the same ring) took Best of Breed, and Darcy (Diva’s littermate and a very nice boy) took Best of Opposite. All of the specials were nice — not a bad one anywhere, or an undeserving one — but it was still a bummer about Dinah’s winning streak. Not even Kathy’s lucky suit and my lucky earrings helped. (I’m not really a believer in lucky charms, but I do believe in how you act and feel when you have them. It does make a difference when you feel lucky.)

Our trip home took us over the same bridges that we crossed to head home from Gananoque, and we took a shortcut through the farm country in upstate New York that was charming, but not exactly short in terms of time. At least we weren’t stuck in miles of orange barrels with kamikaze traffic trying to run us off the road. It took us a good 11 hours to get back, but we made it safely (if a bit punchy toward the end — we giggled from central MA all the way back to Maine), unpacked in as orderly a fashion as we could manage, and got lucky Kathy on the road for home so she could attend a wedding the next day. She survived it, and we all survived the road trip. Even if we didn’t bring home any really big honors, simply surviving the trip without it devolving into insanity was almost enough of a reward. Maybe we can travel again without flashbacks after all.

The Best-Laid Plans

2nd Annual NE Regional Specialty, Wrentham, MA, 6/5/10
BOS
Supported Entry, Framingham District KC Show, 6/6/10
BOS
10 GRCH points

Sometimes, in spite of all the careful planning, negotiating, communicating, and coordination involved in putting on a show, the best-laid plans can… actually work out.

I don’t mind sharing that I had been dreading the Regional Specialty this year. I’d been appointed show chair at a meeting where I wasn’t even present, and from then on I never quite felt that I had the details under control. When you’re coordinating two events at two shows two states away and trying to coordinate between two regional clubs and two all-breed clubs, things can get a little hairy – even by Bearded Collie standards of hairiness. They get hairier still when you’re a Show Chair Newbie.

The signs weren’t looking so good. Beardies ended up being scheduled at 3 PM on Saturday and 2 PM on Sunday – so much for the idea of showing in the morning and then enjoying a leisurely lunch afterward. Our club treasurer ended up having back surgery. A week or so before the show, the sub shop where we’d bought last year’s sandwiches was struck by lightning. A day or so before the show, the weather forecast changed from sunny and high 70s to a tornado watch. The night before the show, the skies opened, accompanied by thunderboomers. You never want to ask the question “What else could go wrong?” – but the temptation to do so anyway is hard to resist.

At least my own anxieties never made it into the premium list. Beardie folks entered the show, some from as far away as Toronto, Charlotte… and even Oregon! Our Sweeps judge was our friend Ann Lord from New Brunswick. We ended up fielding a small but respectable number of entries for sweeps and veteran sweeps, and enough class entries in the regular show to offer a 5-point major in dogs and 4 points in bitches. Trophies? Check. Food? Check. Raffle? Check. Hospitality tent? Check. Tables and chairs? Check. Judge’s gift for Ann? Check. Checks? Check.

On show day, the intrepid show crew appeared, set up the tables and spread out the buffet, the raffle items, the grooming tables, the crates, and all of the other paraphernalia associated with dog shows. Since our part of the entertainment didn’t start until 3 PM, we were able to assemble the party at our leisure, greet our friends as they arrived, groom our dogs, and even do a little shopping. We held a raffle, and Ann managed to win a bunch of the items – so she definitely didn’t leave the show empty-handed.

Sweeps judge Ann Lord goes over a puppy boy shown by Amy Alspaugh Penuel.

Dog shows are social occasions for the Beardies, too. Our dogs got to greet their friends, meet new acquaintances, and mark their territory. Dinah was particularly thrilled to have so many good-looking guys around to flirt with – not only her sweetheart Traveler and his son Brae, but she also took a particular liking to Fuzzy from PA.

Shameless plug: GreenDoggieBags.com outfitted us with a very generous supply of their eco-conscious doggie bags as well as several samples of their green trash bags. The trash bags came in mighty handy both for regular old trash and for bottle and can recycling. I had expected people to remark more on the doggie bags, but folks seemed even more interested in the green trash bags – so it was helpful to have samples of both products. I’m glad to report that we sustained no doggie-bag emergencies, but it was comforting to know that we had the tools at the ready if they were ever needed. We will also have plenty left over for the club’s annual Bounce and BBQ in July. Thanks, GreenDoggieBags.com!

Our Green Doggie Bags display

One thing we can certainly say about our group is that we can certainly feed people! Folks kept arriving with more goodies – veggie platters, fruit kabobs, brownies. We had plenty to eat, and still didn’t have to snarf it all down so we could rush off to groom. The early-morning clouds had burned off, leaving us with that old familiar New England heat and humidity. It felt good to take our time – almost as though we’d planned it that way. There were a couple of distant rumbles from thunder, but they remained idle threats.

Eventually, our ring time arrived. Kathy had about 400 Beardies to show between Sweeps and regular classes, and Dinah (as the special) went in last. I wasn’t sure how badly Dinah would want to show on a hot, sticky day 8 months after her last show, but she was so happy to have both Her Trav and his handsome brother Roy out there with her that she acquitted herself well and went Best Opposite to Roy. Roy went on to Group 2.

The most unfortunate thing about the schedule was that we ended up with the busiest judge of the show. They were holding up the group ring for her while she judged us, so we had no time for pictures or chitchat before she had to go. We were all so hot and sticky by that time that no one was feeling very photogenic anyway – and by the time the poor judge would be available, it would be past our bedtimes. I hope they gave her anything she wanted for dinner that night, including drinks from the top shelf of the bar or the best wine in the cellar.

After Saturday’s showing had concluded, we dragged ourselves back to the hotel and rinsed all the half an inch of sweat and stickiness from our skins. I blasted the AC in my hotel room, and Dinah hopped up onto the bed nearest the unit with a sigh. I have never been so happy to be standing under a running shower in my life! Val and I had Girls’ Night out with Lesley and Sue later that evening, while Pat volunteered to doggy-sit everyone (even Dinah, who knows how to whoop it up with Trav an a hotel room). We had a great time and the waiter was perceptive enough to keep the cold drinks a-coming, but I think I ended up staring at my dinner more than actually mustering up the energy to eat it.

On Sunday, we dragged our sorry carcasses back to the show for another frickin’ afternoon show time. Pat had the Sunday paper. Kathy and Kenny brought chicken salad for lunch (thanks, guys!). We brought out the leftover goodies from the day before and set up a nice little brunch.

The humidity hovered between 100% and 99% for much of the day. It sprinkled fitfully from time to time until the clouds burned off and the sun returned.

“I don’t know how Dinah’s going to do today,” Kathy said. We both knew that Herself likes to put all her effort into one day at the show, and then slack off for all of the other days. Since she showed well on Saturday, we both expected her to just give us the paw on Sunday and do as she pleased.

The other thing that Herself like to do is surprise us, and that she did – by deciding to show beautifully, even at the ragged end of a long, hot couple of days of showing. She arguably worked harder for the second BOS than she did for the first one! She did have some pretty formidable competition in the person of Trav’s daughter Fiona, though. Fee had just gone BOB over her dear dad a couple of weeks before, and was looking good in the ring. Fee ended up going BOW on Sunday, thus scooping up the crossover points from the boys’ 5-point major. Fee’s uncle Roy went on to Group 1 that day.

We all enjoyed watching the judge, who exercised infinite patience with the puppies. “What a nice judge,” someone remarked. “He even says ‘please’ to people in the ring.” Again, since he was the group judge, he had to get to the ring with little time for pictures.

Remember the tornado watch that was forecast for the region? As showing in our ring wound down, we could see that the clouds were growing denser and uglier, and the wind was beginning to pick up. We wasted very little time getting out of Dodge – tents came down, chairs and tables were folded, dogs hopped up into crates in the vehicles – and we cleared out of there before we got blown all the way to Oz. It seemed like an anticlimactic way to spend the time after a reasonably successful show weekend, but we all just wanted to outrun the storm.

Thanks to everyone who entered, brought food and drink, offered goodies for the raffle and bought tickets, and visited during the event. It was great to see everyone – including some new folks we’d only met through email. Thanks too to the show chairs for both host clubs, who made sure that everything Just Worked.

Because we’re hosting the National in Maine next year, it’s a bit too soon to tell whether we will also be holding a Regional in 2011. Kathy and I are trying to work out our schedule for the rest of this dog-show year, and we hope to get to at least one more Regional (Garden State) and the BCCC National. Carolinas is looking mighty tempting, too – and we know they’ll show us a good time. Anyway, we’re glad that our Regional is over, and hope people had a good time.

(The complete results and a bunch of action photos will appear on the BCCME website when I get some time to type them all in.)

Memory Lane

Talkin’ ’bout