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the dog show

15 November 2010

I had a dream…hundreds of dogs running towards me.

OK, I didn’t honestly have this dream but it would have unnerved me if I had really experienced it. Aren’t dreams rooted in some semblance of actual physiological longing or wish fulfillment?

Shortly after our visit with Breeder Number One, we visited the Napa Fairgrounds for the Wine Country Kennel Club’s annual dog show. It wasn’t a long drive and visiting Napa in November is usually a pleasant experience.

Halt, We Have You Surrounded

If you’re a reluctant dog owner (at this stage I categorized myself to the far right, somewhere in the extremely reluctant category), dog shows are an amplified version of sleeping with the enemy. You’re surrounded by dozens of breeds. It is not unlike going to Chucky Cheese on a Saturday morning. Instead of being surrounded, though, by hundreds of kids powered by high fructose corn syrup, you’re surrounded by hundreds of primped and preening dogs.

With dogs to the left and right, you’ll are also mano a mano with the passion of everyone there. The level of passion among owners and handlers is either scary or inspiring. You’ve seen Best in Show with Eugene Levy, haven’t you? The passion of Tea Party supporters pales in comparison to dog show people. MW loved it. She must have thought it would bring me to my senses.

We stayed and we watched. MW had scheduled our visit so we were seated beside Ring B when the great danes trotted in. Through alternately standing and circling the ring at a trot, they displayed their physical and behavioral characteristics to the quiet and somewhat imperious judge. I really wasn’t sure what characteristics she was looking for. Not biting the other competitors was probably one that was too obvious.

The purpose of shows is to win points. If your dog has “it” and you drive enough miles, it will accumulate enough points to secure its status as a Champion. The breeder will then be able to charge more for the offspring. (I hope I’m not coming off too cynical here).

Short of Perfection: Understanding the “Pet Stock” Label

In the non-champion side of the purebred dog world, you find the pet stock designation. If a purebred pup has visual or physical characteristics contrary to the breed standard, they’re considered pet stock. It isn’t a fatal condition, of course, but it is kind of like being an LA Clippers or Pittsburgh Pirates fan. Scarlet letter stuff, you know. It doesn’t mean the pups are going to the glue factory, either. It just means that they aren’t going to be competitive on the pet show circuit and you won’t have to drive to Bakersfield or Reno in vain.

The pet stock label doesn’t mean that these dogs won’t mature into terrific pets and family members. In fact, Miss Stitches was labeled pet stock by her Florida breeder when MW bought her in 1988. She turned out great.

We watched this canine version of Little Miss Sunshine for 40 minutes. The dogs got a little dizzy circling the ring while the judge flicked her finger or closely examined teeth. We remained on the ground. Dogs were reexamined. The judge furrowed her brow in assessment. An assertive finger finally pointed out the winner and it was over. We rose to leave, still dog-free but likely not for too much longer if MW was sticking to her guns.

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