It’s easy to identify one’s most important win, or most devastating loss. But, the rest of
the memories that rattle around the closet in my head are tougher to sort. They are
dusty and blurred around the edges. A little crumpled and stained from the years
passing. I rarely drag them out, brush off the spider webs and look at them.
I read an article recently, written by a junior handler, that cracked open the closet door.
She talked about dog shows as I used to know them. I’m not entirely sure whether the
sport has changed that much or I have. Probably a little of both. But reading this young
woman’s commentary gave me pause. Brought me back. Reminded me of what fun we
used to have.
Back in the day, “Brush Prairie” was actually held in Brush Prairie, Wash. I was so new
Bob Damberg would park me under the oak tree. This was the only tree on the entire
property, easily a mile from the rings. At least, it seemed like it then. My parking
fortunes improved as my handling career did, but the street signs — Lhasa Lane and
Poodle Parkway and Afghan Avenue — are imprinted on my brain for life. What a great
way to liven up the confusion of the parking areas.
I don’t remember who started it, but a small group of us used to hold an unofficial juniors
fun match each year at those shows. The kids were required to show a breed unfamiliar
to them and handling lessons were part of the program. We even added “adult” classes
for the juniors’ parents and other folks who wanted to improve their skills. Sitting around
that makeshift ring, watching the Basenji kid show a poodle, or the show photographer
be silly… I’m not sure I’ve laughed that much in all the years since then put together.
This event gave the kids structure, adult supervision, if perhaps somewhat lax, and
something to which they all looked forward.
Another auld lang syne, if you will, was a young guy working for Beep and Shari for a
couple summers who had the most beautiful voice and played guitar. Just sort of by
magic, several dozen of us would wind up sitting around their set up listening or singing
along. Those are some of the most peaceful evenings I remember at dog shows.
Winding the clock even further back, I think of some of the crazy trips with my mom
when I was a kid. We were incredibly clueless. We went to the Portland dog show every
January. A couple times we stayed with friends in sort of a rough part of town. Keep in
mind, we were from the country. Way out in the boondocks. We never locked the house,
never mind the car. We were shocked, shocked I say, to wake up one morning and find
our grooming bag stolen out of the Honda Civic Wagon. A maple bar was shoved
through the door of the crate the “guard dog” GWP slept in. I suspect the thieves were
just as dismayed that the denim woman’s purse they took was full of leashes, collars, brushes, combs, scissors, thinning shears and corn starch.
The close relationship I have with my mom to this day was forged on those and many
other trips, meandering around the state from fairgrounds to fairgrounds, dodging deer,
running late, cramming too much stuff in too small a vehicle.
Another thing I have noticed. I miss my days traveling to shows in an RV. So much of
the leisure is removed when you have to load up and drive back to a hotel. Good
memories have been made celebrating birthdays and other events at large dinner
functions. But the casual friendships made over xpens, sharing a drink at the set up
after hours, potlucks and impromptu football games are tough to replace.
Our world is what we make it. A couple of our area shows feature handling seminars
and fun matches organized and staffed by PHA members. Dress down days, themed
shows, Take The Lead parties, contests, canned food drives all help re-establish the
flavor of community that has seemed to fade over the years.
Finding ways, even small ones, to unwind, to interact as friends and friendly
competitors, to relax, to put aside labels and categories, to celebrate our common
ground, to simply enjoy a brief respite while participating in a sport we all love is to be
As always, this is JMHO.
PS I’m looking for a couple more contributions before moving forward with the 7 Deadly
Sins of Dog Shows column. Bring it! Feel free to email me at email@example.com
with your suggestions.