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As the Wheels Turn – Nostalgia

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 scotiadawgs@gmail.com
with your suggestions.

Written by

Our family always had dogs. Mutt dogs, purebred dogs, but always dogs. I grew up with dogs everywhere. My mother eventually enrolled me in dog care 4-H because I was “shy and retiring and lacked people skills”….. I am the living testimonial to the success of the 4-H program! I continued into AKC shows as my family transitioned from “dogs” to the wonderful world of Purebred Dogs. I showed all of our family dogs in conformation and participated in Junior Showmanship competition. I went to college, earned a degree and worked as a newspaper reporter and freelance writer. Today, I am an AKC Breeder of Merit and a member of the Professional Handlers Association.
  • Karyn Cowdrey June 18, 2014 at 10:43 AM

    Ahhh Brush Prairie… I remember the Oak tree, parked near it and under it MANY times… LOL and ALLLLLL that walking 😀 even though I lived a whopping 7 miles from the sight I often set up a tent (yes TENT since I had no RV back then) and camped out for the week.. I sure miss that circuit!

    I also remember the voice on Beep and Shari’s assistant… one year I was set up right next too them camping out in my Van (still didn’t have an RV yet lolol but van was a step up from BroncoII and Tent!) and had the enjoyment of his singing and strumming each evening… Another show sight I greatly miss frankly.

    Today I have a REAL RV and love love love staying in it on the grounds. I honestly can say I manage to have as much fun today in 2014 as I did in 1994 and for that I’m greatly thankful 😀

  • ljmilder
    Linda Milder June 18, 2014 at 11:33 AM

    You are so right. Sometimes we forget the fun. I best remember a costume contest and dog games at Knoxville, TN one year and a great cookout at the Orlando show. Dog shows have helped us make new friends from all over the world. I am so blessed to be part of the Dog Show World.

  • chrita
    Gail June 18, 2014 at 4:31 PM

    I remember a time when I was working for Ray Brinlee and we were I think on the Montana show circuit. He and Corky Vroom were horsing around and Corky was setting off firecrackers under a spray can cap. I had this Wire Fox Terrier, Gypsy, that everyone knew, they didn’t remember my name but did remember her. Anyway, she was on the grooming table getting more and more agitated and all of a sudden, she leaps off the table and runs, not at the firecracker, but at Corky! He ran into his motorhome just in time to avoid her. She knew he was the one making all the racket so took it upon herself to stop it. So funny to see him beat feet from a terrier bent on getting him.

  • Sheryl Bartel June 19, 2014 at 9:39 AM

    Ahh, Brush Prairie. Fond memories. The 100 degree days – the Juniors and their spontaneous traveling water fights. Sitting in the sun by ringside watching groups. Those were my daughter’s and my first shows. We still display the much cherished first Junior’s placement photo from Brush Prairie complements of the Show Photographer who offered a free photo to all the Juniors. Miss that show site. Somehow parking the RV on the asphalt in Portland in the 100 degree July show just isn’t the same.

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