Three stories from this weekend at the Gig Harbor Kennel Club show in Shelton, Washington (told in reverse chronological order). It’s true: Good things can happen at dog shows.
“Did something just happen?” the judge asked
In the dog show ring today were two 14-point bitches and one other bitch that has a couple of points. This show was worth 1 point, and if one of those 14-point bitches won, that bitch would have the 15 points needed to “finish.” In other words, get her Champion title.
And indeed, after showing outside, in the rain, on slippery grass, one of the 14-point bitches won it. Kassie, the older one, the one who has been trying for many, many months to get that one last point, took her finishing point.
We three handlers erupted into cheers, smiles, pats on the back, and hurrahs. The judge, perhaps not very accustomed to losers being so happy, asked, “Did something just happen?” We all chimed in at once, “She just finished!” The judge smiled, and gesturing at the pouring rain, said, “Well, this is the perfect weather for finishing an Irish Water Spaniel. Congratulations.”
What was also strange is that this morning, when I woke up, I knew Kassie was going to win. I could see the judge giving Jill, Kassie’s handler, the ribbon. I tried very hard and several times to re-visualize this, to see myself running effortlessly around the ring, Tooey floating along side me, and the judge pointing at Tooey for the win. But no matter how many times I tried this, the vision always ended with Kassie getting the nod.
So, when Kassie actually did get it, I wasn’t particularly shocked. And I was happy — I have wanted this for Jill for awhile. Of course, I was disappointed that Tooey didn’t win — I would love to be finished.
But I can hold two contradictory ideas in my head at one time. And, as I have been told many times, Tooey’s championship will come.
Falling asleep holding “hands”
Tooey and I spent Saturday night on one of Jill’s very comfortable guest beds. Out in the country, where Jill lives, there is almost no light at night, and it’s very quiet. Both of us were ready for sleep. Showing in the dog show ring, getting groomed (again!), and running around playing ball with the other dogs had tired Tooey out. I was simply tired from having gotten up at 5:30 a.m. to prepare us both for the ring, and knew I’d be getting up the next morning at 5:30 again to do it all over again.
We were both lying on our sides, bellies facing each other, when Tooey pawed gently me a couple of times. I reached out to pet her and tell her good night, when she simply placed her paw in my hand. I laid my hand down on the bed, and her paw stayed cradled in my palm. I could feel the heat and the roughness of her pads. We feel asleep like that, paw in hand.
If this had been a movie, and my sleeping partner a human instead of a dog, it would have been one of those romantic “awww…” moments. As it was, it was simply sweet. It’ll be a memory I carry with me a long time.
Now a member of the 1-point club
The Gig Harbor Kennel Club dog show, like many weekend-long dog shows, is actually two shows. Tooey had gotten her 13th point just a week prior, at the Wenatchee show, and I had a chance to finish her this weekend if Tooey could win both shows.
The past week has been hell. I was stressed, I really wanted to finish, and none of the people who frequently help me groom were available. I’m not a great groomer, but I remembered Colleen telling me (to my shock) that it’s not unusual for person who’s going to show an Irish Water Spaniel to do a little grooming every night before a show. That gives the groomer the chance to see the effect after the dog has moved around and the fur has fallen into place.
So that’s what I did. I put poor Tooey up on the table for an hour every night last week. Each time, I asked Russ to help me see where it was uneven, or not matching from side to side, or too long, or the wrong shape, or … He’s not a groomer, either, but he’s got an artistic eye, and he’s watched some great IWS groomers do their stuff many times over. He caught a lot of areas that needed work, and I appreciate it.
Finally, about an hour before I had to leave to get to Jill’s house, where I was staying the night before the show, I just had to stop. I decided that Tooey looked good enough to show without my being humiliated.
And then the gods smiled on me. When I did get to Jill’s house, I found that Jayme, the groomer who has worked on both Cooper and Tooey in the past, was also staying at Jill’s house. And yes, she said she’d take a look at Tooey.
So up on the table Tooey went. Jayme studied her for a few minutes, and then looked up, and said, “You did this?” I nodded. Hard to know where a question phrased this way is coming from.
Jayme walked around the table and surveyed Tooey a bit more. Finally, she said, “You did a great job.” I let out a breath.
And truthfully, Jayme didn’t do a lot more. She took off some more fur along the belly, where I hadn’t been brave enough with my scissors, she shaped a bit around the back of the back legs, and touched up some uneven spots on the front legs. But basically, she told me that I could have easily taken Tooey into the ring without her help.
“Wouldn’t it be funny,” Jayme asked, “if you finally got good at this just as you were finishing Tooey?”
Oh, and we did get the point on Saturday, bringing Tooey up to 14 points. Now she needs just 1 point, making her a member of the “1-Point Club.”
May Tooey’s membership be very short.
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