Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Rock and roll lifestyle

Taking someone to a dog show for the first time is almost like taking someone to a rock concert for the first time, then taking them back stage to see that the guitarist and bassist hate each other, the drummer's going to shoot up in the bathroom, and the lead singer is screwing someone else's wife.

The dog show life may seem glamorous when all you see of a dog show is what's on TV. At those shows, they roll out the plush carpet, drape the exam table, and accent the ring with flower arrangements. The ribbons are long, the trophies are heavy, and everybody claps. But go to a real dog show with your eyes and ears open and you'll discover that dog show people really aren't as dignified as they may wish to appear.

A few weekends ago, I took my boyfriend to his first dog show. It was a specialty show, which means that only one breed was competing, and winning Best of Breed is the same as winning Best in Show. Many exhibitors travel great distances to compete in specialty shows, as there is greater breed competition at these shows than at regular all-breed shows. They usually occur less often, and the judges are better acquainted with the breed. Because they are special events, specialty shows are commonly held in hotel banquet rooms.

We walked in to the lobby and saw a professional dog portrait studio set up on the far wall, with dozens of sample portraits on display. Most people were dressed nicely, many in suits. We headed into the banquet room and took some ringside seats.

Instead of clapping, many of the classes ended in stunned silence from a disapproving crowd. We overheard some gossip from spectators and exhibitors standing behind us, including a comment on an exhibitor that will always be remembered as the woman who appeared to the show dressed in a full-length mink coat. When we weren't casually eavesdropping, I schooled my boyfriend on the basics of dog showing: the lingo, points and procedures of conformation.

We sat and looked at the dogs in the lineup. He leaned in and asked quietly, "Why are people picking at their mouths like that?"

It then occurred to me that there are very few occasions when respectable adults dressed in formal attire will dig into the pouch of their cheek to retrieve a tidbit of meat and feed it to their dog.

"That's called baiting," I explained. "Bait is food you feed to your dog to get their attention."

I had to chuckle. Only at a dog show...


lizzyl said...

yikes! dog shows can be very strange...he has seen "Best in Show" hasn't he??


love your blog! I'll be back!! :)