My First Show!
I warn you, this might take a while, so if you're not really interested, I certainly don't mind, but if you are a newbie to dog shows, it might help you quite a bit. Here is how my first show went, and how it might be for you.
When I started in this sport about six monthes ago, I thought it would be a great hobby for my dogs and me to do on the weekends. Little did I know that it would soon turn from a hobby to a passion. Now I estimate that 1/4 of my daylight hours (which is a lot of my free time if you count school and homework) are spend in some way relating to Juniors. I have really strived to aquire as much knowledge as possible for my first show, on the internet, in books, etc., but as I was soon to learn, much of the sport is unwritten and requires you to have someone to teach you some of the little spoken ediqutte of the ring. I was soon to learn this at my very first show, Piedmont KC's 1998 September show.
It was a really nice day, although you could hardly tell at five o'clock in the morning. Up to wash my golden retriever, Aphrodite (or Phro as we call her). Jeez, I thought. She is filthy. Why I was washing her was a little bit of a mystery to me. I could have washed her the previous night (which I have learned is a better choice), but I chose to get up early. Why not? It wasn't like I was going to be able to sleep anyways. So, I start to wash. I wash and wash and wash until no more muddy water is dripping off, a miracle to say the least. She shakes dry and I start to groom. (Now, keep in mind that I have NO previous experience in grooming ANY dog, so I do what I know, blow dry and brush. Keep it simple and how could I possibly mess up?) I blow her until I start to see light over the horizon. It's 6:30, time to get ready. I had packed my outfit the night before. It's a black jumper with a dark green swetter. I will pull it on at the last minute, so I won't get it doggy (famous word in my house, means hairy, fuzzy, and smelly). The car is packed. I yell to my dad that I am ready, and he better get it in gear so we won't be late. We load up Phro and are on our way.
According to schedule, we arrive at the Piedmont KC showgrounds at 8:00am. After parking, we get Phro out of the car and what is the first thing she does? Raises the hair on the back of her neck, sniffs around, then looks up at me as to say, what in the he** are we doing here?? Typical Phro comment. Aphrodite has never been to a place with so many dogs there at a single time; she is as much a newbie as I am. After a quick trip around the parking area, she decides that she can live with it, as long as nothing too weird happends. Then, my dog and I go to the Super's desk to see about armbands. She askes if we have ever been to a show before, and when we say no, she politely tells us that armbands will be given out 15 mins. prior to your class at the ring. Thirty minutes later, at ring one, I pick up my first armband, at this point I am OK with all of it, but starting to get that weird feeling that comes right before you get really nervous...
Ring One, Nine A.M.
OK, calm down, I think. It's nothing, I will be fine. But I'm not. Five minutes before my class begins, I get back my terrible stage fright. Needless to say, I am extremely nervous. Deep breath. The judge is handing out the first place ribbon to the winner of the Novice Junior class ahead of me. The Juniors file out. Now I am really nervous. "Novice Senoir," the steward calls out, "Junior 7." I walk into the ring. The judge smiles and tells me to take her around. I trot with Phro, who is now wondering what the freak is going on, and why all those people are glued to us. "Good girl! Good girly," I say as I try to calmly stack her. The judge saids to take as much time as I need, but that makes me rush even worse. I am trying to look professional for Christsake. One, two, three, four, OK, I'm ready. I look up at the judge. He comes over and asks for the bite. I am in the middle of feeding Phro a big piece of bait, she chews it up, and I pull back her gums. "Good," he saids. Now he moves to her side and just as he reaches to pat her back, Phro whips around and shoots him a look. What do you think your doing?? I could almost hear her snap at him. He looks at me fuldding with my lead, bait, and dog at the same time and suddenly tells my to stop and put the bait away. I do so and he comes up in front of the dog. "If you anticapate that she will move," he whispers, "put your hand under her belly to prevent her from doing so." "Yessir," I said quickly and stacked her again. This time I follow his advice and she doesn't move when he runs his hand along her back. "Good, now down and back please." With another yessir, I am gone with her quickly gaiting. I whisper to her as we go along. I stack her again and he smiles at me, turns and gives me my ribbon. I walk out with my first ribbon! It means a lot to me, even though it will always stand with the imfamous phrase: 'First by default.' I was the only one entered in my class, so I had to have won.
My dad comes over to congradulate me. "You did a great job," he saids. "No, I sucked," I said back, "but it doesn't matter. It was my first time, and I can only get better." "Well, anyways," he changes the subject. "There is a Ms. Lovejoy that wants to speak with you." "Really?" I ask. I have never had anyone come up to me like this, and was wondering what to think about it. "Excuse me, my dad said that you wanted to talk to me?" I asked to a the lady my dad pointed to. "Yes," she said. "This is your first time? I had to learn it all myself too. My parents were never interested in anything. I always wish I had someone to yell at me once and awhile, so I'll give you a few pointers." She procceed to give me more info on the finer points of showing than I had learned in six monthes. "Tell you what, the goldens were in ring nine at the same time as you were. They are probably done, but I think I can get some of them to talk to you. " "Wow," I said bewildered. "Thanks." We met her later and she said that she couldn't find any handlers today, but that I should call their names listed in the directory to ask about help or classes. I promised that I will. She also said to talk to the club when everything calms back down about Junior handling classes and mentorships. Wow, I think, a mentor. That would be awesome. I thank her profusely, and we stick around a little bit longer. I buy a new lead, then we go home.
I was great. We had a wonerful time and I learned a lot. A first show is suppose to be a learning experience, not a competition. Always striving for perfection, I go home and try ever grooming tip Ms. Lovejoy gave me. Including trimmign her nails to virtual stubs, clipping the hair around her feet, and taking grooming sisscors and cutting off the extra hair off of her tail so it tapers down. Now these things might seem like second nature to you, but if you think about it, where did you learn that you were suppose to do it that way? From a friend, or your parents? Keep in mind that I have no handler friends and my parents don't show, not to mention that it isn't written anywhere I have ever looked. I never knew it til then, so I tried it, and it worked wonderfully. Phro was starting to look like a real show dog, not just a pet. I had found new strength in myself.
I am still learning a lot more every day that I am with my dogs. I have started to find more and more friendly handlers and owners that are willing to take me under their wing. I haven't been able to find a class yet, but it is a big city. There has to be a class somewhere around here...Anyways, I am stilling taking suggestions about anything and everything, so if you just have an extra minute to write my a tip or two you have found that works handling either goldens or GSDs, I couldn't even explain how much you could help me. Thanks for reading this, and I hope if you are a newbie, and are nervous about your own first show, this has helped you out a lot. Sometimes we find the most comfort in those of our own kind.
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