T told me to get to the dog show early. Parking would be tight, she said. I changed my mind again about which car I was taking, leaving the big new truck at home and going with my small, trusty, 8 year old wagon. I packed the car, downloaded a new audiobook, did Eggi’s nails, brushed her teeth, and gave her a bath the night before. I woke up before my alarm, wondering if I’d overslept. It was 5:15 am.
I haven’t been sleeping well. I’m usually busy enough to be tired at a reasonable hour, but I’ve been waking up at 4 am or 3 am or 2 am, and running headlong into the thought that I won’t be able to go back to sleep. I excuse myself from stepping on that thought, and try to walk away from it, making no eye-contact and exchanging no pleasantries but if there is sleeping after that encounter I do not know how it is done. Imagine! Being my age and being bad at something as fundamental as sleeping! I’ve been practicing my whole life! The next day I will be tired by 3 pm, and drag myself through the second half of the day, and go to bed knowing I might be up again at first light.
Before leaving early for the dog show, I had the normal dog-centered morning routine, letting them out, and making their breakfast, and getting my own coffee. I rejected several routes suggested by the navigation app. I don’t pretend to be a Connecticut expert, but I am allergic to the state, and know which of its features (parkways, malls, boarding schools, I-95) trigger my worst reactions (excessive feelings leading to tears), so I opted out of the Merritt, favoring every tiny, oddly spelled, crooked two-lane road between here and where I was going.
I was on time. I asked the parking attendants if I could drop Eggi at T’s RV and they allowed it. I put her in an empty kennel, and parked on the sun-baked grass at the top of the hill.
First off, we had a puppy sweepstakes where Eggi would be competing against the 15-18 month old vizslas. The catch with sweepstakes is no professional handlers, so owners like me have to put on the distinctive sensible shoes and non-distracting work attire of people who show dogs, put a number on their left arm with several rubber bands, and go in the ring with the dogs.
I’ve been in the show ring with our even younger dog, Fellow, doing beginner puppy classes. Those judges are sometimes nice and also helpful, especially if they can tell you don’t know what you’re doing. Fellow did better moving around the ring than he did standing still, which was when he barked at me, threw himself on the ground, and amused himself with wriggling.
I got confused picking up my number and when I couldn’t find my dog’s name listed in the catalog, I went to the show superintendent to try to figure it out. The superintendent told me to follow a woman in a pink sweater, who was walking away with some other confused person with the same problem. While the pink sweater woman tried to find my number, I realized that I had my entry and judge’s program in my car, so I went back to T’s RV to get my car keys, and then up the hill to my car, and by the time I was back at the vizsla specialty ring with my entry the woman in the pink sweater was gone. The ring steward looked at me like he’d never seen me before, and handed me my number; there never was a problem, other than I had looked on the wrong page of the catalog.
Then I went to get Eggi and forgot to get a dog treat to tuck under my number in case I needed to get her refocused on me. When I realized my error, the only person I was comfortable enough to ask to borrow some didn’t have any. Did I really need it? I would find out.
Once we were called into the ring, I felt like a child who thought they knew how to drive a car because they’ve seen grown ups do it. Put your hands on the wheel, and stop on red! Hold the leash with one hand, and stand your dog! The judge came over and fixed it when I put Eggi’s hind legs out too far.
I felt conspicuously clumsy taking Eggi down-and-back and then around the ring. I felt conspicuously clumsy trying to get her to stand square and look at me and not sniff the grass or scratch herself. I felt conspicuously foolish for not having a piece of chicken under my number. I felt conspicuously clumsy when we were picked for second place and I did not know where to go. We got a brown ribbon and a check for $14.63. I put Eggi away so she could decompress before her other class (with the handler T, in the afternoon).
I never did get around to changing out of the dress I wore, and so it meant that someone I did not know approached me afterward to say I’d done a good job showing Eggi. I said thank you, but suspected that the person was being mean-nice, and really what they wanted to say was “HOOOOO NELLY! Y’all don’t know what you’re doing out there, huh!?” If it was mean-niceness, though, it was conspiracy of mean-nice folks, because two other strangers encouraged me, too.
The best of breed competition was after lunch. Because of the specialty sweepstakes in the morning, there were over twenty vizslas in the ring for this class. The sun was high and bright, and the line of dogs and handlers stretched from the deep shade of the tent out onto the grass.
The judge walked around making eye contact with each dog and bitch entered, and when she was finished she moved everyone into the shade. Next, she sent them around the ring one at a time.
Eggi looked great.
Eggi loves her handler.
I’ve owned vizslas since 1992, so they don’t all look alike to me, but Eggi (foreground) and her sister Vivva (right) really do look alike.
Eggi’s handler T gets her attention even when she isn’t asking for it.
After the judge inspected each dog, sent them down and back and then around the ring, she sent everyone back to their places and went around the ring one more time. Suddenly she started picking dogs, selecting Fellow’s sire first. Other than this dog, I was unfamiliar with all the judge’s choices. And then she was done.
Eggi was not chosen.
But she looked great in there.
We made our goodbyes quickly and headed up to my car. It was very hot inside. I punched up the navigation app and we headed home some other, winding way. After about ten minutes, I began to wonder why the car was still so hot. I opened some windows, but kept the AC on full. Ten minutes later the car was still blowing warm air at me. When, I wondered, did the AC in my car stop working?