Monday, June 24, 2019

Thoughts of a Figure 8 post

Lawn not mowed.

No food in the fridge.

Dirty laundry expanding like a huge, fabric glacier.

House looks like an active crime scene.

Yep. It’s the Monday after a dog show weekend.

(And when I catch the little bastard who keeps sneaking into our basement and dumping off his dirty laundry, it’s not going to be pretty. Seriously – two people can NOT generate this many dirty clothes.)

But it was a grand weekend and worth the chaos awaiting me on the domestic front when it was over. 

I spent part of both days stewarding for the Novice and Beginner Novice classes at my club's summer trial. This is something I think everyone should do, especially us often-jaded old-timers who have been in the ring since before God made dirt and dogs jumped one and a half their height at the withers. (Damn, that was a long time ago. How am I possibly that old?)

It can be breathtaking to watch the choreographed performances of teams in the upper levels as they literally never put a paw wrong. But these polished exhibitions of uber training often lack the raw emotion you find in the novice rings.

Novice exhibitors are a delight. Their enthusiasm is infectious. They are excited to be at the show, excited to be going into the ring with their canine partner, excited to face the challenge of the great unknown. They exude nervous energy and hopeful anticipation.

This is all blended with honest confessions of “I hope I remember the heeling pattern” and “God, I hope I don’t throw up.” They don’t care about scores (other than being on the right side of 170). They don’t care about qualifying for the NOC or breed rankings or how many points are available for a class win. They are there for the simple joy of being in the moment with their dog.

Granted, some of them could have been a little more prepared but experiences were had and lessons were learned. One thing I noticed WITHOUT FAIL was the Novice and Beginner Novice exhibitors left the ring with huge smiles. They weren’t obsessed with perfect sits or precision heeling. They were ecstatic over the achievement of surviving their ring time, as if they and their dog had undertaken a monumental task and emerged victorious.

I spend too much time immersed in the B-level classes where a half point means the difference between placing and being an also-ran. I enjoyed experiencing obedience at ground zero – at the absolute starting point where every single one of us began our careers. For a couple of hours of stewarding each day, I got to be part of a sub-culture of a sub-culture, where scores are the last thing on anyone’s mind and there are smiles on everyone’s faces. It was refreshing.

For my dear readers who are not part of the dog training scene – all three of you – one of the exercises teams perform in the ring is a series of heeling figure 8’s around two human “posts” who stand still, arms crossed and do not look at or talk to the dogs. “Posting” is a relatively simple skill, performed by ring stewards, but it is not without peril.


Oooh! That is a nose in a place there should not be a nose.

Happy dog! I’m getting lashed by a tail! Thump! Thump! Thump!

Um – wait – you are on one side of me and your dog is on the other side of me and the two of you are connected by a leash – please remedy this situation before one of us gets hurt. Like me.

My nose itches. Can. Not. Scratch.

That is some serious cobwebage on that ceiling fan.

And now there’s a leash wrapped around my knees. This has another dog show-induced ER trip written all over it.

Um, that's a lot of leg sniffing going on - how fast can I get out of the way if it proves to be more than just casual interest?

Can't make eye contact with my fellow post or I know I'll dissolve in giggles over what we were just talking about.

I wonder if there's a spider in all those cobwebs?

Hey, I can watch the food stand from this vantage point. Great. Now I’m hungry.

I am so not standing under that ceiling fan. Heaven knows what might drop out of it.

Oooh! Nose! Another dog with no concept of personal space. We’re much better friends than we were 30 seconds ago.

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