We have cried so much today that we all have that permanent sniff thing going, where you are sitting around eating Chinese food and suddenly your entire head is full of liquid and you’re trying to grab a napkin and people are laughing at you until the Karma of Snot attacks them too and pretty soon you’ve used an entire box of Puffs Plus between the three of you and are talking what a giant sod Cinnamon was, and remember that time she scraped you off on a tree? And egg foo yung. Lots of that.
So I am going to try to dry up my sinuses by talking about the very lovely morning we had.
Today we had a really great judge. And by that I don’t mean that she put me up – though of course that’s nice! – but I was struck by how well the dogs responded to her and how gentle and considerate she was to the puppies. A good soft hand, excellent with the dogs on the table.
Because of our kids and the always tricky “do we have enough money” question, I tend to show as much as I can for short bursts, and then go away and save my pennies and by babysitting capital for several months. So I come out, run around like nuts for three weekends or so, and then disappear. I am sure the other exhibitors are wondering who on earth this crazy woman is! Anyway, all that to say that when you show against the same dogs for several weeks at a time, and this little jaunt has indeed featured the same group of dogs for the last few weekends, you see a HUGE difference in the way the dogs respond to judging and how the judges carry and present themselves.
A few shows ago I had one of the worst judges I’ve ever showed to. This person (no, I’m not naming names or even genders) stalked up to the dogs in a strange bent-over posture, grabbed their faces, lifted lips, then silently pointed to the down and back. The dogs FREAKED. Even Clue, who loves everyone – and seriously, she starts wiggling with happiness when she sees the judge coming – flattened herself and gave every signal to me that she could come up with: “Don’t let that bad person touch me!” Poor Bronte, who has come a LONG way but would prefer to snuggle in my lap and not deal with the chaos and stress of the ring, just froze. When I got her to move, she laid her ears back and trotted as fast as she could to get it over with.
Because of that judge, for a few shows now Bronte has been reluctant to get on the table – and, I might add, so have the dogs I’ve been competing against. The babies in particular have been totally freaking out on the table. Bronte’s a lady, so she doesn’t do anything but sort of cringe as you pick her up, but I can tell that she’s hating it.
Yesterday, there was Something in the ring. I have no idea what it was, but every single dog came around the second corner and shied away from the straight line. We stupid humans can’t see, smell, or hear what dogs can, so for all I know it was a wrinkle in the matting that the dogs saw as casting a strange shadow, or maybe a drop of pee from a terrified dog. I never could figure it out. Whatever it was, it compounded all the dogs’ worries.Everyone was bad on the table yesterday, no one wanted to be touched.
So it was a huge relief when, today, we had such a good judge. I am not exaggerating when I say that it seemed like all the dogs gaited into the ring, stopped, and sighed with a sudden realization that everything was OK. She just “vibed” lovely things to the dogs. On the table, Bronte felt the judge’s hands on her face and actually went MORE solid and normal under my hands, not less.
There are a few of these terribly “doggy” judges. Some are slow, some are very brisk, some talk a lot to the dogs, some barely move their mouths. Some will stop the entire show and lecture you on your bad handling skills (Mrs. Robert S. Forsyth, whom I adore and at the same time fear greatly, will do this). All of them have something that dogs recognize as wonderful. I was the recipient of a Forsyth lecture (richly deserved) and as I was being dressed down for letting my leash loops fall out of my hand my dogs’ tails were lashing the air and they had their mouths open and were laughing. Whatever this woman was selling, they were buying. She put Clue up that day and in the win pic Clue wouldn’t shut her mouth because she’s having such a marvelous time just being next to that judge.
I imagine these judges are the ones who have had dogs crawl into their laps when they were kids, who could calm down all the squirrelly neighborhood dogs, who rarely sit down without having a dog flop over next to them. I like to think that that’s why they got into dogs, and that’s why they stay in dogs. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that those are the judges who I see putting up the best examples of the breed (and, trust me, it’s not always me!).
So in my little notebook, today’s judge gets a big smiley face and a note reminding me to enter under her again. I hope I have the opportunity. I would do so in a minute, even if I didn’t win under her.