Best in show

If you read the title and are now thinking about the movie also called Best in Show, don’t. I hate that movie. But like the movie of the same title I am referring to a dog show.

In pursuit of organising another puppy David found out that Razz, Bill’s mum, would be showing at the Victorian Canine Centre in the Cocker Spaniel show and he wanted to go check it out. We could take Bill along too. He’d be able to see his mum and we’d get to see how a dog show works. Our interest was pure curiosity. We have no interest in entering the world of competitive dog showing and breeding, at least I don’t.

So early Saturday morning we packed Bill into the car and went out to the Canine Centre near Sky, way over the other side of the city. We arrived a little too early for the 10 am start and took a look around.

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Walking through the showing shed, where early birds were busy getting their dogs ready to show, we heard someone yell out, “Is that Bill?”

Thinking there was no way anyone here knew us, or our dog (the breeder we bought him from hadn’t yet arrived), we continued walking and went outside. Five seconds later we heard it again, right behind us and turned around to see a lady smiling right at us.

“I’d recognise him anywhere.” she said, coming forward and bending to greet Bill.

The lady stood and introduced herself as Gillian. Then, to David at least, it made a little more sense. Gillian is the Secretary of the Cocker Spaniel Club of Victoria. David had been in correspondence with her regarding a litter of puppies and had sent her some pictures of Bill. She had said she was considering using one of the images on the cover of a newsletter, hence she knew who Bill was. Still a little weird though, knowing that the images David had sent through were of Bill at the Altona Doggy beach, wet through. Not at all the bushy mess that stood before her now.

Shaggy Bill

With the few dogs we had already seen we were starting to feel well out of place. Bill was shaggy in comparison. He looked like an afghan. There were people there with multiple brushes, hair dryers, scissors and even hair straighteners. These show dogs were primped and trimmed to look not a lot like their natural state, but strangely looked more natural than Bill did right at that moment. And with regard to Bills look, no one was short about telling us what they thought of him. Most in agreement that his baby coat, the reason for the fluffy appearance, has got to go. One woman even told us that when Andi saw him there was no way she’d let him leave with the puppy coat in place.

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The judge arrived, the rest of the dogs arrived and the show began. People were dashing off to change their clothes. Another thing about dog shows is, everything outside the ring is mayhem, tracksuits and dog hair. Inside the ring is business. They were clothes bordering on formal and are always straight-backed and exuding confidence from their stance, even if their eyes are showing fear, and I’m taking about the people. The dogs are immaculate. Not a hair out of place.

When called upon the handler and their dog do a lap of the ring and then present at the inspection table. The dog is placed on the table, its paws positioned ‘just so’ and the judge, who has watched their run around the ring, approaches and checks the dog out. This means feeling the dogs head for shape, lifting the lip and checking the teeth. The judge then feels the contours of the dog, its front legs, the back, the stomach, its haunches and if a boy a quick slip under to make sure it’s all still there.

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Then another run around the ring as a group and a final presentation for the judge who then awards the dogs accordingly.

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For me it’s a bit weird. For me dogs have always been pets. At the dog show my eyes were opened to the real reason for these shows. Money. The showers are all breeders or people who want to breed. They are there to win points, to build up their dog’s profile so they can breed the dog and sell the puppies they produce for a premium. We know of at least two 8 month old puppies who were up for sale after they didn’t perform well in the ring on the day.

Bill’s our puppy, our baby and when we get another dog, she too will be our baby. A companion and a supplement to our lives. Just as Eve and Adam were. But to most of the people at the show the dogs just seemed to be dollar signs. Thankfully though, not to everyone. People like Gillian and the young couple we met from Geelong who were at one of their first shows with their first pup seemed to love their dogs. Who knows if the couple will change as they go into the world of showing.

The dogs of course were all beautiful. I took the camera along and snapped away. We talked with some of the people there were told who was good to see for a pup, who was no good. Got opinions galore on Bill’s appearance and yes, when Andi arrived and saw Bill she too commented on his coat. And yes, before we left around lunch time she had borrowed an apron from one person, a stripper from another and had started to work on Bill’s boofy coat.

It was an interesting morning. We met some nice people and had a peek into a world that really isn’t for me or our boofy dog who I love very much. I’d probably go back to check it out again with the camera in hand. It’s a great place to get some shots.

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