Sunday, July 21, 2013

Cleo's Debut, Episode 2


As Cleo and I made our way from the show rings back to the obedience area of the Del Monte Kennel Club annual show last weekend, a woman standing in line at one of the vendor booths spun around excitedly.  “Is that a Bedlington Terrier?” she demanded.  “You almost never see those.  Are there others here?”  I told her there were four altogether: Cleo, Lover Boy, P.T., and P.T.’s mom.  She looked at me, stunned.  Her jaw actually dropped open.  “That’s more than there were at the Cow Palace,” she said, referring to last January’s Golden Gate Kennel Club show. I can’t be held responsible for San Francisco’s lack of Bedlington street cred.  But I always tell people: We’re making a comeback.

Not that I’m necessarily one to champion plunging into the obedience world with a terrier.

Life was pretty sweet last Saturday as John, our friend Kim, Cleo and I stood watching the Graduate Novice class teams doing their thing.  It was a rare, sunny 70 degree day on the grass.  We commented on each breed’s form and style as one dog after another made graceful leaps over the jumps, retrieving little wooden dumbbells.  Happy dogs and proud owners bounced through the various tasks until, finally, all the dogs returned to the ring together for the prolonged down-stay.  That completed, points totaled and awards handed out, I figured it was time to register with the steward.  I stood politely by the table as she totted up numbers.  The task clearly required her undivided attention.  A gust of wind swept a paper off the table and she made a grab for it, missing it by a foot.  I ran it down and placed it back on the table, tucking it safely under her show program.  Not even a glance in my direction.  A woman with a poodle came up on the steward’s other side and made a joke.  The two shared a laugh.  I took in the poodle, then turned to share a look with John and Kim.  Had I been that poodle, I would have been too embarrassed to show my face in public.  Remember Kim Cattrall in the 80s?  Big, poofy hair, straight bangs?  Or maybe Madonna in her glam rock getup?  Big frizzy hair, little bitty bangs?  Take that image and slap it on a poodle.  You’ve got it.

John was getting increasingly testy as the steward continued to ignore me, but I suddenly realized that I didn’t need to register yet.  Sure, it was 11:30 and we were supposed to have started at 11:15, but it dawned on me that since we had just been watching the last of the Graduate Novice class, we still had all of the Beginner Novice B to sit through.  The Beginner Novice class is divided into two groups: The A group are the true first-timers, like Cleo and me.  The B group are those handlers with some experience, either owner-handlers who have gone through the Novice trials in previous years with a different dog, or handlers who are working with someone else’s dog.  The B group gets to go first.  There were about a dozen of them.  I sat back down with John, Kim and Cleo. 

As the morning turned to afternoon, even I started to get restless.  Initially, for the first seven or eight dogs, say, I was pretty interested because Cleo and I have practiced all of the tasks, and we know what each is supposed to look like.  Kim was engaged for a good portion of the time.  She is a dog lover and enjoyed talking with handlers, meeting different dogs, and occasionally taking a break to visit a friend of ours who was working the Rally ring on the other side of the field.  John, a truly loving husband and dedicated puppy-daddy, fought mightily to stay awake.  He checked his email.  He scanned Facebook.  He tracked down and brought back a cup of coffee.  Cleo, not a fan of the heat to begin with and having been on high alert and sensory overload for nearly four hours, finally gave up and stretched out full length on her side, all four legs straight in front of her.  She wouldn’t close her eyes, of course; she might miss something.  But she didn’t even raise her head when dogs trotted past her on their way in and out of the ring. 

Shortly before 1 PM, the Beginner Novice A class got to do our walk-through and orientation to the course.  We registered without a hitch, the steward even being almost cordial.  Mercifully, Cleo and I were to go fourth.  In a desperate effort to wake her up, I ran her over to an open patch of grass and did a few exercises.  How do I put this?  She lacked her usual √©lan.  She plodded through some heeling exercises.  Dragged herself towards me on recall.  Lay down gratefully on command. When I danced around in front of her acting goofy, trying to get her riled up, she just stared.  We went back to the ring.

As dog three, a Sheltie, entered the ring, John’s phone rang.  It was his son, Jackson, calling from South Carolina.  He was about to go on watch, but wanted to check in.  Towards the end of the Sheltie’s very fine performance, Cleo and I got into the “on deck” position.  The two other stewards wished us luck, the judge called us in and wished us luck, we crossed to the starting point.  This put us only feet from Kim and John, our backs to them.  I heard John, on the phone with Jackson, say, “Okay, they’re about to start!”  The judge asked if we were ready.  As we would ever be. Off we went.

To be continued…

(Oh, come on!  Just one more week…)

Rested and ready for action!

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