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San Antonio Dog Shows
March, 2006. At San Marcos, Barbara told me about an AKC judge in the Austin area who had eskies and might be willing to give me some handling lessons. Her name was Helen.
I emailed her, and she responded that she’d actually been thinking of starting up a class for some friends. She agreed to let me pay her for a private lesson, too.
Helen turned out to be a kind and tactful teacher, and I began to feel a bit more hopeful.
We had not been doing well. Craig and I agreed that we would hang in for the five-day cluster of shows in San Antonio and re-evaluate afterwards. If we had no success, we would consider giving up.
We were anxious to get Weegie spayed. We dreaded the idea of surgery, but we didn’t plan to breed her, and we didn’t like having her in season every six months.
Craig had a court date, so I went to the first two shows in San Antonio alone. On the first day, I worked hard to apply what Helen had taught me.
It was a little awkward, because not all of it was exactly what I wanted to do. I remember this from when I trained Wily. You have to learn, but you also have to find your own way. I am a hard-headed student, like my dog.
We had decided to enter the Open Bitches class. I was discouraged with the age-group classes and especially disliked the 12-18 month class, which I called the Old Maid's class.
Open bitches are more experienced, and the class is more competitive. Along with Bred by Exhibitor, it was the class most likely to produce the eventual winners bitch. I was caught by surprise when we won the blue ribbon. Before I knew it, we had another reserve.
Helen’s words came back to me. About six of us had met for a class, and she was telling us how important it was to go into the ring believing we were winners.
“Funny how some people are just always reserves,” she said, speaking as a judge. “You walk in the ring and you see them and you think, there's my reserve. Then you look around and think, So where’s my winner?”
Having been winner’s reserve now half a dozen times, including some times when I could not understand why we had not won, I pondered this. It dawned on me that all my preparation was focused on the class.
In obedience, there is no second round. You do your best and get your score, which determines your placement. This is different. You do your best and if it’s good enough, you move on to the next round.
When I thought about it, we had won our class a lot. In the age-group classes, sometimes we won for lack of competition. But we’d won some meaningful blue ribbons, too. And the first day in San Antonio, we won our first open class. We were doing okay.
It was the second round that I wasn’t getting right. I was acting all surprised and pleased when we won the class and then bumbling around until the steward managed to shoo me back in for the winners class.
I had done it that very day. The judge stood there and watched me walk out of the ring after winning the open class, looking all surprised and elated. I should have known that I should stay in the ring for the next round, and I should have expected it. The judge no doubt stood there thinking, “There’s my reserve. So, where's my winner?”
Next time I’d be ready. But not the very next day. After a restless night in a noisy downtown motel, we were scattered. If I hadn’t been so confused and disheartened, I would have laughed. Weegie swarmed on the table like an octopus. The judge couldn't examine her. He shook his head, bemused.
“Girl, you’re killing yourself,” he said.
He put up a dog who’d never beaten us. When we got home, I gave Craig the report: one more reserve and one more of those detested red ribbons. Weegie pounced on all her toys and then leapt joyfully into the swimming pool.
We were halfway through the cluster. The end loomed near, but ever the positive thinker, I was intrigued by my new idea. I was quitting after winning the first round. I needed to get ready to win.
Continue: We take a bath.