by Violet Denney, UKC Judge
When asked how I got started showing dogs I always think of two judges and which one decided my future in dogs.
Several years ago, never mind how many, I decided on a boring January weekend to see if everyone would think my baby girl, Lady Jane, was as beautiful as I thought she was.
Being a creature of little brains, little courage, but a great sense of adventure, we set off for my first ever dog show. I had NO experience other than watching Westminster on TV. A kind
exhibitor had showed me how to table my dog and how she should walk in the ring, but my ideas of showing dogs were based on the famous AKC dog show mentioned above.
So on a bright March day, I jumped into the car with my Lady and took off
to Michigan for something called an ARBA show at Cobo Hall in downtown Detroit. Some really famous dog shows were held there back then. It was overwhelming, as was Detroit.
The whole thing was immediately intimidating, from the less than clean motel, at which we were advised NOT to venture out on the streets after dark to look for dinner, to the huge complex where the show was held. I had to place my baby girl in the hands of a kind stranger while I went to park the car (getting lost getting to the show site is a whole
'nother story) because dogs were NOT allowed in the parking lot. Strange, I thought for a dog show, but...
The show ring area was extremely crowded and my nerves were getting more jangled by the minute. Finally, the time for
Toy Fox Terriers approached and as there were two shows, I went in before my first judge EVER. I suppose the lady might have been having as bad a day as I was, but she was very abrupt and none too kind about my precious darling. She also seemed to feel that “on the job training” was inappropriate for both my Lady Jane and me. She had no help to offer, other than I get some training AND another dog if I intended to continue showing. At that point, neither seemed likely. I did NOT leave the ring in tears, but only because I wasn’t going to let anyone see me cry.
I strongly considered going straight home and really never wanted to show a dog again or even attend a show. I thought about it for an hour or so over a cold drink, hugging my girl to me all the while and decided “What the heck. I am already here and paid for show #2 and how much worse can it get?"
Back into the ring we went and the second judge was a very kind lady who showed me how to stack my girl on the table. She slowed us down when I wanted to race around the ring just to get out of there.
That judge took the time to give me many pointers. The one I remember most is “Take a deep breath and relax. The dog feels your nerves down the lead.” Not only that, she handed us a beautiful blue rosette (which I still have) which said BEST FEMALE. (I seem now to remember there were only two females shown).
The hook was sunk and the sucker appeared on my forehead, I am sure. That is how I got where I am today. This is NOT the end of the story though.
A few years ago I was honored to judge MY first show at the Southwest Ontario Toy Fox Terrier Association show. I was standing with my back to the opening of the ring and when I turned around, there she stood…the same judge who had been so kind to me and my baby girl in Detroit. I swear to you the first thing that went through my head when I looked up and saw her was “If it wasn’t for you and your kindness and compassion, I would not be here. Thank you, Eliza Hopkins."
I learned a valuable lesson seeing the legendary Eliza Hopkins standing at the entrance to the ring. I hope that I am never too busy or stressed to take that extra minute with a novice exhibitor, even if the dog is NOT the best dog I ever saw, to say a few encouraging words and speak of the dog’s strengths, not it’s weaknesses.
It never hurts to take a moment for kindness. It will come back to revisit you many times.
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