I have a shiba inu. This usually isn’t a problem for people who don’t mind purebred dogs anymore than they mind eating breakfast for dinner, but every once in a while at certain parties, I run into someone who flippantly says things like, “Your dog sounds nice, but I like to save dogs from the shelter.” Then I get schooled about the immorality of selective breeding and an angry litany of supposed diseases and defects my dog will have as result of generations of (in)breeding. And, as much as I try to explain the virtues of responsible breeding and purebred dog ownership, I usually end up testing whether my dog understands my hand signal for “bare your teeth and growl.”
The American Kennel Club/Eukanuba 125th Annual National Championship dog show held just two weekends ago in Long Beach, then, would be a bad place for those adamantly against the purebred pup. Too bad, as watching the (over)celebration of the best of each breed was highly, highly entertaining. Self-riteous people looking for a bone to pick at every turn really do miss out on all the fun.
It was a soggy day – hard to remember when we’ve been getting spring-like weather, isn’t it? – but surprisingly, once you reached the floor of the show, it didn’t smell like wet dogs at all. It smelled a bit like hair product mixed with human sweat. The sweat of competition.
Some Best in Show moments from behind the blue carpet of the ring, after the jump.
The grooming area actually was located in the back of the convention room floor and was fully open to the public. Despite this transparency, the groomers and handlers were a little guarded about their methodologies and strategies for de-frizzing fur. I couldn’t tell whether this was due to the general competitive, super-focused nature of the event, or the owners’ wariness about being mocked. They watched Best in Show, too, and some of them didn’t like it. Nonetheless, just like beauty pageant moms fussing over how to transform their 5 year old little girl into an object of beauty and lust, even they would have to admit that this amount of grooming lends itself to some amusement. And, really, seeing these dogs primped and primed like they only had 3 hours before prom night was the best part of the whole show.
The poodles got the worst of it. The lesson here is: don’t be the pet of choice for the upper classes.
When properly bathed, blow-dried, and product-ed, dogs, handlers, and owners all made their way to the show ring. Once there, however, everyone had to wait for their contest to be called. HowStuffWorks has a good guide on how dog shows work; generally, dogs are categorized into breeds and groups (sporting, hunting, terrier, etc.). Essentially, the best of breed is crowned first; this dog advances to compete with other best of breeds in the Best of Group category. Those dogs who win Best of Group then compete for the highly coveted Best in Show.
Between rounds, some handlers stood with their dogs, while others reserved the special seats they brought with them to the show.
Once in the ring, it was a slow and steady process as the judges evaluated each dog. I, of course, made a beeline for the shiba inus. Seeing this many shibas in the same small space actually kind of freaked me out. It was like my dog was a pet Cylon, and I was seeing her many copies for the first time.
This black and tan shiba inu puppy had an unfortunate accident in the ring, but that didn’t stop him from winning his group. That’s right, you can’t piss away a chance at the winner’s ribbon.
If the puppy could have waited a bit, he would have been able to use the facilities:
As the excitement of grooming, judging, and being judged wore down towards the end of the day, everyone became dog tired. All this showdogship is very exhausting …
…. but not for all. Some dogs just adored the attention. The bichon frisee had a coat that I swear was made of fondant.
And, outside of the many things I couldn’t explain, there was this. I am going to let you insert your own snarky caption here.
In the end, the dog that pushed through the industrial-strength blow dryers, the high-fashion-strength holding gels, the endless waiting, the draining exhaustion, the abject need to pee, and the glaring lights and cameras was a little Scottish terrier named Ch. Roundtown Mercedes Of Maryscot. (There really should be a whole separate contest for dog show names.). He’s going to have the best holiday ever, I’m sure.