My First Time in a Show Ring

By Pat Spinazzola

Since my husband and I decided to buy investment properties, there's not a lot of cash flow around this household right now. Some things had to go, and paying a handler was one of them.
Pat Spinozza's' Dixie, handled by breeder Karen Lee
Here is Dixie receiving a BOW while
being handled by her breeder, Karen Lee
Normally her breeder, Karen Lee, would be happy to show Dixie for me. However, this weekend she had family in, and I thought it was about time I gave this ring thing a try. Karen worked with me for about 2 hours last week, showing me the ropes (or should I say leads!). Besides, I have been at ringside enough times that one would think I should have learned by osmosis.

So today, I was awakened at 5AM by the annoying beep of the alarm. I dragged myself out of bed, brushed my teeth, washed my face, and did something with my hair (thank God I had enough sense to shower the night before). I knew it was early -- not because it was still dark out, but because neither dog was stirring. Hmm. . . if it's too early for them, what the heck am I doing awake???

I dressed in what I thought would be my 'show dog' finest. I thought I looked pretty spiffy! Then I awakened the whips to put them out for the morning -- and got the look of disdain they reserve for those 'How DARE you!' moments.

I finally got the two sluggos downstairs. Out the back door they went to do their business while I made a cup of coffee. Java, nice and strong - surely that would wake me up? Uh, no, not really.

Let the doggies back in and took the time to look at the thermometer: 38 degrees!!! Okay, not exactly outdoor ring show weather. But, not one to waste entry fees, I threw Dixie into her cage in the back of the wagon and off we went.

I had gone through my checklist, so I knew that I had everything I needed: Dixie's coat, water and bucket, show lead (borrowed from Karen), money, bait, etc. I had an hour and a half drive ahead of me, and I needed to stay awake. On went 98 Rock - let the head banging music begin. The good thing about driving around so early is that there is NO traffic. I flew. I did, however, keep tired eyes peeled for the long arm of the law. Telling hubbie I got a speeding ticket was not in the plan.

I kept looking at the car's outside temperature reading. I was heading south. Surely it would get warmer? But with every thirty miles it was dropping a degree. NOOOOOO! I'm heading SOUTH! It's supposed to be getting WARMER!!!

DixieOkay, not to worry. Dixie had her coat, and I had mine, right? Only, I couldn't remember which coat I had brought. As I turned to look in the back of the car, my half-awake brain registered that there was no coat. I'm an hour from home, so there's no turning back. I reassured myself by remembering the long suit jacket I had on was lined. Surely that would be enough?

A half hour later, I turned into the fairgrounds and immediately had to ante up for parking. Three bucks - could be worse. I did get the satisfaction, though, of handing them that $20 bill so that they had to make change. "Can I park anywhere?" Ha! Off I go in search of the next guy, who will assign me a space. He does, and it's not too bad.

Even though I'm tired, I do remember that Karen told me to purchase a catalog so that I can look up my number. Another $5.00. It seems to me that if you've already paid your entry fee, you shouldn't have to pay to find out what your ring number is! Oh well, first time, don't argue with anyone.

Okay; I'm #22 in ring 5. Off I go to pick up my number. I get to the table and tell the helpful lady that I'm #22. Can you imagine: she wants to know what breed! Whassamadda with her, can't she tell I'm a Whippet person?? But she was very kind, and even showed me a little trick about how to put the armband on so that it didn't slide down the arm.

Back to the car I trot, because it's only 33 degrees outside and the lining in my coat is NOT keeping me warm. I put the number on my left arm and was beginning to get excited. I looked down at it several times, feeling official!! Then, about the third look, I saw that it was the #20.

Back into the frigid air I go. I explained that I had the wrong number. "Oh, that's a no-no", she said. In my mind I said "It was your mistake," but it didn't come out of my mouth. Don't offend anyone, or piss anybody off - it's your first time.

Back to the car I run with #22. It's getting close to ring time. Dixie wiggles into her coat, I throw on her leash, and throw bait and show lead into my pocket.

Ring 5, waiting for whippets to be called. I see Kim (of Kim-n- kids), and Peg and her daughter. I'm calmer. There are people I know! I made them promise not to laugh at my first endeavor... they give me nothing but words of encouragement! Waiting for whippets to be called . . . and waiting . . . and waiting . . . because there's another breed in ring five!? My friends inform me that the Basset Hounds were indeed before Whippets. "But the program says whippets are at 8AM." Today I learned about 'show ring' time: 8AM doesn't always mean 8AM!!

So I stood with shivering Dixie, while my hands got colder and colder. Finally, they call Whippets! The males go quickly, as there are few of them. Now they get to open bitch. I walk into the ring and promptly stack Dixie. At home, I could do it in less than 10 seconds. Not today, not at 33 degrees. But Miss Dixie was a trooper -- she allowed me to stack her nicely, even with all the shivering.

Take them around. Okay, I can do that! I promptly get into what Karen calls the 'Groucho Marx' run. It went well - I felt like Groucho, and I DIDN'T TRIP.

Next came the table. We waited for our turn, shivering the entire time. Up on the table goes Dixie. She stacks pretty well, considering the temperature. I make sure I tell the judge this is my very first time showing. She is kind, and after she examines Dixie, gives me a little tip about the show lead. Up and back - goes well. Around the ring - goes well. Kim gives me a thumbs up!!

DixieThen, last chance stacking - I hit a wall!! As I try to set up Dixie's front, she moves. I try again, she stays. Every time I try to set up her back legs, she pulls them back under her. "I'M COLD, MOM!!!!!" That was that; third time was NOT a charm. She was done. No stack, no ears, no NOTHIN'.

The judge began pulling people out. She pointed to me. I didn't move. Can't possibly be talking to ME??!! She points again! I move into fourth position. Once more around the ring - first, second, third, FOURTH!!

As I received my white ribbon, the judge was kind enough to give me another pointer: be sure to wear clothing that will show off the dog, not have her blend in. Now, I knew this - after all, Karen had told me that. But when your winter clothes are packed away, you have to grab the spring outfit that will keep you warm.

The judge also told me that I have a lovely bitch and to keep working at it. Now, I'm not sure if that white ribbon was out of sympathy for a newbie, or whether Dixie was able to strut her stuff well enough even with me at the helm. Either way, it was a great experience.

Miss Dixie and I got back into the car to head home. I cranked up the radio, looked around for some toothpicks to hold my eyes open, and zipped back up Route 4, the first leg of my return journey to Baltimore. I can't wait to do it again!

"My First Time in a Show Ring" Copyright © 2006 Pat Spinazzola.
All Rights Reserved. Reprinted by permission.

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