Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Da ball

Phoenix can spend hours entertaining himself in the house with a ball. I took this series of pics last night while I was folding laundry in our bedroom.

Phoenix loves his ball. He has a blue ball, a green ball and an orange ball in the house but the blue one is his favorite. It is an Orbee ball and originally was blue and green. Phoenix very methodically chewed off all the green stuff. I thought it was just a fluke until I bought a second one and now he is very deliberately doing the same thing to it.

One of his favorite games is "Shove the ball someplace and then try to get it back." Here, he is contemplating shoving it between the cedar chest and the foot of the bed. This is a very thinly veiled way of getting me to play with him, because eventually he will shove it somewhere he cannot reach it and you-know-who will have to stop what she is doing and get it out for him before he destroys something.

Like here. Uh-oh. Now it's under the bed. What did you put it there for? I don't understand the point of this game but apparently it is very entertaining. He enjoys shoving it under the recliners in the living room and occasionally under the couch. I finally put a stop to shoving it under the antique glass-front secretary in the dining room.

Got it back! More contemplative ball worship atop the cedar chest. Notice Jamie's paw on the left side of the pic. He is deliberately not acknowledging Phoenix.

Jamie: You are a freak.
Phoenix: This is the coolest ball in the world! Watch, I'm gonna stuff it under the bed again!

Monday, September 28, 2009


Here’s the problem: A) It’s Monday. B) I’m back at work after a great week of vacation. C) This is the Transition Week From Hell, the first week our papers will not be printed here in Marengo but instead will be sent electronically to Des Moines, where they will be printed at the Mother Ship's production facility.

I’m sitting here with 10 million memos explaining how to do everything totally different from the way I’ve done it for the last 21 years, including changing every single freaking type font to something I barely recognize. ITC Franklin Gothic Demi Condensed for cutlines? Seriously? What's wrong with helvetica? Everything is changing: deadlines, type styles, column widths, page sizes. I feel like I’m caught up in Dorothy’s tornado, spinning around and around and expecting to see a witch flying by on her broomstick. No, wait. That’s probably my own reflection.

The newsroom is not a happy place right now but we’re all glad we still have our jobs so we’re going around with maniacal determined-to-suck-it-up-and-make-the-best-of-it smiles on our faces. This is different from our every day maniacal smiles. The latest Gannett-induced slash was shutting down our press room and in-house mailing and distribution center. When I started working here in 1988, there were 40 people employed in our Marengo office. Today, there are 13. Overall, our three-county newspaper and shopper operation has dropped from 200 employees to about 40.

The place is quieter today. There’s no steady rumble from the press room, no rattley-clack from the bundler in the mailroom. Never thought I’d say it but I miss the ever-looming threat of our head pressman coming up to the newsroom, rattling a page negative in one of our faces and saying dryly “Did you mean to do that?” while pointing to some incredibly stupid typo in a headline. That guy was the best proofreader we ever had. I’m proofing now. Wee iz inn trubl biig thyme.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Agility at Davenport, Day 2

Remember the "Bang Head Here" sign from last weekend? I could have used it today. No clean runs for us and both courses were absolutely beautiful and lovely and flowing. Can we have a do-over? Please?

Our JWW run had its moments until bars started flying like shrapnel. Std. was super except for the part where I released Phoenix from the teeter and sent him flying out into the abyss where there were no jumps . . . oops . . . um . . . there's the jump I MEANT to send you to. Sorry. Again.

Some friends and I were discussing our current Q-drought (it's been a really loooooong time) and I realized that while I would certainly PREFER to be collecting a green ribbon at the end of each run, their absence is not bothering me as much as it does other people ("other people" being folks I observe at both obedience and agility trials). Not that these other people are dismayed by the fact Phoenix and I are not Q-ing . . . I meant they are dismayed that THEIR dogs are not Q-ing. Dismayed, distressed, distraught, disturbed, depressed, you get the picture.

I guess it all comes down to why you participate in this sport. I do it for fun and over the years, my definition of "fun" has become independent of any judge's score or Q rate. Sure, I want high scores in obedience and clean runs in agility. You don't get an OTCh. through careless training and you don't get double Qs by being an indifferent handler. But there's more to the sport than the few minutes in the ring and what gets written in the judge's book. At least there is for me. If you depend solely on "winning" to feel good about the weekend, dog sports would be a very futile and depressing experience for most of us.

I look at all the things that make up a show weekend (either obedience or agility): loading the van, grooming the dogs, choosing my clothes and packing, meeting friends to drive to the show site, sometimes battling the elements, hauling everything in and setting up, watching friends show, sharing training ideas, meals and snacks with friends, playing with my dogs, going out to dinner with friends . . . and oh yeah . . . the 10 minutes or two 30 second intervals each day we actually spend in the ring. Did ya notice, FRIENDS are pretty darn important. My dog friends are the best people in my life.

And so the bottom line, at least for me, is Qs and ribbons are not a requirement for a "successful" weekend. I love the social aspect of dog sports and even more, I love watching Phoenix and I grow as a team. He is an amazing, beautiful dog (am I prejudiced or what?) and a riot to train. We are vastly improved from where we were a year ago when we started running agility and quickly found ourselves dazed and confused on Excellent courses. 

I've gone from running Jamie, who was a wonderful Steady Eddie type of dog who loped around the course at a moderate speed, giving me all the time in the world to commit and correct handling errors, to running a "feral cat on crack, made out of steel-belted radials and industrial springs." (Found that definition of a malinois somewhere, it's perfect.) This has not been an easy transition from a handler's perspective and believe me, I am still learning.

(As I type this, Phoenix has the butt-tucking rips. He is ricocheting around the house with a ball clamped in his mouth and a totally insane gleam in his eye. Just try focussing on nothing but winning when you live with THAT!)

Yeah, we're not bringing home agility ribbons of any color right now but so what? I love the fact we are making only one or two mistakes per run instead of half a dozen. I'm feeling more confident about my ability to handle him and I'm doing a better job of figuring out what happened when the wheels fall off so hopefully I can keep it from happening again.

Looking back, I remember showing Jamie in Utility for a year with no Qs. Talk about frustration. Then bingo! He titled in three trials and a year later, had his OTCh. To everything there is a season. Each dog has his own timeline. What fun would it be to Q and/or win every single time you went in the ring? Seriously? Where would be the sense of exhilaration and achievement? 

The best trainers I know are the ones who are "input focussed" (enjoy teaching the necessary skills) versus "outcome focussed" (only think about wins and titles.) Over the years, I have changed from the latter to the former and am a lot happier for it. Shows are a test of where we are at any given point in our training.

I know Phoenix will bring home agility ribbons sooner or later. And he will be spectacular. In the meantime, we're enjoying the journey together.

Well, vacation is over. Back to work tomorrow. Good thing, now maybe I can finally get some rest!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Agility at Davenport, Day 1

Up at 4 a.m., on the road by 5. Met the Orange Bunch to caravan to the show site at 5:30. Arrived at show site at 6:15 a.m. Building opened at 6:30. All the folks who train with Smooth Sailin' Agility wore their orange gear. None of us could ever hide anywhere. We glowed like Rudolph in the fog.

Celebrated Rilda's status as deer-slayer by decorating her chair with a tanned deer hide and skull with antlers. People stare at us. I wonder why? Photographs were taken later with Rilda, hide, skull and her deer-bashed car. 

Ran JWW first. Nix dropped a bar. Rats. But just ONE BAR, nothing else. Our NQs are getting prettier and that was an incredibly FUN course.

Ran Std. next. You get done with the course a lot faster if you don't do all the jumps. On the other hand, Nix jumped back over the chute after he went through it so that should count for one of the missed jumps, right? And the other missed jump . . . well, um, video shows I didn't even INDICATE it so that shouldn't count either, right?

Ate cookies to ease the disappointment. Well, not ALL of these cookies. My mother taught me to share. There was a lot of disappointment-easing cookie eating among the Orange Bunch. Sigh. It's a good thing the cookie fairy baked yesterday.

Friends, dogs, cookies, what more do you need? Tomorrow is another day!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Foggy morning

My plan for this morning, Day 3 of vacation, was to take Phoenix to train at the motel complex at the interstate. There are lots of grassy areas and wide sidewalks for heeling around the restaurants and shops and tons of pedestrian traffic for distractions, especially first thing in the morning when people are checking out of the motels, going to breakfast, etc.

But when I couldn't see to the end of the lane and several local schools were delaying because of the fog, I decided we would stay home instead. We trained in the front yard. It was as good as a new environment because Phoenix was very concerned about sounds when he couldn't see the source, like the Farmer doing chores and the neighbors out banging around.

It was good to work in the wet grass, since Mal nationals are outside at Purina Farms in Missouri next spring and my experience with showing at Purina has been WET WET WET. We don't show outside very much around here. With the exception of a few agility trials, we Midwesterners like to show indoors . . . where it's safe from blizzards, ice storms, blazing heat, tornadoes, lightning, hail, pouring rain . . . yeah, I think they've had the last five at Purina . . . 

The spider webs were really pretty this morning, too. Are there always this many spider webs in the morning or did I just notice them today? Okay, it creeps me out a little bit that there are that many spiders around our house . . .

Agenda for the rest of the day is a shopping trip to Iowa City once the fog lifts, then agility class this evening. Plus reading more of "Echo." I read the first 100 pages yesterday. It is classic Jamie and Claire. And I keep swearing I'm going to clean and organize the spare room. Yeah. Right. I'll let ya know how that goes.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Vacation, Day 1

I'm on a genuine vacation this week - not a Gannett-mandated sign-me-up-for-unemployment-furlough. Yippee! 

First things first: the report from agility at Granger over the weekend. How can I put this? We had a sign hanging over our crating area that showed a red and gold bull's eye with the words "Bang Head Here" printed in the center. It got plenty of use from me.

Phoenix was wonderful and gave me some of the best Excellent Std. and JWW runs we've ever had. He did everything I asked, which was both a blessing and a curse. I was a total idiot as a handler and found new and creative ways to screw up every good thing we had going. So, after a lot of head banging, I have put those train wrecks behind me and am already looking ahead to another two days of agility at Davenport next weekend.  

Our runs weren't a complete disaster. He was 6 for 6 on weave entries and 3 for 3 on tables, two things we've struggled with and worked hard on. Hmmm . . . training actually helps?!

Camping was fun with great fires and plenty of marshmallows. Probably our last camping of the season. Phoenix got to splash and play in the Saylorville Reservoir with Kruz, Mad, Seeker, Addie, Paulie and Vinnie. He's not much on swimming but had a good time splashing and fetching tennis balls close to the shore. Plus, 45 minutes after he came out of the water, he was dry, I brushed the sand out and he looked fresh as a daisy. Malinois rock!

Today, 'Nix and I went down to visit my dad in hospice. He's about the same, semi-alert, tries to communicate but has a hard time finding and forming words. 

It was actually RAINING when we got home. We haven't had a drop of rain in 24 days so it was welcome although now we'll have to mow the $#@! grass again. No lightning or storms though, so Phoenix and I went out and worked contacts. They were OK at Granger although Mr. I Know How To Do This Faster was doing some self-releasing and I'd like to clear that up before the coming weekend.

Tomorrow: training with Michele and Cider in the morning, then going to Barnes and Noble to pick up "An Echo in the Bone," the seventh Jamie and Claire book from Diana Gabaldon, which is released tomorrow. Then coming home and READING!!!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

La Vida Loca - fall edition

This post comes to you from the “It seemed like a good idea at the time” files.

Starting this weekend, Phoenix and I are showing seven of the next nine weekends. And we just showed two of the last three weekends. So that makes us going nine for 12 from late August through mid-November. There are so many great trials this time of year and many of them are local, no overnight stay required. Now tell me, how could I NOT enter?

This weekend we’re doing three days of agility at Granger. Then Sept. 26/27 it’s agility at Davenport; Oct. 3, UKC obedience at Adel; Oct. 10/11, HOME; Oct. 17/18, AKC obedience at Moline, Ill.; Oct. 24, UKC obedience at Davenport; Oct. 31/Nov. 1, UKC obedience at Cedar Rapids; Nov. 7/8, HOME; Nov. 14/15, agility at Muscatine.

Fortunately, the only overnight trip is this weekend (camping - hurray!) so we’ll get to sleep in our own bed at night for all the rest. And I had the good sense to only enter one or two days of each UKC obedience trial, even though they are ALL three-day weekends. Phoenix needs one leg to finish his U-CDX but I’m not interested in the title as much as I am in seeing improvement on his out-of-sight stays.

I honestly think our dogs work better when we’re in the ring consistently with them, no matter the venue. Showing, then having a month off, then showing again, often feels like three steps forward and two steps back in terms of teamwork and focus. When this is all wrapped up by mid-November, I’ll have a better idea of what direction our training needs to take over the winter.

Canine sports vet Chris Zink says she tries to give her dogs one entire month out of the year in which she doesn’t train at all, just goes for walks, plays ball, etc. She feels it’s good for their minds as well as their bodies. I’ve never actually managed to do that because I am just too OCD about training but I’d like to try it this year. My club’s agility trials are Dec. 4, 5 and 6 and after that, maybe I’ll see if Phoenix and I can go four whole weeks without doing anything formal. It would be a great time of year for that because I’ll be busy with the holidays and we won’t have any upcoming trials until late January. I’ll let ya know how that works out.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The dog house

Several of you asked, so here it is. This is where the Belgians hang out during the day when the weather is nice. It is next to the house. The Farmer says Jamie is always outside where he can watch things.

The whole run is shaded all day long. I thought Phoenix might decide to take down the tarp across the south end but he's left it alone. So far.

Here's a view from inside the outdoor part. No dogs are present because they were too busy eating cherry tomatoes to pose for pictures.

Here is the part of the kennel that is in the machine shed. The baby gate is there to keep Phoenix off the top of the dog box, because that puts him a little too close to the top of the fence. After enhancement, it's a 10' fence but still . . . we're talking about Phoenix!

Jamie has used this kennel for 10 years and I don't think he's ever gone in the dog box. He might miss something outside! Phoenix goes in every morning. I think he's looking for the raccoon.

Sorry, no photos of the raccoon. I haven't seen him for awhile. If he knows what's good for him, he's moved out.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Malinois migration

Phoenix has been elevated to “big dog” status and moved outdoors to the kennel with Jamie today. This was no small undertaking. I’d wanted to put him with Jamie in the outdoor run while I was at work for a long time, but the kennel needed mal-proofing first. It’s a 6 x 12 outdoor chain-link run w/cement floor and steel roof and it opens into another 6 x 12 run inside the machine shed, again with cement floor and a big wooden dog box. The inside section did not have a top on it and quite frankly, I do not trust Phoenix. He can jump a 4-foot fence from a standstill and if he put his mind to it, I had no doubt he could scale 6 feet if he saw something he wanted on the other side.

Our farm cats occasionally wander around in that particular building and it is frequently home to a raccoon as well. Both fall under the category of “Things Phoenix Wants.” I don’t know WHY the raccoon lives there but he does and I see him frequently when I leave for work early in the morning. He’ll be running around in the rafters and scares the bejabbers out of me. Phoenix has seen him, too, and is quite enchanted with him in that malinois obsessive-compulsive sort of way.

I’d been bugging the Farmer for quite some time to A) put a roof on the inside part of the kennel and B) get rid of the raccoon. To his credit, he has been trapping raccoons (they are like mice in this part of the country) but the one in the machine shed is apparently smarter than it looks. Or maybe it’s a different one every time I see it. Who knows. I suggested firearms might be more effective but the Farmer is reluctant to go blasting away inside a building. So the ‘coon is probably staying.

When Connor died, the Farmer was very concerned that now Phoenix would be alone all day in the house while I was at work. Crated, obviously, but alone. Connor probably wasn’t that great of company but the two of them were crated side-by-side in the bedroom so at least there was a little companionship. Conn had to be crated during the day because he didn’t see anything wrong with pooping wherever he pleased and Phoenix had to be crated because, well, I wanted the house to still be standing when I got home from work.

But now Connor was gone and with Jamie outside in the kennel during the day, Phoenix was alone and the Farmer did not think that was right. Bless him. So he engineered a way to raise the walls on the inside part and there you go, Phoenix has graduated to going outside with Jamie while I am at work. I imagine ‘Nix will be exhausted tonight after putting in a full day of running, bouncing, barking and chasing phantom raccoons. Jamie will probably be exhausted from putting up with him.

I think the Farmer understands that the dogs’ well being, both mental and physical, is directly linked to MY well-being. If the dogs aren’t happy and well, neither am I. So he knows it’s in his best interests to take care of ALL of us.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

She's ba-ack!

C3P0 is risen!

She is risen indeed! Allelujia!

Sorry, just a bit of twisted Lutheran humor. I couldn't resist.

Anyway, I got C3Po back late Friday. She spent almost 3 weeks at the dealership, having her engine rebuilt. I think she's good as new. Time will tell. I do not miss Clearance/Clarence, the loaner van, at all. 

I gave C3 a bath and a good vacuuming and put Phoenix's crate back in (yeah, that would be one of the 18 crates I own. But we've been over that. Tammy wins, by the way, her dog to crate ratio is 3:25.) 

I think Jamie is going to stay at home with the Farmer when we go to Granger for agility next weekend. He usually goes with and lazes around in royal Retired Dog splendor but let's face it, the weekend can get pretty boring for the dog who doesn't get to run and has to sit in a crate for 3 days. I think he will be just as happy outside in his kennel during the day and keeping the Farmer company in the house (poking him for cookies) at night. Jamie and the Farmer get along pretty good. The Farmer is generous with the cookies.

If we go with the "Jamie stays home with the Farmer" plan, this will be the first time in I don't know how many years I've gone to a trial with only ONE DOG. Unreal.

Who knows what the weather will be up to by then. We've had two weeks of absolutely beautiful sunny, dry, warm weather so we're probably due for the bottom to fall out by next weekend. I'll camp, and with just one crate in C3, won't put up a tent but just sleep in her instead. It's probably the closest thing I'll ever have to an RV.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The dog to crate ratio

Everyone knows you can’t have just one crate per dog. It's some kind of law. You need to have multiple crates so you can have one in the house, one in the van, one to take into the show site, one for the motel and just maybe one or two more for good measure.

Spouses do not understand this. They do not see the need to have more than one crate per dog. I suspect they would suddenly see the light if you could get them to come with for a trial weekend and only take one crate - preferably big and metal - and have them carry it from house to van to motel to van to showsite to van to motel, etc., for three days.

When I showed my geriatric beagle in my very first AKC obedience trial in 1977, I was 12 years old, had one dog and no crate.

A year later, when I got my first tervuren, I also got my first crate. Now I had 2 dogs and 1 crate. That's a dog to crate ratio of 2:1.

Thirty-one years later, I have 2 dogs and 18 crates. Seriously. 2:18. And that’s after I recently donated two crates to the local animal rescue group. If that isn’t bad enough, when baby Phoenix arrived back in ‘07, I had to BORROW a couple of crates because the ones I had were not the right size. I think a version of Murphy’s Law also governs crates: no matter how many you have, you will always need one more.

I didn’t intend to count crates last night. Like keeping track of entry fees, I figured I didn’t really need (or want) to know how many there were.

It started when I was putting away some of Connor’s things and trying to tidy up the enormous closet that is allegedly the spare bedroom on the first floor of our house. Don’t kid yourself. No one has slept there in 10 years. The bed is in there, somewhere, under all the camping stuff and stacks of clean crate fuzzies but the room is essentially a very large walk-in closet.

So anyway, in the process of storing away Connor’s house crate, van crate and show crate, it hit me that I had a ridiculous number of crates. And then I had to count them. Because I’m like that.

I’m not even going to try justifying owning two dogs and 18 crates because that is crazy-making behavior. Heck, half of them are sheltie-sized crates and don’t even fit the Belgians. Not that that stopped Phoenix from going in them when he could. He made it a point to go in Connor’s crate every day. I have no idea why. Maybe just because he could.

How many crates do you have? Go count them. Dare you!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Flying around on my broomstick

Can I vent? I’ll do it quick, then shut up, I promise.

The GMC dealership where C3PO is being fixed just called. They’ve had her for two weeks today. She is not fixed. She is not being fixed. They can’t fix her because they don’t have the part because - get this - IT GOT FREAKING LOST IN TRANSIT!

It’s the head for a Vortec 3.6L SIDI V6 engine. This is not a teeny tiny little thing. How do you LOSE something like that? If it fell off the delivery truck, it probably would have killed someone.

But they lost it some place between Wisconsin and Moline, Ill. They can’t even find it with the tracking number. For doG’s sake, no wonder GM went bankrupt. I know 5-year-olds who are more organized and reliable!

So they are supposed to ship another one. It will get here Thursday. Maybe.

In the meantime, I'll keep buzzing the dealership on my broom. Where's my witch's hat from the Harry Potter party last year . . .

Monday, September 7, 2009

The Des Moines cluster

First things first, I am NOT going to tell you how many chocolate chip cookies from the food concession at the show site I ate over the weekend. Hot. Right out of the oven. With the chocolate all melty and the edges just perfectly crisp. With ice cold milk. It was a staggering number. You wouldn't believe me. Or maybe you would.

It was a classic Des Moines cluster: noisy, congested show site (no falcon in the rafters this year); hanging out with friends and watching everyone show; eating cookies; spending way too much at the vendors; eating more cookies; camping at the state fairgrounds; testing what my dog knew and didn't know in the show ring and doing some training.

Phoenix gave me a birthday present Saturday by winning Grad Novice to finish his title. He is now a GN. Personally, I think this stands for Gone Nuts. We did Wild Card Open, too, but he really had a hard time staying focussed. Too many shiny objects led to Malinois overload; 15 rings of breed and obedience under one roof will do that. So a good lesson learned for me. We need more work on sustained focus amidst distractions as well as relationship building. 

Here is a picture of the birthday flowers I stole. (See what my life has come to? Now I'm stealing floral arrangements from dog shows.) Okay, I didn't actually STEAL the flowers. Paula did.

But she asked the Boy Scouts first and they said they weren't THEIR flowers and since they weren't concerned about them sitting there all lonesome, Paula thought it was in the flowers' best interest that they come adorn our campsite. After all, she had permission from the Boy Scouts and that's like next to God, right? So she took them. Because I asked her to. Paula would never steal flowers otherwise.

And it's not like anyone was using them. The Onofrio people had torn down that ring and left the flowers behind. It was a very complicated situation. And our campsite was really plain, without any potted plants or pink flamingos or anything. So we felt we were doing our civic campground duty. Don't they look awesome stuck in the drink holder on my folding chair? 

Here the boys are enjoying bully sticks at the campsite. When you have Belgians chewing bully sticks at your campsite, who needs pink flamingoes?

It was a really great weekend, exhausting but always the obedience highlight of the fall. I got some new training ideas from watching a few other folks work their dogs and have a much clearer picture of what Phoenix understands, what he doesn't understand and how he deals with stress.

For some weird reason, he was AGAIN the ONLY malinois in the entire show, just like last year, and spent a lot of time being the Malinois Diplomatic Ambassador. He is exhausted and very glad to back home in the country where it's quiet. So am I. Except there aren't any cookies here.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

10 things

10 things I am thankful for today:

1. This is the last day I am working this week. Tomorrow we're off to the Des Moines cluster to play in Graduate Novice and Wild Card Open.

2. Diana Gabaldon’s new Jamie and Claire book, "An Echo in the Bone," comes out in 18 days.

3. The weather here is absolutely BEAUTIFUL.

4. I finally got Jamie’s paws trimmed and he no longer looks like some bizarre Belgian version of an Arctic ptarmigan.

5. Phoenix does not need a bath before the weekend shows. Or possibly ever again. Ha-ha, just joking. I think.

6. Fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies from the food concession at the Des Moines cluster. Note to self: buy little bottles of milk . . .

7. C3P0 is getting fixed and I should have her back soon.

8. I have a chocolate zucchini cupcake with peanut butter frosting for lunch.

9. The local library finally got the new Clive Cussler book "Corsair" and it's mine for the next two weeks.

10. I have a new air mattress for camping this weekend.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

A view from the steward's table

First, thank you for the tremendous, generous outpouring of condolences and happy memories so many of you have sent following Connor’s passing. The pain is still pretty raw and I cry for no apparent reason but today is a bit better and tomorrow will be better still. Thank you. Dog friends rock.

Now, for more fun stuff.

Last Friday, I spent the day stewarding at the Five Seasons cluster. There were four of us working the Open A/B ring and I was the only one with any extended obedience experience. We had a fun day and may have been the best darn ring stewards in the history of obedience.

Then I got out of bed the next morning and wondered why my legs felt like I’d been run over by a truck. Hmmm . . . maybe it had something to do with setting the broad jump 39 different times. I’m pretty sure the only ring job that’s worse is fluffing the chute at an agility trial. I got assigned to broad jump duty because everyone else figured I had all the obedience experience and wouldn’t screw it up. Wrong! For the last 10 years, all I’ve had to do is set the broad jump at 48 inches and forget it. Believe me, I found multiple ways to screw it up.

Here are a few stewarding observations I made along the line.

• If you entered two dogs in two levels of three venues that are being judged at opposite ends of the show grounds, don’t expect me to wave a magic wand and resolve all your conflicts.

• No, I don’t know if the judge is taking a lunch break. It’s 8:17 a.m.

• I have no idea what your dog’s jump heights are. YOU tell ME.

• As soon as the judge decides, I will mark the sits/downs groups on the check-in sheet. Asking me every two minutes will not make this happen any sooner.


• I can and will happily tell you the heeling pattern but for heaven’s sake, what have you been doing while the last 26 dogs were judged? (I can totally relate to this one as an exhibitor. Why is it so darn hard to watch the pattern!)

• Thank you for telling me you might have a conflict. I will note it accordingly. I do not need to know the intimate details of this conflict, especially if they involve any bodily functions relating to you, your spouse, child or dog.

• Yes, the class just started and that’s dog #528 in the ring. She’s going out of order. Relax. Breathe. Please do not pass out or we will have to call an ambulance and that’s really going to mess up the AKC’s “dogs judged per hour” recommendations.

• Racing up to the table and shouting “How many dogs before me?” does not endear you to ring stewards.

• There are 36 dogs in this class, 35 of whom want to move up, back and sideways. Please excuse me for not being able to personally tell you exactly what time you will enter the ring.

• Yes, “moved to end” written by a number does indeed, really and truly, mean that dog has moved to the end of the class. Not the front. Not the middle. The end. Honest. Would I lie to you?

• I am not personally responsible for the show committee’s choice of candy in the table bowls.

I really appreciate ring stewards and you should, too. Go hug a steward this weekend.