In February 2015, Sarah and I went to Pennsylvania to visit a friend and her twins and go to a fun dog match. Our girls are the same age and show in Juniors in varying degrees. We traveled with Uhura, Sarah’s Standard Schnauzer, and Foster, our oldest Sheltie who was growing back a patch of hair. Add in having a thyroid issue, he can sometimes look a tad ragged. So there we were: two moms, three ten-year-old girls, a Cavalier, a German Shorthaired Pointer pup, a Schnauzer pup and the old guy. Foster has gone from Sarah’s main Juniors dog a couple years ago to her back up, back up, back up Juniors dog. Half the time the little beast looks like a demented hedgehog but he works soundly for Sarah as he once did for Connor. Since it was a match, it was a great chance for him on the other end of the lead again with his girl – wild hair and all.
As we gathered for Juniors, we watched a small child struggling with a nervous, adolescent Lab. They were in a 6-8 Juniors class just before Sarah and my friend’s girls. The child looked scared. Her dog was an anxious mess. Dad said it was their first show. Sarah and I knew this would be a horrid experience for child and pup. The child needed a good experience in the ring, especially her first time. I looked at the judge and her steward and asked if I could have a second. I apologized to the father for being forward but Sarah and I would not give him much choice in the matter. I took the little one’s terrified pup. Foster’s lead was shoved in the child’s hand and duck jerky in the other. Yes, Sarah was giving this newbie to the sport HER dog to show.
I asked the judge if she would forgo the exam on table because it would not be fair for the little girl to have to lift a dog to a table. The judge whole heartedly agreed. Sarah and I explained quickly what the girl needed to tell Foster and then just let him do his job. The little girl looked a little more relaxed. They were the only ones in the class which was a blessing. Even with a strange child with obviously no prior ring experience and who got a lot of direction from the judge, Foster did his job. They came out, Sarah took his lead and went in for her class.
As luck would have it, Sarah and Foster took their class over my friend’s girls and a third child. There was only one Junior in the next class and now the fun: Best Junior. Once again, there stood the poor little girl, her Lab even more scared and out of control. Sarah decided that a chance at Best Junior was not important. The girl could not take that pup in. They traded dogs. Of course no matter what Sarah did, the Lab was too stressed to bounce back. Then my friend remembered Bacon. Calls went out for Bacon – the judge though we were changing bait. Bacon is my friend’s German Shorthair Pointer pup and he needed more ring time. Sarah took him in instead. Sarah did not take Best Junior. She did admirably with Bacon but not as well as she would have with Foster.
However Sarah knew how important that first ring experience was for the little girl. Years ago, I wrote a piece on Junior Showmanship and how part of me did not want my children involved because of what I was seeing. It was published by the now closed Sheltie Pacesetter. Looking back, looking at some of what I have experienced in the show ring and reflecting on what I have seen, I am glad Sarah has stuck with showing. Why? Well, we need more people who understand sportsmanship, who understand why we need to encourage instead of discourage, and understand why sometimes it is better to give something up so another can have that chance. It is the future of the fancy at stake. And you know, people remember things. Later that day, Sarah and Uhura, under the judge from Juniors, took a Puppy Group 1. After pictures, the judge stated Uhura was definitely worthy of the win and my daughter certainly deserved it for what she did for that other child.
Maybe that little girl will go on to show, maybe not. But at least for one day, at one show, someone gave her a chance, showed her compassion and allowed her to have some level of success.