|Showing, Coursing, and Other Venues|
|Or, Why Bother?|
|Picture this. I am talking to someone I work with and they ask me, "Where were you last Friday?" I explain that I was at a DOG SHOW. Of course, their eyes usually pop out of their heads. They've seen Westminster on TV, after all, maybe even Eukanuba. They ask what kind of dogs I have and how I did. Then the inevitable question, "Do you get money for it?"
After I pick myself up after a fit of mirth, eyes watering, I tell them that I do it for fun. They ask if it costs money to show dogs. I try and explain about entry fees ($$), traveling ($$$), assorted motel costs ($$$), never mind the cost and upkeep up the dogs themselves ($$$$$$$). They always say at this point, "You mean, it COSTS you money and you don't win big prizes? WHY do you do it?"
Why do I do it. Well, there are a lot of reasons.
One of the most important reasons, for me, is the social aspect. I get to see people I've known for 25 years, give or take a few years depending on the individual. I usually get to stay at someone's house that I know or maybe me and the girls will camp out in a motel together. And during dog shows, I get to talk about my favorite subject: DOGS!! I always find the atmosphere at dog shows (or coursing events) to be a great deal of fun - I get to look at dogs, pet dogs, view doggy art and see practical dog things like toys, slipleads and show leashes. Being steeped in everything DOG is always a good time for me.
And then there's the seeing friends part. There's nothing quite like catching up with old friends, or even making new ones. If I go with my Borzoi friends, which I usually do, there's always the fun of trying new foods together, haunting the bird stores, reading a dog show magazine, and rehashing events of the day.
I think going to dog shows keeps things in perspective. If I think my dog is really beautiful on the move or has an exquisite outline, I can compare my dog to others at the show to make sure I am not getting blinded like I might do if I just stayed at home and looked at ONLY my dogs. I can comparison shop - I can see where my dogs might need improvement in certain areas. This also goes for coursing and racing events. If I think I have the fastest dog on four legs, maybe he only looks fast in my backyard with my other dogs. Maybe I need to get him out and see if he's really fast with in comparison with OTHERS. All dogs look beautiful lying on the couch. And all of them look fast running by themselves. Going to events with them helps either solidify my faith in them or show me places to improve them. Not because of who wins - I go way past that and look at the dogs themselves.
To me, there is also the everpresent challenge of presenting a dog to the best of my ability. Or even conditioning a dog for shows and/or coursing. I always try and take the best conditioned dogs to either event. I try and handle the dog to its best advantage. The show ring is a game for me. It's a challenge.
I also find it fun to do a little obedience with my Borzoi. Borzoi are smart and independent. They are easy to train but it's hard to keep them from getting bored. Planning on a trial makes me work with my dogs more, and that's good, because all dogs need a job. All this training and trying to outsmart my smart dogs is a challenge. Of course, there's nothing like going and doing rally or obedience with a real sharp working Borzoi because most people think they are too dumb to learn, which is the farthest thing from the truth that I can think of.
I run my dogs at least once a week in the winter months after jackrabbits, which in itself is one of the most pleasureable times the dogs and I spend together. Sure, they like their dog bed in the house and they like their daily walks, but RUNNING is their passion and has become mine as well. They rarely ever goldbrick or play around when they are chasing rabbits. They are serious about their sport. And I get to celebrate their speed and beauty when they chase.
They have a big yard to play in. My dogs are not kennelled, ever. They live together as a pack and happily wrestle and chew bones and chase the meter man up and down the fence. My dogs tend to stay in hard, muscular shape. Which is all good, because when coursing time comes, I've done my part. The rest is up to them. I do have a lure toy we sometimes play with and a lure machine (thanks to my friend Virginia who gave it to me), but when it comes right down to it, I have to let go and let the dogs decide how they will race or lure course on that day. Giving up control is hard, but it's a good thing, because it leads to a mutual trust with me and the dogs. Showing is fun; a good run after the lure is a thrill.
So all this conditioning and showing and coursing and obedience is all good because the dogs and I go places together and have fun.
Notice that so far I haven't said anything about the WINNING part. I like to win; it's part of the fun, but the dogs and I can't win every time we go somewhere. We probably can't even win, at least in the show ring, half of the time we go. There are too many factors that I can't control - the judge for one thing, and that includes coursing judges - they have their quirks, too! All I can do is bring the best trained/handled/conditioned dogs to whatever venues I am going to and then I let it go. I've done my best, they've done their best, and now it's out of my hands. I can take our ribbon and/or points/legs or I can chalk up a loss to experience. The judge cannot control my day. I will still have fun, because the dogs and I have done our best. Yes, sometimes it's not fair, sometimes I think Mr. Magoo can do a better job judging, but the bottom line is that it's a HOBBY for me.
So now we come to the part about titles and their meaning. Do titles mean ANYthing? Do I do it for the titles?
I try to put titles in perspective - a lot of times show titles mean enduring to the end and maybe even hiring a handler. Good dogs finish their championships and bad dogs finish their championships. I don't let either affect me - a good dog is a good dog - title or not. I do find it fun to put show titles on dogs. Coursing titles might be a little more worthwhile - it at least shows that a dog will run enough times to accumulate enough points and placements, but we are still talking about judges and dogs here. It's not a perfect sport either. Sometimes the slow dog that follows the lure dutifully around the course will beat a faster dog that blows the corners and maybe is smart enough to cheat a little. Obedience and rally titles are probably the ones you can't slip by on so easily. You and your dog, the team, have to go through certain motions and obtain certain scores in order to qualify.
So, so far we've found out that showing and coursing cost money, that many factors are out of one's control, that sometimes the judging is not exactly stellar. So is it worth it?
It's worth it to me. To take my dogs somewhere is always fun and I enjoy showing them off. To me, they are the most beautiful and fastest Borzoi in the world, so I think everyone should see them too. I also think it's important to compare them with others at competitions lest I err in my perspective. Most of all, it's the friendships I have made along the way. My closest friends have been found somewhere along the dog show path.
That's why I bother. And I don't regret it one bit!