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  • Writer's pictureReyna Bradford

Showing Up (written 11/20/22)

I try not to be existential about dog shows, but there was a lot riding on this one.

It was the last show of the year. We wouldn’t be in the obedience ring again until March of 2023. To thicken the plot even further, if all went well this weekend, both Banner and Scotch would earn titles. Scotch needed one more qualifying score to earn his novice title, and he was entered twice. Banner needed two more qualifying scores to earn his beginner novice title, and he was also entered twice.

What a beautiful way two new titles would be to close out the year. All three of us had come so far in 2022. We had all tried hard and overcome a lot. I desperately wanted to claim a final success for myself and my dogs at this show.

My mom and I pulled up to the show site Saturday just after lunch. That was when Scotch’s class was scheduled to start, so we assumed we had to hustle as we gathered our stuff and scampered into the building.

But things didn’t go quite according to plan. It turned out that they were running four hours behind schedule. I have never before been to a dog show that ran so late. It was about quarter after 1 when my mom and I flopped into our uncomfortable chairs and hunkered down for the duration. By the time Scotch and I stepped into the ring, it was after 5.

In the meantime, both dogs had to wait in their crates, surrounded by noisy, unfamiliar people and dogs. There was literally no place to warm dogs up, either, except for doing a few cramped steps of heel work in the crowded back room.

Needless to say, Scotch did not qualify. He blew me off and refused a recall for the first time in his working life, totally riveted by the guy sitting behind him and monitoring the door. I was disgusted and frustrated and marched him back to his crate without comment.

So much for my hopes and dreams on that one. Next up: Banner, the wild whippet.

And Banner did better. It was after 6 by the time my chilly whippet peeled out of his jacket and got into the ring. It wasn’t amazing or anything, but he did qualify with a decent score of 189.5 and fourth place. Well, the over-long day wasn’t a total loss then. We could celebrate a minor victory. Even my mom breathed a sigh of relief as we piled back into the van for the trip back home.

We planned better the next day. Because it was the same judge and essentially the same order of classes and number of dogs entered, we decided to arrive several hours later. So, at around 2, we loaded up and headed out.

With nearly a two-hour trip in front of me, I did a little soul searching. It occurred to me that, as much as I wanted my boys to succeed, this show wasn’t really about them. Sure, they were the stars, and rightfully so. But at the heart of it, this final show of our recovery year was mostly about me.

I came to the conclusion that it didn’t really matter if the dogs qualified or not. What mattered was the effort, and that part was up to me. I was going to be brave. I was going to stick my neck out, put my game face on, and get into that ring. I was going to do it with confidence and professionalism, and with a good attitude regardless of what happened next. I was going to do it with two nontraditional breeds, both of whom I was quite proud of.

In a word, I was going to show up. And after that, we would see.

We eased into a parking place right on time. Four o’clock. Perfect. Scotch’s class should begin within the hour. We had plenty of time to check in, stake out a couple of chairs, and take a few deep breaths before the fun began. Leaving the dogs in the car, mom and I pushed through the door to the building. The ring was empty. About seven people milled around the area, talking and tidying up. The show was over.

“It ended about twenty minutes ago,” said one of my fellow exhibitors who was helping with the tear-down. “We didn’t know how to get hold of you.”

Apparently, the judge, who had an evening flight to catch, had taken things much faster Sunday than she had on Saturday. No lunch break, no chatting with the handlers after their time in the ring. And no show for Banner and Scotch. Or for me, either, after all of my fine, brave, noble thoughts.

Well, all righty then. I mean, what can you do? Mom and I took a potty stop, turned around, and trudged back out to the van.

Banner and Scotch will finish their titles in the spring. Between now and then, we’ll just have more time to practice, and to bond, and to get better. And you know what? The moral of the story still stands.

I showed up. It may have been two hours late, and it may have been for no reason. But I got myself there, with courage and confidence, and took what came my way. Life lessons from a dog show, right? Who knew?

Maybe you’ll have the opportunity to do the same at the end of your year. As this holiday season bears down on us, you may have reservations, or bad memories, or even heartbreak to overcome. But you know, sometimes, it’s about the outlook, not about the outcome. It’s about being brave, being kind, and being all you can be in the given situation. It’s about showing up.

So get out there and do it! Love your people, and love your dogs! It’s never too late to do any of that. And like I’ve said before, you’re going to qualify!

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