Sunday, November 24, 2013
The Name Tag
The other day, I saw an old, forgotten name tag atop the desk in our living room. Two simple words, still the memories they carry are complex, numerous, and bittersweet. In a slightly tattered, bent plastic pin-on tag holder they said it all: DOG ROADIE.
With the suddenness of a spring thaw swollen creek, the memories came back.
We had a very special Bulldog once. Her name was Lilly. We had her mother, Daisy, and Lil was from her first litter of pups. Lilly was a red brindle with white markings, a very pretty little girl. Contrary to conventional wisdom regarding Bulldogs, Lilly was smart. My Lovely Bride began to show Lilly in conformation (aka “breed shows”) in hopes of obtaining a Champion title on her.
However, as she matured (Lilly, not LB), it slowly dawned on us she didn’t posses the attributes breed judges favored. She was slender of build (for a Bully), muscular, and her top line didn’t have the desired swayed back appearance favored at the time.
We began to train for performance events. Obedience, Agility, and Flyball ( visit www.flyball.org, for details regarding this activity). Being intelligent, and desiring to please LB, she excelled at all three. In fact, at the time she was running Flyball, Lilly was one of only six Bulldogs in North America (USA and Canada) participating.
Lilly earned multiple titles in all, as well as became a Therapy Dog.
However, one does not earn titles by staying at home or simply attending classes.
One must travel to dog shows. Over and over, seemingly without end, one packs up the SUV, confirms the correct registration for that day’s event are in hand, and sets out. Sounds easy, neat, and hassle-free, doesn’t it?
It is…unless you are the Dog Roadie.
There is no sleeping in for a Dog Roadie; not on the day of a show. Out of bed and semi-functional before the sun rises, the Roadie tends to dogs needs. Walking, feeding, watering, and walking again are just the beginning.
Next we find the Roadie cleaning out the extraneous stuff from the cargo area, referred to as “the way back” of the vehicle. Old magazines, clothes destined for Goodwill, forgotten and now moldy fruit all qualify as extraneous.
Having restored a sense of order to the way back, our erstwhile Roadie begins to pack. In goes the “easy carry” collapsible crate. The crate folds down to a load approximately 36” by 48” by 6” thick. However the folding does not diminish the approximate weight of 35 pounds.
This may not seem like much until one takes into consideration the fact there are no carrying handles, so one has to grasp the metal wires which make up the crate. One then stands the crate on one of the long edges. Firmly grasping the wire side again, one lifts the crate off the ground. Being approximately 3 feet wide, this necessitates a lifting position which places one’s elbows just slightly below one’s chin. One now realizes the venue is approximately a quarter mile from where the vehicle is parked. With a firm set to the jaw, a steely eyed gaze, and whistling the theme from Bridge Overthe River Kwai, one sets off.
Within 200 yards, the jaw is slackening, the eyes take on a look of concern, and one is no longer whistling. Another 200 yards, and the jaw is drooping, the eyes now have a look of panic, and wheezing as replaced whistling. The Funeral Dirge now plays in one’s head.
The final 100 yards are a blur; one foot is gamely placed before the other as our roadie hopes the loud gasping breathes hold the buzzards at bay until the crate is set up.
After a bit, our roadie has recovered sufficiently to return to the parking lot to retrieve the folding chairs, the dog’s water, the dog’s food, and the dog’s toys. After this trek, another journey across the wasteland finds our hero approaching the set-up with half the food, beverages, and reading material for the humans. It seems the rest is on the kitchen table at home; wondering where their kin have gone to.
At the end of the day, our Roadie gets to do it all over again, in reverse order. Finally, LB arrives with Lilly. They become situated in the vehicle, and the Roadie collapses, dreading the arrival at home.
It dawned on me as to why the nametag was on the desk.
Ike had his first breed show yesterday. He had to be in the ring at 8 AM. The venue was approximately an hour from home.
Our Roadie crawled out of a warm bed, lying beside his LB, to face the cold at 5. Being a “short half day show”, the crate remained at home. Treats, water, etc were loaded up. Off we went, heading southward to the show arena.
As it turned out Ike took First Place and Best of Breed, Puppy for Bulldogs. We were rather happy about this, his first show, and a blue ribbon.
Then, a friend reminded us he competes when all Best of Breed puppies from all seven groups are judged for Best in Group. Well, that can’t be too bad, we thought. We then were told that takes place at approximately 2:30 in the afternoon. We learned this about 9:30in the morning!
LB, Ike and I made the best of things. She has a favorite little Mom and Pop restaurant in the Akron area we visited for brunch. Ike napped in the way back. We found the bureau of motor vehicles office so I could renew the tags on my Jeep. Ike napped in the way back. We wandered around the show, visiting the vendors. Ike napped. Before we knew it, the clock read 12:30!!
Eventually, the time came. After a seemingly un-ending parade of other puppies, Ike’s group, Non-Sporting Group, took the ring.
Typically, the AKC lumps dogs into similar groups; Sporting dogs, Working dogs, Terriers, and so forth. Everything makes perfect sense, until the Non-Sporting Group. This is the catch-all, don’t-know-where else-to stick-‘em group. It is made up of such disparate breeds as the Poodle, the Chow-Chow, the Keeshond, the Bichon Frise, and… the Bulldog. This is not the complete listing; it is representative of the wide variety of size, shape, and personality of dogs within this group.
How on earth can one compare a Bulldog and Bichon Frise? This is like comparing a Jeep CJ to a Renault. The results were a bad news/good news scenario. The Bad News: Ike didn’t take Best in Group. The Good News: we didn’t have to hang around for the Best In Show, Puppy.
We arrived home approximately 12 hours after we departed. Admittedly, we did encounter that wonderful weather phenomena unique to the Great Lakes; a Lake Effect snow storm on the way home.
As the vehicle backs into the drive, our Roadie rouses himself. Braving the North winds, he begins to unload the odds and ends of things acquired during the day. He is thankful the crate remained at home. Closing the rear hatch, he hopes there is no errant fruit to be re-discovered in the penicillin stage.