Thursday, June 23, 2011

Dog People

Last weekend I was away judging in Finland.

I don’t go away very often.  It is hard for me to be separated from my dogs, and especially Habibi, and it is also not easy to find someone to stay and take care of them when I am away, even though it is only a few days at most.  No one is ever the same as me, of course.  My babies need to be with me, no one else can understand them or take care of them as well, that is obvious…

But once in a while, I am tempted by an interesting judging assignment and agree to leave home for a few days.

Here we come to what makes us dog people different from the rest of the human race. 

Going away is supposed to be a holiday, for rest and refreshment, for seeing different things and having new experiences.

For a dog show judge, especially for one who lives as far away from everything as I do, it means two long and exasperating days of travelling, one day in each direction, often with one or two changes of flight en route.  And usually, two days at the destination, which are occupied from morning until evening with judging dogs.

I really don’t enjoy flying,  We have no choice these days, but being confined in an airborne sardine tin, with hundreds of other people, only a few toilets, and no place to put my feet (and I am short!) is not my idea of fun.  From the time of takeoff, I keep checking my watch to see if landing will be soon.  And once we are down, I want to get off as fast as possible – which is, of course, impossible, as all the hundreds of people are standing in the narrow aisle wanting to do exactly the same thing.

At times it means also spending hours waiting in airports between flights.  Sometimes it is very hard to remember which airport I am waiting in, they all look so much alike, with the same décor, the same shops, and the same endless corridors that you have to walk down to get to your flight. Sometimes I have the feeling that I am walking to my destination…

And once the flight is over, often it is necessary to take a train, or to be picked up by someone from the show committee and spend another few hours travelling to the show venue.  In Israel, we are accustomed to long distances being an hour’s drive away.  In Europe, the US or Australia, a normal drive to a dog show can be three or four hours each way, or more.  We do get to see a lot of countryside, though.  This time, In Finland, there was forest, and forest, and forest, and forest….

The fact is, that we dog show people are really usually not interested in doing much else but seeing dogs.  I don’t really care that much about sight seeing – once in a while, if due to the plane schedule I end up with a few extra hours, I may indeed go to visit some of the points of interest in the vicinity, and it is pleasant – but if I have a choice…This trip, I had a free morning before my return flight, and I was thrilled when I was taken to visit one of the long time well known breeders, and happily sat there for several hours seeing her dogs and her photo albums of fifty years of breeding.

Please note – real dog people carry around photos of their dogs.  They don’t pull out photos of children or grandchildren when meeting friends or acquaintances, they pull out photos of the dogs they are currently campaigning.  We find this perfectly normal.  I now have a little tiny laptop which fits into my handbag, so I can easily take it everywhere with me – and then I have LOTS of photos of my dogs that I can show to people!  There are a few photos of my grandchildren, it is true, but I am not always sure just where they have been filed…

Those of us who show our dogs know how tiring a show can be, and how much running around the ring can be involved.  I pride myself on having dogs with great movement, but then that means I have to be able to run with them in the ring and keep pace.  If I am showing a number of dogs, or if the judge is keen on seeing movement, it can be quite exhausting.

But judging is not any less stressful physically, even though it doesn’t involve running around.  It means standing all day, and walking back and forth in the ring to see the dogs from various vantage points.  Judging a hundred or so dogs is a lot of standing!  Not only does it involve standing, but since I have to dictate a report on each dog, and the secretary is sitting at a table in the corner of the ring, I have to sit down and dictate to her, and then get up and go over to judge the next dog.  This means sitting and getting up about a hundred times – no one can argue that there is not plenty of exercise in that.  I am not sure how that would be rated as far as fitness programs go, but it sure does work those muscles!

This long day of judging can be in any conditions from hot blazing sun – which to my surprise I have found to be the case the last two times I judged in Finland (silly me, to think that Finland is a cold Scandinavian country), to freezing cold and rain.  I have found myself at some shows feeling so cold that I dressed in about five layers of clothes and looked like a stuffed teddy bear – with the same difficulties in moving around.  When it is hot, I do fine, and find it amusing to watch the European judges around me slowly turning a bright shade of red…

One would think that after a long day of judging and looking at and handling many dogs, we would have had enough. Never!  In the evening, all the judges get together for dinner, and of course the major and pretty much sole topic of conversation is dogs and everything to do with them.  True that once in a while there is a bit of gossip – but that also usually has to do with dogs.  And we are not at all bored!  It is hard to imagine that anything else would be as interesting.  And we may well start pulling out photos – not of children and grandchildren, but of great dogs we have owned or wanted to own, and upcoming promising puppies.

The fact is, that whenever we dog people/judges meet anywhere in the world, we always have a lot to talk about, even if we don’t speak the same language.

I arrived home stiff and exhausted from my “vacation”.  Habibi was glad to see me, but was not happy about all the very many smells of strange dogs on me and all my belongings.  “Aren’t I enough for you?” he conveyed.  “Of course you are, every time I go away, I come back even more sure of that!”

The view from my hotel room in Finland
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1 comment:

  1. Our dogs are also our children and when our children fly the nest, they become even more our children. But to call a dog a child is perhaps to give it a junior role, whereas, I think our dogs play a more equal role in our lives than that.