Flatirons Kennel Club dog shows took place in Longmont, Colorado, just north of Denver, on the first weekend in June. The light is different here. The blue of the sky and white clouds are more sharply contrasted than in New Jersey, where all bright colors tend to shades of grey.
The air in Colorado is blessedly dry, a great change of pace for a New Jerseyan. But, as the morning weather anchor announced as I dressed for the show, this was going to be one of the hottest weekends in Colorado history. Ever. It was a relief to find that my ring at the Boulder County Fairgrounds was indoors and air-conditioned. The venue was cool, well lit, roomy and comfortable.
The show afforded me some of those great moments a judge lives for. A young brindle Basenji puppy, full of zip and enthusiasm with great floating movement, lightly built and appearing high on leg, as the standard requests. A 13-inch Beagle who was square, short-backed, with drop dead gorgeous eyes and that solid Beagle presence that makes you smile. An exciting Irish Wolfhound puppy, a giant among canines, firm and stable in shape yet moving with light, efficient sighthound movement. Sometimes you think you have to accept a more lumbering movement in wolfhounds, and then you see one like this who blows that theory apart.
All three times, those puppies went to the Group ring, triumphing over more seasoned veterans.
A fabulous show committee kept things running smoothly: Amy Turner, Glenda Henson, Mary Mead, Judy Walton, and Pat Foose.
Sunday, the sun kept the weather anchor’s promise of a hot, hot day. My assignment was big hounds and working dogs, so my ring was outside. I did what I could to keep the dogs in the shade, but the sun sapped our energy. After five hours, I was beat.
When I did junior showmanship, what made my winners stand out was not the effort they put into showing the dog but the minimalist approach they used. In judging juniors, I watch the dog, not the handler. I’m looking for a dog who is standing in correct breed position, body balanced over four feet, neck at the appropriate breed angle, encouraged to show an appropriate breed expression (i.e., pleading if a spaniel, quirky, almost human if a Brussels Griffons, calm and royal if a Great Dane).
Freestacking was my final challenge to the juniors, because to use that technique, you must know your breed. It’s not a contest to see which breed does it best, because then you would simply wind up with all Dobermans and Schnauzers and Pugs, hitting their mark and holding it. It’s a matter of making the dog look the way its breed is supposed to look. You don’t want an Afghan who droops between his shoulders or a Havanese posting backwards.
Junior after junior took their dog to the center of the ring, got him exactly right, and then, to my dismay, moved him. They were trying to peek at a rear leg, but when they shuffled their own body, the dog shuffled his. That upset and frustrated the young handlers. When the stack is perfect, or as close as you can get, hold it! If you move, the dog moves.
My winner in a big class of Open Seniors, Maci Haas, brought her Rough Collie squarely onto his four feet, moved her bait hand in tiny increments until he presented an impressive, proud picture of true balance. When the Collie settled an intelligent and quizzical expression on her, Macy kept calmly still. She glanced at me, the judge, and when she saw that I was looking at her dog, continued to keep still.
So many other juniors got nervous and jiggled, which of course made the dog jiggle and ruined the whole picture. Maci exuded confidence, and I for one would like to book her professional handling services before her fees go up.
Then it was time to head off to Parker, Colorado, to watch my niece, Andra, training her ponies. She was depressed over the cancellation of June shows for lack of entries. It isn’t just canines who are being affected by the bad economy.