Today, I’m on this side of cranky.
I’d been wanting a gyro from a particular restaurant for weeks, and nothing else would do. You know how it is: You get a food craving out of the blue, and until you finally eat the damn thing, it grows into an obsession.
Back in the day, my mother would tell us that our growing bodies probably needed whatever nutrients were in the food we craved. While I’m fairly certain she had healthier dishes in mind, it was how we justified chocolate binges without remorse. “We need this,” we’d tell each other with mouths encircled with clown-like rings of brown goo, and the rest of the sentence would dissolve into “Umm umm umm.”
Taking a page out of my mother’s book, I succumbed yesterday and picked up a Gyro Picado Special sandwich to go. I placed the plastic bag on the passenger seat next to me, the aroma of steaming deliciousness wafting up my nostrils. I couldn’t wait to bite into the chewy pita bread while it was still puffed up with hot steam, but my love fest with a sandwich was abruptly interrupted. A car pulling out of a lot cut in front of me, evidently wanting to be first at a red light. Instantly, I cursed my timing. This red light was notoriously long, and the driver ahead of me was heading straight, not turning right as I wanted to do. I glanced at my sandwich and watched it deflate as we languished at the red light.
When the light finally turned green, the driver turned right.
We’d sat at this light needlessly for four minutes while my glorious hot sandwich went from a masterpiece of steaming seasoned beef to a flattened gyro with the temperature of road kill?
I’ve been working on being more charitable in heart lately, so I told myself that perhaps the driver had simply changed her mind. When I noticed the cell phone glued to her ear, however, I seethed. The driver had not only failed to notice my turn signal blinking in her side view mirror, she hadn’t been paying attention at all. Not to me, not to the red light, and certainly not to my sandwich.
It’s the little things, you know?
Somewhere on the northeastern seaboard at this very minute, for instance, is a person who is alive only through divine intervention, and scattered throughout the country are the thirty people who would liked to have throttled her at a dog show. Had the unthinkable happened all those years ago and the case gone to court, my imaginary jury (all dog fanciers) would have dismissed the charges as justifiable.
Her crime? Having planted herself at the entrance of a Best of Breed ring at a National Specialty with a class bitch in full-blown season for no apparent reason other than to have a good view of the judging.
Not one male special who entered the ring that day failed to detect the bitch’s alluring fragrance, and more than one handler struggled mightily to distract their dog from the flagging Jezebel standing ringside. Earlier that day, the same hapless owner had knocked over the club logo, a large wooden sign set up near the ring. The shotgun sound it made as it hit the ground startled everyone senseless, but none as much as the puppies in the ring. For the rest of class judging, the unnerved youngsters gaited with their tails tucked between their legs as they looked over their shoulders in terror.
It doesn’t take long for a seasoned exhibitor to accumulate a few pet peeves – the things people do outside a ring at a dog show that causes delay, discomfort or distress in our fellow handlers. In my earliest days as a newbie, I was probably guilty of a few of them, myself, but I’d like to think that most of my idiocy inconvenienced myself more than anyone else. So maybe I’m still cranky from not having gotten to eat my gyro sandwich piping hot, but with a couple of really big dog shows coming up next month, it seems like a good idea to
vent share common mistakes. Here are a few of my personal “favorites” that I’ve not only seen happen first hand, but often:
The “In the Wrong Place at the Wrong Time” spectator/exhibitor
This is the person who has a propensity to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Native habitats include: 1) the steward’s table which exhibitors needing armbands can’t reach because of malingerers using the table for their drink; 2) the entrance to the ring, which inexplicably attracts more people without a dog than those lingering with their dog after judging, and 3) the major thoroughfare between the grooming area and the rings. How often have you tried to get to a ring in time for judging only to be stalled behind a person with an unerring talent for stepping in the same direction in which you’re trying to pass them? I see you nodding your head. You’ve been there. Over the years, I’ve tried everything to get these people to move, from calling out a polite “excuse me!” to yelling “dog coming through.” In the end, nothing works as well as “I’m going to be sick” coming from over their shoulder accompanied by ominous “urrrrp” sounds. It works every time.
The “Ooops, My Mistake” Exhibitor
This is the exhibitor who remembers arriving at the ring with a brush, comb, spray bottle or towel, but then grabs any brush, comb, spray bottle or towel after judging without ascertaining that it is, in fact, theirs. Aside from the utter inconvenience this causes the actual owner of the item, there are exhibitors out there who attach sentimental or superstitious significance to their grooming tools and feel real loss when, for example, the 17 year old pin brush they used on their first home bred champion heart dog, the one marked with their name in day glow orange, turns up missing;
The “I’m So Hungry I Could Die” Spectator
This is the “dinner and a show” spectator who has lunch or a snack ringside as he sits twelve inches away from the dogs being judged. He fumbles with the greasy wrapper on his burger and fails to notice the bit of hamburger that falls in front of the young Mastiff gaiting past him at that precise moment. He is truly sorry when the can of orange soda he put under his chair tips over and spreads into an ever-growing puddle of stickiness flowing in the direction of a Samoyed. The helpful spectator grabs a towel hanging over the fence to sop up the orange mess, but sadly, it’s the same towel the Mastiff exhibitor needs for his dog right before its individual examination.
To his credit, our spectator dutifully dispenses of his smelly leftovers by pushing them into the top two inches of a trash bag hanging on the fence. Pushing his trash fully to the bottom of the bag is out of the question, however, since there’s no telling what unspeakable nastiness his hand might encounter in that bag. After he leaves the show, he’ll never give another thought to the greasy leftovers he left accessible to the large hairy dog that inspected it with great interest, nor will Mr. Spectator ever know of the same dog who went home with diarrhea that night;
The “Love Me Love My Child” Exhibitor
This is the exhibitor who stands ringside with the child from hell, the same kid who was tied to a chair in the grooming area while Mommy showed, but who has been unleashed when it’s your turn in the ring. This is the kid who likes to see how far his Match Box car will go before hitting the ring mat upon which your dog is presently gaiting. This trusty little soul likes to lean backwards on the ring standard so perilously far that just before his spine reaches a 45-degree angle, the fencing around the entire ring collapses in domino fashion. These are the kids who prove the sanctity of Motherhood by repeating the same question fifty-three times in a row. Mom is oblivious because she tuned the kid out hours before, but every other person within range has been driven certifiably mad.
Variation #1 on this theme is the child of the spectator who’s been bribed with a 6” wide lollipop to keep him quiet as the family strolls through the grooming area, agog at all the dogs. Bloodhounds have nothing on the slobber produced by a kid with a lollipop, his prodigious pastel-tinted saliva flowing down the stick and candy-coating the hand now stretched out to pet your hairy show dog. I remain fascinated by spectators who wonder why dog fanciers are jittery around kids yielding open drinks, sucking on Twizzlers made of Red Dye #4, or chomping on hot dogs drizzled with ribbons of screaming yellow mustard.
Variation #2 is The Stroller, and most dog shows now prohibit them, but not all. Strollers pushed by a first time spectator at a dog show is a bad thing waiting to happen, if not because of the obvious safety concerns of having a child eye-level with dogs, then because of the unpredictability of children. True story: I once entered a show ring looking ahead and not at my dog. When I felt resistance at the other end of the leash, I looked down to see that a toddler sitting in a stroller had several ends of my dog’s cords wrapped around his little hand with the ferocity of a vice grip. It took one parent to coerce the shrieking little tyke to let go, while the other tried to pry open his hand. Few people outside of the parents thought this was amusing. I had a stroller-aged kid of my own at home,and my dogs were well acquainted with short people, but the incident might have had a very different outcome with someone else’s dog;
The Faux Whisperer
With apologies to the Dutch who may have been unfairly maligned, the nuns in grade school used the term, “Dutch Whisperer,” to refer to someone whose whisper was anything but whispery. I heard this phrase a lot as a kid, usually when a teacher was describing a student who’d been caught talking in class again. Personally, I thought I was unfairly targeted.
The “Dutch Whisperer” can be found ringside, usually with a friend, and is recognized by the running commentary he or she provides on the judge, the handlers, and the dogs. The art of discretion has escaped this person, and more often than not, the volume of their whispering is commensurate with the negative nature of their remarks. Following this logic, virtually every person sitting at Ring Ten will not only be aware of the dog crabbing in Ring Two, but what the dog’s name is, and what its handler is wearing;
The Person Who Asks, “May I Pet….but Too Late.
My final pet peeve is, I admit, breed-related. I “get it” that my breed is one that many people never get to see in person. If I’d never seen a Puli before, I’d want to touch that coat, too. As with the previous pet peeves I mentioned, common sense and courtesy go a long way, particularly when applied by parents looking after their children’s safety. My dogs are great around kids, but not all hairy breeds are. The time to ask for permission to pet a dog isn’t after the dog has been startled by the strange hands he never saw coming, but long before. Increasingly at dog shows, I’m seeing instructional signs greeting spectators on how to behave at a dog show, and that’s a great idea, but it’s disheartening to me that we even need them. Once upon a time, if a child didn’t know how to behave, they stayed home. Now it seems like we’re all being held responsible for each other’s behavior, but only the dog owner gets sued, and only the dog is thrown into quarantine.
Did I cover one of your dog show pet peeves?