I always think of excuses not to be doing what I am doing when I’m doing something I’m afraid of doing.
I am afraid of dog conformation handling.
I said it.
The process by which I find myself in the conformation ring in spite of my terror begins at the time I agree to register to show at the particular event. Usually this date is so far ahead of the actual scheduled competition, it seems like a good idea at the time.
That is, until about a week before we are scheduled to show. Then my thoughts go something like this:
Oh no! Next week is the conformation show! (sick lurch in pit of stomach)
If I start sniffling on Thursday, I could convince people of a full-blown flu by Saturday. No one would blame me if I didn’t want to go out in public with the flu.In fact, they’d thank me. I’d be a hero!
Then I’d feel like a jerk for making people think better of me when actually I’m lying.
I’ll tell the truth: I don’t believe in showing dogs for conformation. That’s like a beauty pageant. How does that judge Zsa Zsa's heart, her loyalty, her sweetness? All they’re thinking about is how “pretty” she is.
(Voice way back in brain: It’s not a beauty contest. She’s being judged according to how closely she matches the standard. You know this and you’re trying to wuss out.)
Okay, okay. It’s not a beauty contest. But actually, I’m not dog handler material. I’m not good at this. I’m better at training, which I’m also afraid of when it’s a training event I’m facing instead of conformation, BUT THAT IS BESIDE THE POINT!
If you don’t face this now, you’ll never face it and you’ve always wanted to do this…
Everyone else has a whole lot of fun doing this…
People! I may have to talk to people I don’t know…
If you do this enough, you won’t be afraid anymore…
I’ll become a hermit…
A nun! I’ll become a nun!
They won’t let nuns keep dogs…
Never mind, then.
And so there I am, standing in the conformation ring, still not having ruled out a religious avocation, and trying to remember everything that MK has told me.
MK (as in Mama K…Zsa Zsa’s other owner and my mentor in the public dog world), walks into the conformation ring with grace and ease. She is relaxed while other dogs are being examined and easily stacks her dog Polly, who is equally calm and confident because that is the attitude of her handler. MK smoothly takes the blue ribbon for her class and glides out of the ring.
“Breathe,” she advises me on the way into the ring. This is because last show we were at together resulted in my going into one of those “all in my head” asthma attacks that scared her to death. Now the one thing she always makes sure of when she goes anywhere with me is that my inhaler is within easy reach.
Of course she has advised me in other areas, hardly any of which come to mind with the judge bearing down upon us. Lengthen the lead when showing movement, I remember. Take longer strides when running Zsa Zsa around the ring.
The judge approaches and Zsa Zsa leans into me. She shies from the judge's hand and my brain screams, “YOU’VE BEEN TOLD HOW TO HANDLE THIS! All you have to do is…We’re sorry, but access to that information in not available at this time. Please try again later. Thank you and have a nice day.”
We are handed a third place ribbon, because apparently the judging is over. I am smiling. I am smiling because I’m leaving the ring and now I can go home or somewhere where I can eat my weight in crap I wouldn’t feed my worst enemy.
MK comes over like a coach walking a losing boxer to the locker room.
“Next time,” she advises, “kneel down by her when the judge comes over and talk to her.”
She says this as though she is giving me this advice for the first time, even though we both know she’s told me this before. She’s polite that way.
As for Zsa Zsa and me: WE’RE NUMBER THREE! WE’RE NUMBER THREE!