We pulled into the National Western Complex at 8 this morning, with a 4Runner full of dogs and associated paraphernalia. We had staked out a grooming area down in the cattle pens yesterday afternoon, and with machine-gun efficiency Carol got Aero, Jack, and Dash up on their grooming tables and started in on their coats. Jack, as is his habit, threw up in his kennel on the way here from the hotel, so he had to have a session with the no-rinse shampoo. (He's riding in the front seat with Carol tomorrow. He may still hurl, but Carol will have a towel in her lap and can keep him from walking in it. Barf management is one of the essential skills of the dog show circuit.)
My back has been giving me some grief the last few days, and when I pulled out a Tylenol I fumbled it, and it landed on the floor. Even though I watch MythBusters and am a firm believer in the power of my immune system, this is a cattle show complex and we're in a cattle pen. They hose it down every so often, but when you walk in the door you know what sorts of animals hang out here most of the time and what they use the floor for. That Tylenol went in the trash. (We have lots more.)
Carol did her magic, and come 10:30 we marched upstairs, Carol holding Jack, and me with Aero and Dash each under an arm. Compared to all the grooming, the showing happens in a flash. Aero and Jack both had first-day syndrome: Overwhelmed by the crush of humanity and caninity, they were edgy and whiny and neither would keep his tail up. And so when the dust settled, another bichon took Best Dog. Aero got second, and Jack third.
This has happened before with Aero. However, by tomorrow he'll be a lot more at ease in the show environment, and we expect the tail to be back up where it belongs. Furthermore, losing can sometimes be useful: The dog who beat Aero took today's major, and (as it happened) by doing so became a new champion. That means that he's out of the running for the next three days of the show, giving Aero and perhaps Jack a shot at the major and three points that will be on the table each of tomorrow, Sunday, and Monday. Aero needs 9 points and a second major, so if he takes Open Dog for the next three days, he'll be a new champion too.
And the bichon who vanquished Aero in the first round fell in the second, when our friend Mary Provost took Best of Breed with her bitch Cameo Gallerie of Mona Lisa. Mona has all the points she needs to become a champion, and now lacks only a second major. If Aero takes Best Dog tomorrow and Mona beats him for Best of Breed, Mona becomes a new champion--but because she's of the opposite sex, Aero still gets a major win for having beaten three males. Mona gets a major as well for having beaten four bichons, including Aero.
Dash didn't do as well. He's a hunter, and his heart's in the highlands, a-chasin' the deer. (When we encounter deer on one of our walks, he looks over his shoulder at me as though to say, "Hey, Boss! I'll kill 'em if you cook 'em!) He wouldn't keep his nose off the floor, and the only other puppy entered took Best Puppy Dog.
So it goes; this show is his first, and necessary calibration. Behavior issues are a puppy's stock in trade, and what he won't grow out of we'll deal with using bacon and stern words.
Carol is coming into her own as a bichon groomer, and the guys look fantastic. The dog who beat Aero today is owned by a woman who has been breeding and grooming bichons for over 25 years. Carol will have her day, and Aero will get his championship, if not this show then fairly soon. I'm down here in the cattle pen writing this up and will post it later today. (Cattle pens rarely come with free Wi-Fi.) Carol's tweaking Dash's coat under Mary's expert tutelage, and we'll all get another chance tomorrow. Stay tuned.