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The Best in Show * The Seattle Dog Show 2014 

Author: Carolyn Bing, Solid rock Memorials and Gifts http://solidrockmemorials.com)

Published: Pet Connection Magazine (www.petconnectionmagazine.com),

North Edition, Sept/Oct 2014.


It was the end of the day on Sunday and most of the vendors, like us, were breaking down their displays and packing up to go home after the long weekend. Our booth was down and stacked into orderly piles and my instructions were to wait there while my husband transported the stacks up through an elevator and halfway across the parking lot to our waiting vehicle. Through the curtain that served as a wall behind us and separating us from the other row of merchandizers, I heard some intriguing voices. I couldn’t resisted peeking through the curtain to see the only spectators left in the building (I suspect they were mostly exhibitors) were crowded around the last open arena waiting to see the outcome of the ‘Best In Show’ competition. 


‘The Best In Show’ reeled me in like I was on a hook and line. The crowd was 5 or 6 deep and only brief hushed conversations interspersed occasionally. I had to see what had everyone transfixed and on the edge of their seats. In the arena were the winners of “Best of Group.” There was a Lhasa Apso, Pug, Bedlington Terrier, a Beagle, the Spinoni Italiano, the Old English Sheepdog (he was only 2 years old), a Malamute, their handlers, and a judge. 


It was the judge. He had command of everyone; handlers and spectators. He had an air of authority that belied his physical appearance as his movements were minimal. If he needed to look left, his head rotated from the waist, and not by much. His hand movements stayed within 30 degrees of his torso and as he walked, his feet never left the floor, but rather shuffled slowly and purposefully in the direction of his destination. I never heard his voice but I did see his lips move as he gave direction to the handlers.


The handlers were obviously professional. Not only did they intuitively know what to do when the judge mumbled something in their direction (I imagined myself cocking my head in the judge’s direction and loudly asking, ”Pardon?” again and again.) Their shoes were sensible and silent with no regard to accessorizing their outfit. Some had bulky brushes tucked in their waistband ready for the quick touch up of their charges coif. And in their pockets were tasty tidbits used to lure the dogs into rapt attention to task. 


The judge asked each dog and handler team to stand for close inspection as he scrutinized each minute detail of breed specific perfect conformation. Then he had each one stand, then walk, and then jog as he assessed the movement from broadside and then from behind. He called 4 dogs out of line to form a second line, head to tail. The Malamute, the Beagle, the Pug, and the Lhasa Apso. Then he put the four through their paces again, one at a time. The handlers took every half second the judge turned away to fluff and prod his or her dog into perfection. And they were perfect. Each dog was a pro at this job, jogging out in a straight line undistracted by the unusual spectator behavior of staying silent. The handlers presented their dogs to the front, not allowing themselves to come between their dog and the judge’s gaze.


The Malamute’s fluffed coat and tail flounced cloudlike as he trotted in perfect cadence the length of the arena. The Beagle, obviously aware of his entitlement, trotted with his tail held high and nose straight ahead, his physique showing perfectly beneath his velvety close coat. Next came the Pug. I have known pugs before, and I have always known them to go on a leash like a bumble bee, buzzing around in all directions to the end of their tether, happily greeting every distraction with vigor. This Pug, however, is a professional. He walked from the posing point, then cocked his head a little to the left and gazed up to his handler’s face looking for his next command, as he lifted his left front leg in readiness. His handler checked his dog quickly and realized that even his tail was coiled perfectly over his back like cinnamon roll on his breakfast plate, and nothing, absolutely nothing needed adjusting. They departed for the length of the arena. The Pug knew his job. It was flawless. An exhibition of training and dog genius.


The last of the four is the Lhasa Apso. On the table, his handler grabbed her brush from the waist of her fitted black skirt and groomed, primped, with what looked to me to be a little too much obsession. The judge wants to see the dog … if there is a dog in there. The judge mumbled the same thing to her as he did to the others, I’m sure, but when she lifted her charge from the table and led him to the corner of the arena, she quickly and deftly brushed each hair back into place again and placed what I thought to be a tail, carefully to the left side of the dog’s body. This dog, in my uneducated estimation, was a testament to its groomer. Its coat was longer than its legs and flowed beautifully from the part down the middle of its back to a couple of inches train extending the circumference of its stance and resembling a very plush bath mat more than of a dog. If there were not a thin leash attached to one end of its body, I would not have known which is front or back, unless it was moving, of course, and even that was not a sure thing. When the handler gave her cue to go the length of the arena, the Lhasa Apso transformed itself; it seemed to levitate off the floor and as it floated across the arena, its handler followed, leaning forward and reaching her arm as far as she could in front, her hand lilting from the wrist so not to interfere with the ethereal movement of her charge. The judge ordered her back to the start and asked her to repeat the length of the arena, albeit a shortened version. Once again, the bath mat dog levitated, floating as its coat undulated in waves unlike any earthly being, and especially unlike a dog.


Now the dogs are lined up head to tail in what I thought might be the order of placing, the Malamute, the Beagle, the Pug, and finally the Lhasa Apso. The judge shuffled over to the officials table, bent over a binder and started writing. No one was breathing. Not the spectators; not the handlers; not even the janitors. After what seemed to be too much time to wait as he, the judge, turned pages, checked and double checked his notes, he stood up, gestured to a woman standing and waiting with an armful of rosettes, and shuffled to the center of the arena once again. The woman with the rosettes dutifully and graciously kept to his rear. They presented the awards in what appeared to be reverse order and soon the center of the arena became a frenzy of hugging and congratulations among the handlers. It took me a minute to determine that the Lhasa Apso, the floating, levitating, lovely creature of some other universe, apparently won ‘Best Of Show.’ The Pug graciously accepted Second Best of Show, as a true professional would.


I have never lived without a dog, but I am not a dog show person. My dog show experience has been limited to occasionally visiting a dog show for the sake of my own entertainment, and watching ‘the dog show’ on TV at least once a year. My interest was always accompanied with a certain amount of detachment. What I learned from watching the ‘Best In Show’ competition was this; dogs are patient, intelligent, gracious, generous, and accommodating. I learned this weekend that dogs will do for us so much more than I could have imagined, they love having a job, even if it is a difficult job; and the truest of beauty is in the heart.