January 20th, 2008

Well the big day has finally come, Ellas first show! It seems like just yesterday I was picking Ella up from Kristen. She has come so far in such a short time! Every other Saturday we track and we have obedience class on Tuesdays. It was only 8 degrees today when we left the house. I bundled up in layer upon layer. Ella seemed immune the cold. She was just excited to go for a ride! We got to the expo hall and it was HUGE! At least 8 rings with both obedience and conformation going on. They were thump! dump! dropping the mats and the gates, people were rolling crates filled with excited barking dogs by and people were buzzing us in golf cards. Ella literally lost it. She was overwhelmed!

She quickly dragged me over to registration. The little old ladies taking money were cowering behind their table, you are going to show that dog? Yes, ma’am that is my intention….lunge, bark, hack, slobber, lunge again…. in what class?…. Jump, drag, poke,whine, lunge….obedience! Of course! The ladies took my money warily. Good luck they said meekly. I think they meant it…

When I went to check in at my ring I asked when my class would be. What class? Pre-novice. Its first up. Oh gosh, dont make me first, please, please, please. How about second? Sigh… wrestle wrestle… Okay. How much time do I have? Thirty minutes. Boy thats not enough to get my dog off the ceiling….

So in a desperate attempt to take the edge off I took Ella out across the parking lot for a freezing game of ball. She was unaffected by the cold arctic blast but my tail was freezing. Her little seal whiskers became frosted white with the frozen slobber. Her tongue longed and she seemed to smile. Maybe now she would calm down? Love springs hope eternal.

Back in the building, someone’s loose springer spaniel races to brawl with Ella. Poor Ella, with a booming No!! I string her up to prevent her from extinguishing said spaniel. I don’t think she would actually bite him but I couldn’t be sure he wouldn’t bite her.

So by the time we make it back to the ring she is firmly placed back on the ceiling. I pull off all my layers down to my new sweater. It is gold and tan and black. We look quite stunning together. But the sleeves were a little long. My daughter said its the style. Almost to my fingers. But it is toasty…

Now at this point I have several concerns… Namely, stand for exam, this could go either way. Sometimes she just doesn’t like men. I was considering asking to skip this part, but it was a fun match right? The other concern was the figure 8. I had been there for forty minutes and she had lunged at every person that came with in 5 feet of her. I shuddered to think of those poor ladies standing as posts enduring 65 pounds of malinois hurdling in their direction…

Number 107….number 107, Ella? Here goes nothing. At least her heeling is strong… my last thoughts entering the ring. The judge seemed kind enough. Reminded me that I could not correct my dog. I understood. I looked down on her as we were about to begin. An angel, she looked at me just like an angel, filled with adoration in her eyes. It was going to be alright…

My first three strides Ella was po-go-ing it on two hind legs. I have never seen such a sight. People were gasping. I tried to calmly with out due force request her to off. At which point she looked down and notice my shoe laces. Now I have worn the same shoes to train her in the past few months but today she noticed that I had fun looking laces and she promptly started pulling on them as we walked. I was completely flabbergasted! I lost sight of my heeling pattern and was concentrating on stopping that behavior and not falling down. Once we came back to our senses and we were back on track we made the final about turn and she noticed…. an new sweater!! And its long! at which point to my horror she started playing tug of war with the left sleeve of my sweater. I kept trodding on, praying the sweater didnt rip apart and I would blind the audience (who was now growing at the spectacle.) topless. She kept up quite deftly grrring and tugging along. Right then I was praying for lightning or spontaneous combustion or any way out of the ring.

After completing? the heeling pattern it was time for the dreaded figure 8. The two stewards scuffled out to their posts like dead men walking. There was fear in the air. Nervously they stood, cringing as much as a post can cringe, bracing for the inevitable. The judge asked if I was ready, I hope so… And beyond all expectations, Ella did the figure 8 perfectly! No lagging, no forging, no tug of war, sitting perfectly, smiling up at me, her tongue hanging out to one side. The audience broke out in applause! The judge asked me if that was the same dog… I think so… maybe the demons took leave.

And the stand for exam, perfect! She didnt move one toe, she barely licked sweetly when he offered his hand to her. Maybe the demons had left… I thought too soon, the recall was more like a tackle. She came bounding to me jumped up paws on my chest, eye to eye and then plopping down on my feet. The finish was explosive she burst up and around and once again the audience clapped.

On the long sit and down she was next to a papillon and I think she spent the entire time trying to decide if that was a dog or a cat. She didnt move but she did stare intensely making me and the dogs owner quite nervous. So all in all it was an educational experience.

We came, we saw, we conquered. Well kinda.