So, a couple of weeks ago, my husband suggested rather ominously that I needed to re-focus my priorities, or else. Apparently things like paying the mortgage and the household bills are supposed to take precedence over buying puppies, training classes and paying entry fees. How 'bout that.
It all set me to thinking about this crazy, wonderful, greedy hobby of showing dogs. It starts out innocently enough: you get a purebred dog because something about that breed appeals to you. You meet other people who have that breed; maybe you get involved in performance events. Or, maybe you are already familiar with the dog show scene because of family or friends, or prior experience.
One dog becomes two, and maybe that second one was purchased with the show ring in mind. He or she is decent conformation-wise. Maybe finishable, not necessarily spectacular. You want spectacular! You look for another puppy, or maybe you look to breed your own.
Along the way, you've managed to accumulate: a grooming table or two; multiple crates for each dog and for various stages of development; several crate pads for each of those crates; an ex-pen or three; enough grooming supplies to fill a shelf in your bathroom closet, if not the entire closet; leashes in every imaginable color, length and material; a special hair dryer just for the dogs; slip collars, buckle collars, show collars; bait bags; training equipment; a new wardrobe that shows your dog off to best advantage; and, most likely a new vehicle, the biggest you can afford to accommodate as many crates as you can.
Besides all of the stuff, you've paid for puppy kindergarten classes, basic obedience classes, agility classes, special seminars, vet bills, food bills... the list goes on.
Your furniture all looks like it (barely) survived the holocaust. There is dog hair in every corner and in every crack and crevice, because the vacuum will only get in there so far. Your woodwork has been nibbled, your floors are scratched up, and there are dead, yellow spots all over your yard. You no longer remember what it's like to walk across the living room floor without stubbing your toe on a bone, nor how to go to the bathroom by yourself. People don't come to your house anymore, unless they are "dog show people" who also live like this.
How on earth did you get here?
Everyone says that insert breed here> are like potato chips: you can't have just one. And that's true, but I think there's more to it than that. For me, dog shows are, to put it simply, Home. The ring gates, the grooming tables everywhere, the lines of Samoyeds and Chinese Cresteds and the what-have-yous lined up waiting their turn... I walk into that environment and I know Where I Am. I know Who I Am. I know what I want, I know how I want to get there. It's where the very best in me comes out, where I get to make the conscious choice, every time, of what kind of competitor and what kind of peer I want to be. It's where I do my best to demonstrate good sportsmanship and where I give of myself in service to something greater than myself. It's the place where I hope to make a mark to show my passing, and to leave behind something better when I'm gone. It's my lifestyle. It's my life.
But life is comprised of other things, too: relationships with friends, with family, with spouses; jobs that buy the dog food, that pay for entries, and that, yes, need to pay the bills; all of the day to day minutiae that weaves together the tapestry of a life.
In the end, we all need to balance those elements. I need to learn to balance those elements. Reality, consider yourself checked. Let's get to know one another.
Hmm... elements... A Honda Element would be a good dog car...