Thursday, June 24, 2010

The (Reality) Check's in the Mail

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...


  1. Yeah I struggle with the balance constantly and long ago struck a deal with my husband about number of dogs etc. I whine about the compromises I have to make sometimes because of his wishes (and what's best for the kids), but the truth is that it's good to have a "reality check" sometimes. I have no desire to make major changes to my life (house/location for having more dogs) in order to accommodate my hobby, so it's nice that he can keep me in check enough that I'm not forced to do so.

    ANY hobby taken too far isn't healthy.

  2. Awesome post- from one addict to another- the dog fancy is a very greedy hobby; no matter what venue you choose, or what level you compete- you always want more-bigger-better!

    Keep your priorities straight, because in the end, family comes first, and your beloved dogs don't care how many titles or ribbons the've earned!

  3. This is the reason I do not show as often as I would like to. When I was single I did one show a weekend, every weekend I could get to a show.

    And yes, Elements are great dogs cars! But we waited two years before we got ours. We had a moment of fate where we found the perfect color, for the right deal, as an out of state fluke. Timing was perfect as it was just when we started looking as I didn't want to give up our other truck when it wasn't quite ready to "die".

  4. Drats! Hubby got on here and I didn't know it.

  5. When I got into this second iteration of dog showing, I promised myself that I would never borrow to support showing dogs. So far, I've done it. It means we take time off from showing (but I can track for free and drill obedience in the park for free). So, I hang in there that way to accommodate my addiction. . . . need to win the lottery!

  6. Great post. It is too true (unfortunately)!

  7. Wonderful post! I only do agility, but it can still easily get out of hand! Classes, private lessons, and entry fees add up to a whole lot of my disposable income! I try to limit myself to no more than two trials per month (and this usually just one day, not Sat&Sun) with a long winter break. I still occasionally "get the lecture" about my hobby teetering on being an obsession ;-)

  8. I worked out what I could spend and put that away all year, so when I get to the busy show time, like right now, I can pick and choose which ones i want to do. It does all seem to come at about the same time of the year though, right now is my busiest show time. But part of that is the shows I work at as well. Mind you, around here, working at the shows/trials can get you entry vouchers toward other entries. (my son works for my entries too which is really great)

  9. I'm so here with you... I could have literally written this post myself! I got hooked on dog shows at 9 years of age, and now at 26 my life is really just getting started, and it seems every path I've chosen from 9 on up has been for the dogs... in an effort to be the person I dream of being and do the things I dream of doing.

    If I were smarter though, I would have married a dog show guy... but at least I'm blessed to have a husband who loves dogs as much as I do! One plus is he won't let me get "That show puppy", but is very good at reminding me no matter how pretty a dog is, we still will be living with it! *G*

  10. I hear ya! Sometimes when I do my budget I think "Hmm, I can live on Mac and Cheese and a multivitamin for a month so I can afford to make that 4 day show." My friends and family think I'm crazy. Luckily, I'm single so I make my own rules!