It’s not as though I’m jealous or resentful of the little hairy beast. Sure he’s got those dark, haunting eyes and that coal-black lustrous mane that smacks of good nutrition and constant grooming, but after all I’m the one responsible for those doggie assets. If it weren’t for me, the self-assured package of precociousness wouldn’t be cruising dog shows and sniffing the derrieres of some pretty high-flying canines. Some of those pedigreed pooches have even jetted to Westminster and racked up a slew of impressive titles from top-ranked AKC judges.
But do I get a thank you once in a while? No siree! The most I get is a relieved smile when he lifts his leg on a nearby waste receptable. Or sometimes the narcissistic darling paws his empty food bowl as if to tell me the kibble was adequate, but what’s with the moratorium on wet canned food? Criticism is always implied. Actually I wouldn’t mind the occasional irritated whine or huffy bark if it weren’t for the fact that the judge seems to respect this diminutive 10-month-old mini schnauzer a whole lot more than me. I’m not sure why, but I think it has something to do with breeding. Mine.
First off, she spotted me as a novice handler–someone with canine rejecting ancestral ties. She was right. I hadn’t touched a dog until I was nearly 27, and my mother still can’t open a can of Purina Pedigree without holding her nose. Still, it wasn’t just that my background reeked of anti-canine bias. It was a little more complicated than that. It was all because I hauled His Highness up on the “show table” when I was supposed to know enough to trot around the ring first. Major faux pas!
And if that wasn’t bad enough, as soon as my back was turned and I was leading “”Butch” around the ring perimeter, I caught the two of them–judge and contestant–exchanging knowing glances. You could tell by the haughty lift of the muzzles. By the time I lifted the 15-pound pup onto the table, I saw the writing on the wall. A conspiracy of sorts had manifested itself. Dog and judge were out to shame me, and they would use any trick they could to achieve their purpose.
I was putty–or was it poopy?–in their hands. For my efforts to coax an alert expression from the little stinker, I was rewarded with a lowered head and practiced drool. Not only that, baiting Butch with a tidbit of cooked frankfurter only got me a stony glance from the judge, who proceeded to show me the “right” way to get Precious to lift his head and tail. Meanwhile the dog gobbled and I whimpered. The judge just smiled.
By the end of the seventh inning, it was Dog 5, Owner 0, with the Judge and steward fighting over whether there were any ribbons left over for the “amateurs.”
I have to admit that Butch took it in stride. Unlike me, he curled up in bed and went nighty-night while I sat up and replayed the entire day. But I think I worked out the kinks. Next time I’ll do things differently. I’d better, or else Butch might just trade me in for another handler-model. Someone not afraid to beg!