After our trip to St. Louis in January, reasonable people might just wait for great weather and really great judges before venturing out more than a day’s drive to show dogs. But nobody has ever accused us of being reasonable. Arrival at the hotel in Scottsdale was a harbinger for the rest of the weekend. The motel had no record of us reserving a room. The fact that we had called a month before the event fell on deaf ears. We were able to get a room for only $30 more a night right across the street.
The show grounds were open to exhibitors at 1:00 pm, per the premium list. We were so happy our drive out had gone so well that we were actually able to go to the site at 1:30. When we arrived, it was obvious there were two premium lists that had been distributed. One for the locals, motor home owners and handlers and one for the rest of us. Apparently, many of the specialty clubs were able to buy space in the large grooming tents that lined the perimeter of the ring area. As there were conveniently no signs on the tents, it was often hard to determine which tent was open to the riff-raff. Being a part of that group, we were finally directed to the tent on the extreme end of the venue. That was the refugee tent, also known as public grooming.
Upon entering the tent we were confronted by two large sections coned and taped off from the rest of the space. This, we were informed was the paid for sections belonging to the Bernese Mountain Dogs and the Boxers. We took great pride in passing this along to the other refugees who came after we did. We finally knew more than somebody! As we stood looking where to put our mat, the warnings of friends who had attended these shows echoed in our heads. “If it rains the whole place floods.” Mindful of this, we looked for the highest point in the tent that was closest to the center and not under the seams. We put down rubber mats, slightly thicker than an inch, put the dog crates on these and dragged in the rest of our gear. To say we prepared for the worst is an understatement. You can’t prepare for your own stupidity, however, and that caused us more aggravation and more money. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
In refugee encampments you make the best of the situation. After all, we had power supplied by the show superintendent. This alone caused elation. We could use the rest of the time at the show bathing our dog and working on him. The ring times for the weekend were obviously decided by somebody who knows nothing about the grooming needs of the dogs. We were scheduled for 8:00 am and 8:30 am while the Am Staffs, Bull Terriers and other large gasping breeds were left to grind out their time in the ring after noon. This was so patently absurd that you started thinking it was a plot.
We asked around for the location of the bathing area. This was announced in the premium list so we knew it was there. Finally, a boxer handler from Colorado told us where it was. Walking over to the station took about twenty minutes as it was out beyond the sea of motor homes in the lower lot. Upon arrival, we had to wait for the one functioning hose for the two tubs. Fortunately, we were in line before the handler’s assistant with the five Irish Setters. Our dog, Danny, was so shocked by being hoisted into a plastic tub and doused with lukewarm water he forgot to start a fight with the lab in the next tub.
I guess the cursing and lowering of our moods started as we headed back to the grooming tent. We were more than annoyed with the lack of amenities and how our stay in Scottsdale had gone thus far, but consoled ourselves with the fact that our boy would be fully groomed by dusk. Standing in the tent, with Danny on the table, we reveled in the serenity. Cool and shady, with nobody there except us. Confidently, I laid out our grooming tools and plugged in our dryer to begin our work. Flipping the switch, nothing happened. I checked the connection and then felt the first real blow from my own feeble brain. The quiet in the tent was the result of the generator not running. It was oh so obvious the power was only for the show days. We took our wet, dripping dog and left for the day.
Saturday, we arrived at our customary 7:00 am. We walked the two football fields length to the grooming tent. This walk was probably good for our fitness levels but was really difficult being dragged by two raving dogs. I had long since become inured to the nasty looks and whispers directed toward us as we powered our way down the midway. We had only about an hour to get Danny ready, and since we had bathed him the night before he needed more than usual. Both his breeders were at this show so we were anxious to impress them with how great he could look. I swung our oversized tack box onto a table and once again was leveled by the weight of my own stupidity. Tired of hauling my purse to the show and back everyday, I had transferred everything to my pockets except the key to the tack box. There we stood, like the first day without power, staring blankly and trying to figure out a solution. Our problems mounted when there was no power to our tent. The public grooming was the only tent without power. I wasted more of our time screaming and cursing about it and some more time shrieking at the old man running the club table. His little come-along Border looked terrified. It took four attempts and two tantrums to get the power running.
Our salvation came from another Colorado person, a young handler, who had asked me to show a Berner the day before. I race walked the distance to the opposite end of the venue and found her engulfed in a hair storm in her easy-up. She is now in our wills for loaning us shears, a comb, brushes and a show lead just a little too small, to get our dog ready. We dropped money from our dwindling cash supply on some hairspray and a ratty from the vendor right outside our tent. It was only later we discovered our familiar vendor from home just around the corner who had the same items for about $3 a piece less.
The rest of the weekend went pretty much as expected win-wise. We won one, lost three, but made some strides in training our dog. We met the Kerry locals and they were a friendly group. We talked about dogs and handling and grooming. One of the young dogs was a puppy bred from Russian import parents. We had seen his dam at some shows a few years ago and only knew the sire from the show stats. He is a nice boy and the owner works him very well. He would be competitive in any company. The bitches were a mixed group. They were owner handled and the owners were just learning their craft. The class bitch shown by a handler probably should have been the winner each day, but was sidelined by some of the judging. Nobody could understand it.
Our early ring time on Sunday turned out to be a good thing. Rain pattered on the tent off and on until our show time. We showed, lost and uncharacteristically returned to the motel. Shortly thereafter, the skies opened and the show grounds began to fill up with rain. We didn’t care, we were in our room ready to watch HBO all day with our dogs and snacks. A knock at the door interrupted our day off and as the maintenance person inspected a suspicious stain on the ceiling, we braced for certain disaster. He was out of our room less than ten minutes when the ceiling started to drip and then drop pieces onto the carpet. The motel offered us the room next door and we packed up and moved over. Refugees once again.
The show was rained out the last day. We arrived early and parked in the front row of the loading zone and walked the long track to our space. We held our breath as we saw everybody’s set up flooded with crates and gear literally underwater. We looked toward the middle of the tent and saw a little island, high and dry, and all ours. The show committee and superintendent were extremely unhelpful and refused to allow exhibitors to use the golf carts unless a $35 fee was paid. This seemed punitive since we weren’t getting our entry fee for the day back. As we trudged the fifteen minutes back to the vehicle from the tent I glanced right and left and recalled the CNN reports of flooded third world cities and the fleeing hoards. I have never been so glad to leave a dog show in my life. There are very few things I can be truly sure of, but this is one: we will not show in Scottsdale again.
Sometimes when life hands you lemons you can make lemonade. Sometimes all you get is rotten fruit.