Soooooo early, thank heavens I'm just putting the dogs in the pen and not trying to wrangle them around muddy puddles and get them in the car, still looking pristine and freshly washed! But at least the traffic to C's place is not too bad. Westie cuddles greet me, and then we head out in the frosty morning air. Traffic is now worse, and we're running late. Can't be helped.
Parking and trekking in through the station underpass, climbing up the hill. In the dog pavilion, lines of white benches are sectioned off into little booths, filled with dogs, gear and people. Everywhere there are dogs getting primped and prepped. Schnauzers being shaved, huskies having their feet whitened, keeshond getting fluffed. Gentle progress, culminating in the handlers getting their brightly coloured suits on. No heels, sensible flat shoes for the ring.
Which ring? How big? Asphalt or astroturf? Hot in the sun, its hard to find a parking spot for waiting dogs with some shade. Ringside, there is no shade, only hushed voices of the breeder's connections, and loud commentary from the general public. Small children ask why the dogs run, or sit, or stand. Handlers take the dogs through their paces in front of the judge. First the puppies, then the adults, males first, females second. Many dogs, but only a few handlers, some with shiny red faces after multiple jogs around the ring.
After a certain point in each class, the judge lines the dogs up and they jog one last time around to arrive at the markers. Such a short distance, but each time I am caught by surprise and am unready to photograph the line up, before stewards and judge block the view, handing out ribbons and congratulations. The steward with the microphone reads out the numbers on the arm band of each handler, but I haven't bought a catalogue, and quickly lose track.
Back in the pavilion, handlers are changing, dogs are being put away, and its time for a late, much longed-for, breakfast. Some dogs crash out immediately. Others are keen to meet new people, especially if they carry food. Gradually, the crowds are building up, and walking to food stands or to buy show bags or see the arts and crafts is more challenging. The dog pavilion fills with a steady stream of members of the general public, eager to meet a pretty dog. We take turns heading out into the hot wind or staying in the stuffy pavilion to answer questions.
Shortly after lunchtime, I am exhausted. C is ready to leave, and as we brought no dogs, we are free to head off. The breeders, owners and exhibitors are required to stay til 5pm, and many are drooping with fatigue. Passion about their breed keeps them on their feet, answering questions that are largely unchanged from the first passer-by. C and I slip out, carrying many bags, and head home, again through choking traffic, as the day turns cool again.
I will sleep well tonight!