This week was the presentation of one of the most highly esteemed dog shows in America. As with most newly commercialized extravaganzas, it has a long and illustrious history. Back in the late 1800’s, there were those in America who decided that what the United States needed most was to organize a confirmation show for canines. They spent countless hours making sure that not only was it going to be a prestigious show, but a uniquely American one as well. This is telling in their decision to name the show, when they chose a uniquely American name, the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.
These competitions are orchestrated beauty pageants for an animal that occasionally warrants a two for one deal. These dogs are trained, groomed, and paraded about by their owners, officially called “handlers,” because “creepy, lonely aunts” is too disturbing a phrase for basic cable. These dogs are then judged by their peers (ahem), and ultimately one of them wins the much-coveted “Best in Show.” This is also the procedure for finding a spouse.
There are seven different categories where dogs compete:
·Working: The poor dogs in this category are the James Brown of the canine world. They are the tax-evading, wife-beating, laying-in-state-for-three-rank-months, Christina Aguilera-inspiring coronary waiting to happen. No, wait. Wrong metaphor. I mean, they’re the hardest working dogs in the species. They are primarily known for dogs that perform normal tasks as part of their breeding, such as taking out the trash, washing the car, or playing the under on the Cavaliers.
·Terrier: The terrier group is the classification of dog that has fallen the furthest from respectability. At one time, they were know for their exceptional hunting abilities against small varmints. Nowadays spend most of their time lounging around, mooching off the government, and waiting for the occasional sitting for pillowcase tartan-pattern crotchetiers.
·Toy: This category includes those dogs that, if they were not dogs, they would be manufactured by Nerf and marketed on Nickelodeon. They are classified as dogs simply by the biological fact that if you were to cut them open there may be a mess involved, though to be fair even if you don’t cut them open there may be a mess involved. Toy dogs lack such normal features that most dogs have, such as a prodigious snout, a tail, prominent ears, or a soul. Batteries not included.
·Sporting: Sporting dogs are dogs that are willing to go to the pub with you and play wingman. Or, perhaps, they are good at retrieving whatever it was that a hunter shot and hit from a field full of cattails. They also laugh at you if you hold the gun an inch away from the screen and still miss.
·Hound: Hounds tend to be the most contemplative of dogs, and by “contemplative” I mean “lazy.” While the mighty bloodhound may have a reputation as a stellar hunting dog, all he does in reality is the same thing all hunters do; namely, tell the wife they’re going hunting, and then spend six days drinking beer and staying away from the wife.
·Herding: Herding dogs are those trained to herd animals, primarily sheep. Most owners of herding dogs are proud of this unique, innate, and fascinating ability, even though the herding dog’s only ability is simply to be smarter than a sheep.
·Non-Sporting: The veritable “none-of-the-above” canines, these poor mutts are the recycle bin of the dog world. Nonclassified and unwanted, they are given a nondescript “Miss Congeniality” equivalent award, and then sent home to work in a shady cubicle while poodles and golden retrievers become prom queens and quarterbacks. The non-sporting dogs are most likely to stay up until midnight to change the will when no one is looking.
It’s kind of fun to watch the show, though, and not only for the dogs. Why these women handlers who I know deep in their heart of hearts love, adore, and cherish their beloved, insist on wearing tight skirts when presenting their dogs is beyond me. I guess it’s kind of amusing but wholly impractical. Especially for those women who have been at the show year after year, then when they are expected to parade their dog around the stadium, have the nerve to act vaguely surprised when they realize exactly what kind of logistical nightmare it is to trot a few paces behind their dog in an outfit that has more compressed tension than Isaiah Washington at a Kenny Chesney concert.
I also find it amusing that dog experts are able to compare two entirely different breeds of dog and find out which one is better, even though the dogs’ only similarities diverged in the gene pool around the time of Noah. They make a show of checking underneath the dogs and prod them gently with an inquisitive stare and, immediately afterwards, the unwavering look of Catholic disapproval as the dog chomps happily on the treat they were undeservedly given for successfully standing still for forty-five seconds.
When it is all said and done, of course, the judges make their decision based on what qualities are truly the “best in show,” a phrase I put in quotes because it’s such a comical concept. What do they use as a qualifier? There’s no swimsuit competition and no chance for the Pekinese to tell us how she wants to end world hunger or the shingles epidemic or anything. Do they base it on their ability to bark incessantly for no reason in the middle of the night, or how fast they can eat their own feces? Whatever private criteria they use, of course, it can’t be any worse than how we pick our real estate agents, Presidents, or crotchetiers.