Monday, December 15, 2008

The Invitational -- An Invitation to Reflect

The puppies are sleeping so I wanted to wait to get their pictures but I thought you might enjoy seeing some of the pictures that Elizabethanne took on our Invitational adventure. I got home at about 11:30 last night and was shocked at how much the puppies had grown and changed. They truly look like small dogs!! I will post many pictures later.

The Invitational was a great experience. I arrived in Long Beach late on Friday night and checked into the swanky Westin. My room had an ocean view and the fluffiest bed I have ever slept on -- it was lovely (and spendy!). The show was at the Long Beach Convention Center, a massive place across the street from the Westin. It included conformation (beauty pageant), agility, and obedience. All the obedience and agility entries are also invited based on points earned during the year.

Asia and I watched agility early Saturday morning and found the grooming area that Marti had SO nicely saved for me. We then picked up Elizabethanne at the airport and spent the rest of the day just watching the show and hanging out. We knew many people that were there, and had a lot of fun cheering for our friends. It was good for Asia to have that day because the Convention Center is a zoo and it took her a bit to get used to the atmosphere.

Finally it was time to show her, and I am pleased to report that I had fun, Asia was lovely and I did a nice job handling her so I met my goals :) She was the youngest berner there by far and looked it, but she did not look out of place by any means -- she is a very nice girl and she did a great job.

Dog shows are always strange for me. I drive home from all shows feeling ambivalent. I like competing and I love the dogs, but there is much of it that makes me uneasy. For example, I feel badly that this large group of people is spending so much just to run around and show dogs -- couldn't those resources be better used elsewhere? Is it okay to spend money and time showing dogs when children are hungry and homeless in our country?

Dog shows do not always bring out the best in people. Sometimes egos get way too involved and suddenly whether the dog wins or not becomes a matter of psychic necessity -- this makes for a great deal of unkindness in one space. I wonder what the costs are to one's soul to do dog shows -- all that waste, the elevation of dogs to near god-like status, and the level of cattiness and near desperation -- all these things seem toxic.

And so maybe that is the purpose of things like dog shows. Can one step into such a world and maintain integrity and balance? Can one remember his/her moral obligations to do good in this world in the face of pressures to be superficial and egocentric (or dog-centric)? It is easy to be a good person when one is never tested -- dogs shows test me, and maybe that is okay and even important.

I suspect all of us have hobbies or interests that serve to challenge our moral compass -- anything we do can really take on a life of its own and consume us. I have long thought that the dogs provide a balance for me and allow me to have a break from the professional work I do. They also give me a sense of competence -- I cannot wave a magic wand and bring back a child who has died or repair that parent's broken heart but I can raise puppies well. And finally, dogs test our integrity -- they alone know how we treat them when nobody watches.

So while I recognize the value of my dogs and my dog show hobby, I hope I never stop feeling a bit uneasy on those long drives. I suspect that if a time comes that I do not sit with ambivalence on the way home, I will have lost my way.

I hope your day contains people, places or events that challenge your internal status quo. Thanks for checking in and watch for pictures later today.


  1. Not only am I always happy to open this page, but I'm also happy with what I read hear. I was partway through today's 'episode, and thinking: Yes, and that's true for so many aspects of our lives -- and then you said it. Thank you.

    I've been to the Convention Center, so I know just how overwhelming an experience the Invitational can be; congratulations to you and Asia for having achieved those goals!

    Susan and Djinn

  2. M-A,

    I'm glad to hear you have not yet given up your hobby of showing! Dog shows need people who are naturally resistant to the negative attitudes and behaviors that are too often present. And a breeder such as yourself is going to have a positive impact in the "dog world" because of the way that you talk to and educate the people interested in your dogs.

    I'm happy to hear that you met your goals...and Asia looks beautiful!

  3. I was at a dog show yesterday in Chicago, and you are right, they are strange places. I was there with my son, and very few people would actually have a conversation with us. We had a blast looking at all the different dogs, but didn't get warm feelings from most of the humans. I am glad for people like you that question the status quo. Congrats to you and Asia!

    But, how is Karma doing? I had a dream that she came to live with us in Chicago...with my allergies, she can't so don't get ANY ideas.

  4. Hi Mary-Ann,

    Glad to hear you met your goals, that's what counts. In my business (weddings) it's just like the dog show world, and easily as wasteful of resources. One would think it isn't for it's "sacred" nature, but for most wedding vendors it's just how much can they get out of their product/service for their own benefit. I try to stay on the fringes, and offer things that are meaningful and less wasteful and hopefully be a change agent amidst the hype. Dogs show or weddings, it's what you put into it that counts.

    I appreciate your comments as dogs shows have always made me uneasy! It's people like you that make the difference. (That goes for rescuing kitties too!)


  5. According to the AKC the reason for conformation events is to better the breed and that is why only intact dogs are permitted to compete. I think we should switch from the AKC version of conformation to the Seiger style of dog shows. Instead of showing against one another dogs would show against the standard. Additionally, spayed and neutered dogs could compete as well, which would be very helpful for future breeding decisions. As Mary-Ann has pointed out so often you have to have complete information about each puppy in a litter to make informed decisions, not just about the ones selected at the tender age of eight weeks as "picks of the litter" and destined to enter the show ring.